2018 Jeep Wrangler: Still steel, still capable after all these years

The next generation of the iconic off-roader will be the 2018 Jeep Wrangler “JL,” debuting in 2017, followed after about a year by a pickup. Buyers can expect eight-speed automatics and hopefully six-speed manuals; gasoline Jeeps will get the second-generation eight-speed made by Chrysler (850RE), while diesels will get the “pure” ZF 8HP75.

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Jeep reportedly tried an independent suspension for Wrangler, based on the 1963 Jeep Wagoneer or the Ram 4×4, but Larry Vellequette of Automotive News wrote on February 15, 2015, that they would stick with floating solid axles (one insider said they would change the configuration somewhat). This will help Mopar and the aftermarket to keep selling modifications, and make it easier to keep the ground clearance high.

The Wrangler was allegedly to switch to an aluminum tub and use a tough hydroformed steel frame, but then, in May 2015, Sergio Marchionne said, I think we can do almost as well without doing it all-aluminum.” The Wrangler will likely follow Ram in using a strong hydroformed frame.

Changing the basic design of the top of the Wrangler could save even more weight. Cars without tops, such as convertibles and roadsters, need heavy bolstering, and the Wrangler is built to withstand abuse. This and possible new safety rules may have led engineers to replace the “safety bar” with stronger tubes over the top and reduce lower-body reinforcement. Weight remains the biggest factor in city mileage. Jeep could then also do a fixed-roof version with relatively little re-engineering and retooling.

An Allpar source claimed, “The traditional soft top is gone, [replaced by] removable soft panels over the substructure. The sport bar design is gone. It even appears to have built in grab handles.” This would be consistent with Bob Sheaves’ predictions. He also wrote, “The taillight design will change (my guess with an “x” design, such as the one used in the Renegade), and bumpers, tailgate construction, and the 5×5 wheel bolt pattern are mostly the same as the current ones.”

This does not necessarily mean there will be no soft top, no removable doors, or even no fold-down windshield, though the latter may be difficult to justify. Indeed, another Allpar source reported that there would now be four roof setups: hard + soft (over the front), non-removable hard, an update of the current Freedom Top™, and a complete soft top.

The Jeep Wrangler is a key vehicle for Chrysler, the “ring that controls all Jeeps,” and Sergio Marchionne has said many times they cannot reduce its off-road capability. Whether this means they will actually not reduce its capability remains to be seen.

The appearance of the Wrangler is not likely to change much, other the “roof replacement” structure, and aerodynamic improvements may be brought about mostly by changes in the windshield angle, side mirrors, and underbody covers.

Diesel engines, pickup trucks, and other changes

Many expect Jeep to finally issue a U.S. diesel version of the Wrangler, and a limited production pickup version (Gladiator? Comanche?).

A diesel could still provide a serious boost in both city and highway fuel efficiency while pleasing hard-core off-roaders (thanks to its low-end torque), and it’s likely that the company will attempt to do a light-hybrid version a year or two after the main launch.

Standard American engines would likely be a V6 — by then, upgraded with more power and efficiency — and possibly the upcoming Hurricane Four. Europe will continue to get a diesel.

Most expect Jeep to make the Wrangler more aerodynamic, with a slightly larger slant to the windshield. The fold-down windshield may be dropped; it is unique for Jeep in North America, but few seem to care about it. Removable doors are likely to remain.

New axles

Allpar sources generally agree that there will be a new Dana axle, with a larger bolt pattern (going from 10 to 12); the Dana 44 bolt pattern did not change even when they increased the ring gear size and pinion for the current JK. The 44 has been used for many years, and advances in the state of the art may have led to a major upgrade for economy and off-road performance alike.

Flip-up rear window

A new patent application shows a unique full folding back glass design. The Jeep Wrangler is used for the illustrations.

The current Wrangler has a tailgate/spare tire that swing sideways, then the backglass can open upwards. The patent application is different in that the backglass folds all of the way up to the roof, with clips built into the roof so it can be pinned down and left all the way open. There are clips inside, to hold the struts after they are disconnected from the backglass (so it can reach the roof).

full-folding-backglass-3a

Driving with rear glass open could cause exhaust fumes in the cabin, and can also draw in mud when used off-road. Still, there are people who would like to be able to keep the backglass of their Jeep Wrangler open while driving with the top on, so the next generation Wrangler may include this as an optional package. It could also just be a patent to cover research and development on something that will never get used.

Read more at: http://www.allpar.com/SUVs/jeep/wrangler/2017.html

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