What It Is: The engineering team would like to have us believe that it’s a current-generation, four-door Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. However rather than that, this is most probably an early test mule for the next-generation Wrangler, which is expected to be released in around a years time as a 2017 model. The bodywork may be the same as ordinary Wranglers’ duds, however the new model does come with changes to the suspenson, chassis and mabe even to its body.
Why It Matters: Only a number of modern cars come with the iconic status of the Wrangler, and therefore any changes are met with a combination of skepticism and reverence. Enthusiasts would all like to find out if Jeep will no longer stick to the Wrangler’s tried-and-true formula – proper four-wheel drive with low range, a set of solid axles and rugged ladder, whilst everyone else wants to know whether Jeep are able to stick to their guns whilst at the same time welcoming modern fuel-economy realities. Wwe have confimation that the new Wrangler won’t be the radical departure that enthusiasts had been worried for, as its four-wheel drive,, body-on-frame construction and solid front and rear axles are kept. The body may however, be partly made out of aluminum and there is no doubt that the frame will therefor be stronger and weigh less. At the moment the novelty of the fold-down windshield is the only Wrangler feature to fall on its sword and even the most devout Jeep owners fail to notice it.
Platform: These spy images allow us to properly have our first glimpse at what is below the next Wrangler, as our fearless spy literally crawled underneath a prototype. However the photographer was only able to have a look at the Wrangler’s aft end,, but from what we can tell the SUV makes use of new exhaust parts, new suspension geometry with a relocated lateral link and new axles.
Apart from that the underside of the Wrangler looks pretty much the same, with a boxed frame and coil-suspended Dana axles at both ends. The rear axle, which at the moment is a Dana 44 piece, is unmarked and comes with a new casing we haven’t previously seen but we believe will still be a Dana model. Some rumors have been circulating about Wrangler intending to use a longer wheelbase, with the majority of the rumors coming from the prototypes’ vertical strip between the front fenders and the base of the windshield. These changes to the body are certainly seen on the prototypes seen here, however on closer inspection looking at them compared to the current Wrangler show no changes in wheelbase. Have a glimpse at the nicely fitted running boards – and would be a interesting part to change for an engineering mule. What do we think? The strip has been included to throw people off the mark. What for, we don’t know, however it could be that Jeep’s engineers are folling example out of Ford’s development handbook and are hiding a current Wrangler body made of aluminum for testing.
Powertrain: Apart from having discovered that Jeep are busy making sure Chrysler’s ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic fits in the new Wrangler (it won’t fit in the current model), the majority of things gong on underneath the SUV’S hood are kept a mystery. The SUV might use a four-cylinder like they have done previously, depending on how much weight they can take of the vehicle, however the most probable engine is still the updated version of today’s Pentastar V-6. Another option could be a diesel four-cylinder, which is should be as a efficient diesel with plenty of torque and a rounded un-aerodynamic SUV with off-road aspirations are a good combination. As we already know, four-wheel drive will come as a standard.
Competition: GMC Canyon, Toyota Tacoma, Chevrolet Colorado, Subaru Forester.
Estimated Arrival And Price: The next Wrangler is expected to make a late-2016 debut. The Toledo factory where today’s Wrangler is developed are already preparing for the next-gen version and also a new Wrangler-based pickup. Due to the demand for the Wrangler often exceeding the supply and the expected increase in use of aluminum, Jeep are able to give its price to the new vehicle, however s starting MSRP close to today’s $25,000 is expected.