Screenshots of preliminary information added to the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles dealer network computer system suggest the next-generation Jeep Wrangler, due for a late-November reveal, breaks with tradition in more than a few ways. The largest break involves how the 2018 Wrangler puts its power down to all four wheels.
The dealer system images, shared by JL Wrangler Forums, show the Wrangler adopting a Selec-Trac full-time four-wheel-drive system, among other drivetrain details. Is this a goodbye to the manly transfer case lever?
The addition of Selec-Trac places the Wrangler in line with the user-friendly, highly automated SUVs and crossovers already on the market, potentially increasing consumer appeal. Forget about using your extremities to manually switch your Jeep from rear-wheel drive to four-wheel drive, or to select low range. That’s neanderthal stuff. However, it’s also a nod to the great off-roaders of yesteryear. It’s romantic. It’s involving.
Despite the need to satisfy modern buyers, it seems Jeep isn’t willing to dispense with tradition quite so easily. The dealer system lists Selec-Trac as only being offered on family-friendly, four-door Unlimited Sahara models â€” vehicles often seen plying the parking lots of Whole Foods in upper-middle-class neighborhoods or hauling bikes to suburban recreational areas.
That’s just the beginning of the changes.
According to the leak, there’ll be no two-door Wrangler offered in Sahara trim, leaving just the base Wrangler Sport and uplevel Wrangler Rubicon. Roof options are numerous. Three-piece hardtops join Sunrider soft tops and premium soft tops in black or tan, but the big news for 2018 is an available power soft top (offered only in black).
Again, another electronic convenience seems poised to join the Wrangler fold. And electricity, the screenshots show, isn’t absent from the engine bay, either.
Available powertrains include the trusty 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, available with a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission, and a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with a belt starter-generator. Yes, a mild hybrid of undetermined strength, though its main function will be to run power accessories and manage the vehicle’s fuel-saving start-stop system.
An affordable mild hybrid system is something FCA has been pursuing for years. Strapped to the “Hurricane” four-cylinder, which is rumored to make about 300 horsepower, the system, coupled with Jeep’s lightweighting and aero enhancements, should keep the EPA off the Wrangler’s back for some time. This engine is reportedly only available with an automatic transmission. A true hybrid variant, at last check, remains a go for the near future.
Also green-lit for 2018, at least according to the dealer info, is a 3.0-liter turbo diesel V6. That engine’s availability hinges on EPA approval, but the recent regulatory thumbs up given to FCA’s 2017 Jeep and Ram EcoDiesels (which contain the same engine) has clearly given the automaker confidence. Another green touch found on the 2018 Wrangler is electronic start-stop (ESS), found on both the gas and diesel V6 models.
JL Wrangler ForumÂ cautions this information could change between now and the release of the next-gen model, due for an unveiling at this year’s L.A. Auto Show. Certainly, a recent report suggests diesel availability won’t occur until late 2019, which coincides with the launch of a pickup variant.
What isn’t a mystery is that the Wrangler remains an outlier in an increasingly modern (and numerous) crop of utility vehicles. Too many changes, and loyalists could revolt. Not enough, and it risks being seen as a dinosaur, repelling new buyers and incurring the EPA’s wrath. FCA needs to walk a fine line with this model.
[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]