Lightweight materials, efficient engines and revised transmissions. This is reportedly the recipe that will help the next Jeep Wrangler to compete with regular SUVs.
SUVs? Yes, but not in the interests of softening the Wrangler’s road-going experience. Chrysler’s engineers are focused (almost) entirely on fuel economy.
Due in 2017, the new Wrangler will be facing stricter than ever regulations as part of America’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) rules.
To combat this, the new Wrangler is expected to feature a largely aluminium body - much like Land Rover’s new offerings - to help the off-roader shed bulk.
New transmissions are also expected - a major component in any fuel saving venture - and while it is not compatible with the current model, it is believed the big Grand Cherokee’s eight-speed auto could be on the cards.
That’s expected to mean new engine options also, including a smaller petrol engine.
Still, we might also see the new model’s on-road refinement improved a little for the many buyers that never take their Wrangler off-road.
"You can't sell 19,000-plus retail Wranglers to people who just want to go off-roading," Jeep’s CEO Mike Manley told industry paper Automotive News this week, referencing the model’s strong May results.
"Why would, for example, somebody else's SUV that's really an on-road 'soft' SUV not be for me a genuine target for Wrangler?"
That could mean the Wrangler will lose its solid front and rear axles, because while they make the 4x4 formidable off-road, there’s little to be loved about the on-road experience.
Die-hard Wrangler fans shouldn’t have too much to fear, however, with Manley promising that while there will be changes, the new model will be no less focused.
"One thing that we will not do is dilute what Wrangler stands for," Manley said.
"I killed the two-wheel-drive Wrangler when I took over the brand, and I'm not bringing the two-wheel-drive Wrangler back."