All-new Jeep Wrangler has commenced hot-weather testing in the US desert ahead of its planned launch in 2018
Julian Rendell
11 September 2015

An all-new Jeep Wrangler has broken cover for the first time ahead of its anticipated 2018 launch. The car has been seen undertaking hot-weather testing in the US’s southwestern desert.

The test car, seen in two-door form, appears to have larger dimensions compared with today’s car, including a longer wheelbase and bonnet. That's not a surprise, given that Jeep is expected to switch the Wrangler from a steel body-on-frame constuction to an alloy unibody in order to save weight. The current Wrangler weighs 2125kg in V6 Sahara form.

Jeep is known to be exploring a high-tech engineering future for the next Wrangler with an alloy body and downsized turbocharged engines - thus opening a significant technical lead over the rival Land Rover Defender.

The plan was divulged late last year by Sergio Marchionne, chairman of Jeep's parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FAC). He cited Ford’s move to a weight-saving aluminium chassis for the F150 pick-up.

“Discussions about moving to alloy from steel for the Wrangler are going on now,” Marchionne said. He added that the plan centres around modern powertrains that “require a complete rethink of the architecture”.

Marchionne also said Jeep wants to “modernise the Wrangler while preserving all its capabilities”. He listed “significant improvements” in the interior and driving manners as targets.

US Wranglers are sold with a 3.6-litre V6, while European models have a 2.8-litre four-cylinder diesel rated at up to 34mpg. These could easily be replaced by single or twin-turbo 2.0-litre petrol and diesel engines that make more power and torque and offer more performance, better fuel economy and lower emissions thanks to lighter bodywork.

Marchionne didn’t confirm whether the Wrangler would ditch its body-on-frame construction, but it is highly likely because he said Jeep’s existing Toledo plant would not be able to build the new Wrangler.

With a switch from steel body-on-frame to alloy unibody construction, the new Wrangler could save up to 400kg, reducing the kerb weight of a five-door model to around 1800kg.

Such a move would put pressure on Land Rover to do the same with its upcoming Defender replacement, which could be on the market at a similar time to the new Wrangler, around 2016/17.

Just as the Defender defines Land Rover’s brand values, so are Jeep’s embodied by the Wrangler, which established the ‘Trail Rated’ measure.

Any Trail Rated Jeep must pass gruelling off-road tests, particularly the Rubicon trail – 17 miles of boulders, river crossings and acute climbs and descents in the Sierra Nevada desert.

Additional reporting by Matthew Griffiths

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Our Verdict

Jeep Wrangler

The Jeep Wrangler is the classic all-American heavy-duty off-roader. It is brilliant off road, but compromised on the tarmac

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29 October 2014
There is already a rumbling from the wrangler faithful in the US about the move away from Toledo plant and as this is a BIG seller in the US for them and marginal elsewhere getting it wrong will kill it off quickly. Rarely does a Wrangler stay stock and as many put it, they dont buy a wrangler if they want mpg, they want a capable, easily adapted product.
If they go IFS I suspect that Jeep wont sell a single one to a previous Wrangler customer.
What price will this new tech come at.... not sure some of the new stuff Fiat is doing with Jeep will be up to the job long term.

29 October 2014
Those who are into Jeeps don't like any changes at all. They didn't like it when the Wrangler replaced the CJ-7 in the '80s and prefer the CJ-5s for their durability and straightforward style. The Wrangler has become the entry point for the "Jeep experience" and not the Holy Grail. The hardcore spend thousands of dollars upgrading their Jeeps with specialist parts. They would welcome the lighter weight and will surely create new aftermarket parts to "improve" them once in production. The thing is that the vast majority of people who buy new Wranglers don't do any of that. They like to pose more than play in what they term as the original SUV. Though the fact that they won't upgrade the Toledo plant is troubling from a the viewpoint of a car historian and for those affected by the threatened closure most of the world will shrug their shoulders. Reality bites.

29 October 2014
Interesting juxtaposition of this and the Land Rover Defender story and to imagine who will be a winner or loser.

11 September 2015
I thought the Defender replacement was already planned to use an alloy platform - more like pressure on FCA.

14 September 2015
...I'm pretty sure the next Defender is using an alloy platform; although nothing's been confirmed yet! I'd imagine it's a case of FCA playing catch-up with JLR not the other way around. As much as I like Jeeps they're not at the same high level as Land Rover.

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