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

Updated August 5, 2017

The 2018 Jeep Wrangler “JL,” debuting in 2017, will be followed by a related pickup truck; it may even add a diesel for North America. Simultaneous production of JK and JL Wranglers has been rumored.

2018 jeep wrangler JL

We can confirm eight-speed automatics and six-speed manuals, with gasoline V6 and turbo four engines as well as 3-liter VM diesels — yes, in the US. Gasoline Jeeps will get the second-generation eight-speed made by Chrysler (850RE), while diesels will get the ZF-built 8HP75.

inside the 2018 Jeep Wrangler

Jeep reportedly tried an independent suspension for Wrangler, based on the 1963 Jeep Wagoneer or the Ram design, but stuck with floating solid axles. That keeps the SUVs easy to modify, and makes it easier to keep the ground clearance high; there has been talk of suspension tweaks. Dana has confirmed that both the Wrangler and Bronco would use their latest AdvanTEK axles, an evolution of the Dana 44, made in Toledo.

2018 Jeep Wrangler

Rumor had the Wrangler switching to an aluminum tub, but in May 2015, Sergio Marchionne said, “I think we can do almost as well without doing it all-aluminum.” The Wrangler will likely use a tough hydroformed steel frame to save weight and increase rigidity.

rubicon

The Jeep Wrangler is a key vehicle for Chrysler, and Sergio Marchionne has said many times they cannot reduce its off-road capability. Whether this means they will not reduce its capability remains to be seen.

Redesigning the top of the Wrangler could save even more weight. Cars without tops need heavy bolstering; engineers may replace the “safety bar” with stronger tubes over the top and reduce lower-body reinforcement, partly to avoid being punished by regulatory changes. Jeep could then also do a fixed-roof version with relatively little re-engineering and retooling. The new open-roof setup may not look far off the 2017s.

2018 jeep wrangler

2018 Jeep Wrangler hardtop

Weighing the options:
open or fixed roof?
the pickup
weight and strength
transmissions •  engines

Aluminum-vs-steelsuspension choices • Toledo?unibody vs frame

Weight remains the biggest factor in city mileage.

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, but bumpers, tailgate construction, and the 5x5 wheel bolt pattern are mostly the same as the current ones.

This does not necessarily mean the loss of the soft top, removable doors, or even the fold-down windshield.

2018 Wrangler JL engine bay

The looks of the Wrangler are not likely to change much, and aerodynamic improvements may be brought about mostly by changes in the windshield angle, mirrors, and underbody covers. Front turn signals are to be pushed back onto the fenders, as in a past generation, so no sidelights would be needed in North America. Tail-lights are likely to change to the Renegade style, and headlights, while sticking to round shapes, should gain an LED or HID option.

JL tail

JL front

Diesel engines, pickup trucks, and other changes

Jeep will almost certainly issue a U.S. diesel version of the Wrangler, to boost fuel efficiency while pleasing off-roaders, thanks to better right-off-idle torque. It’s likely that the company will attempt to do a light-hybrid version a year or two after the main launch, and that a stop-start will be standard or optional, perhaps left off the Rubicon. The standard American engine will be a V6 (upgraded with more efficiency), and the upcoming Hurricane Four. Europe will continue to get a diesel.

wrangler engine spy shot

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; the grille is reportedly to get a bend near the top. (See the Jeep Shortcut concept below for a preview of how these changes may look.)

shortcut concept

drawings of the 2018 Jeep Wrangler grille

A limited production pickup version (Gladiator? Comanche?) has been rumored and is quite possible, showing up around 2019-2020 depending on the draw of the primary Wranglers. A fixed steel roof is not beyond the boundaries of reason, especially if production capacity exceeds demand in the new plant.

roof - Wrangler JL

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.

IRS 2017 Jeep Wrangler

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).

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.

2018 camo

camo-parked-jeep


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The 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL: suspension aluminum vs steelopen or fixed roof pickup
body engineering
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