What We Want In The Next-Gen Wrangler
If you’re an avid Jeeper like myself, then you’ve been living on bite sized rumors about the next generation Jeep Wrangler. And although the next generation Wrangler is a few years away, the Jeep community is already chomping at the bit for the redesign. In particular, whether or not Jeep (or should I say Fiat?) will toss the straight axle for an independent front suspension.
The problem that faces Jeep is stricter fuel economy standards mandated by the EPA, which state that by 2025 auto manufacturers must produce cars, light trucks, and SUV’s with a 54.5 MPG rating. Luckily for us the EPA doesn’t realize that Jeeps fall into their own category thereby making their laws invalid! haha! just kidding; this is actually a big leap for Jeep considering the Wrangler has yet to break the 20 MPG mark.
The solution has to be a considerably lighter and aerodynamic Wrangler with a better engine; but will we lose the straight axle to make weight? The rumor mill seems to think so, especially after Jeep’s CEO Mike Manley told Automotive News that there are no guarantees the new Wrangler will have a straight axle.
Fortunately, Manley knows his name is on the line with the Wrangler redesign:
“Frankly, I know that if I screw up the next Wrangler, then I probably wouldn’t be able to leave my house for a long time.”
– Mike Manley
With that being said, let’s take a look at what Jeepers want in the next generation Wrangler – slated for release in 2017:
Straight axle front end
The biggest issue of the redesign is whether or not the new Wrangler will stay true to its roots and keep the straight axle. The vast majority of Wrangler owners want a straight axle, and I’m no different. Sure, there’s a time and place for IFS, and I do realize that independent suspensions can handle KoH, but those are finely tuned machines – not mass market vehicles. The one thing that straight axles have over independent suspensions is simplicity, which lends itself to upgradability with aftermarket parts. I consider simplicity to be one of the Wrangler’s greatest strengths, and Jeep needs to embrace this in its redesign.
Personally, I don’t see Jeep putting an IFS in the next generation Wrangler. I’ve been able to chat with several people close to Chrysler, and they’ve all reassured me that Manley intends on keeping the solid axle. This could be hot air, but Manley doesn’t strike me as dense and should know that the straight axle is what the market wants. I think all this IFS talk is just a clever way to get people to buzz about a new product (mission accomplished Jeep, good job).
So what are some of the ways Jeep can cut weight?
Aerodynamic lightweight aluminum body
I know it’s a frightening proposition considering what Jeep did to the 2014 Cherokee, but let’s forget about the Cherokee and trust that lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice. We’ve seen the MOPAR Stitch concept which shaved a considerable amount of weight from the JK. Jeep can also takes notes from Ford’s 2015 F-150 and its use of aluminum. Now combine elements from the Stitch concept with lightweight aluminum alloy, and we’ll be on track to dropping those extra pounds.
It’s safe to assume that Jeep realizes there needs to be an emphasis on aerodynamics with the new Wrangler. Perhaps we’ll see a greater slope to the grill and windshield, and more coverage around the tires to eliminate drag similarly to the Slim concept.
Diesel, Hemi, and turbocharged engine options
We’ve been waiting for a diesel option for years, and now there’s one in the works. The 3.0L EcoDiesel will be the engine Jeep uses for the diesel Wrangler in 2016, but what about a factory Hemi option for the lead foots? And why not take a few cues from Ford’s EcoBoost line and release a series of light weight four and six cylinder turbo charged engines? Efficiency is the name of the game from here on out!
Dana 44 & Dana 60 options
The title says it all, and while we’re at it lets throw in some factory optional 4.56 gears as well.
Jeep à la carte
Although it’s wishful thinking, let’s get rid of all the frivolous trim lines – the Arctic edition, the Moab edition, the Polar edition, the Dragon edition, the Modern Warfare edition, the Freedom edition, yadda-yadda-yadda; and focus on the adage “less is more” with the Wrangler.
I’d like to see the next generation Wrangler base model stripped down to nothing, no creature comforts, no in dash navigation, no stereo, no heated seats, no electric windows – nothing. A simple, inexpensive, easy to wrench, American lovin’ – God fearin’ Jeep. Save the amenities for the Sport, Sahara, and Rubicon, and make the Wrangler an affordable yet capable 4×4 that’s accessible to the majority of Americans. Put the GP back in Jeep.
If you like certain amenities then take them à la carte:
Add the 241OR Rock-Trac transfer case? Sure!
33″ x 12.5″ M/T tires with Flat Flares? Not a problem!
Dana 44? Why not?!
Although unlikely, this factory customizability would reaffirm die-hard loyalty, and would solidify Jeep in automotive lore FOREVER.
Suicide doors with an extended cab
Let’s end the family feud between the 2 door and 4 door – why not stretch the 2-door model and give it an extended cab with suicide doors? This will help cut weight without losing the accessibility that the 4-door owners love.