One of the most-tradition-bound vehicles on the road today, the Jeep Wrangler, has many cues linking it to its ancestral forebear, the Willys MB, including a vertical-slat grille, round headlights, and front and rear solid axles. Aside from some heavy-duty pickups, the Wrangler is one of the only new vehicles sold with front and rear solid axles. Although seen as antiquated and outdated by many in the automotive industry, solid axles are beloved by Jeep enthusiasts for their simplicity, ruggedness, and ease of modification. But Jeep is not offering an iron-clad assurance that the next-generation Wrangler will retain solid axles, according to a report from Automotive News. Although more efficient frictionally than independent suspension, with fewer joints, solid axles are substantially heavier than independent suspension, with weight reduction being the primary focus of automotive manufacturers in the quest for greater efficiency.

There is a huge aftermarket built around the Wrangler's solid axle suspension, offering everything from heavy-duty locking differentials, differential covers, and lift kits. Although somewhat counter-intuitive, the solid axle also has an advantage over independent suspension in an off-road setting, in that the differential moves with the suspension, keeping it out of the way of rocks and obstacles while articulating, whereas independent suspensions have a fixed-position differential that can potentially be more vulnerable.

Jeep brand CEO Mike Manley acknowledges the importance of the Wrangler to the brand, and says the pressure to get the next-gen Wrangler right is "absolutely massive.” He adds, "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." Although independent suspension is one way to go toward increasing the Wrangler's fuel economy, another option, and one we're a little more enthusiastic about, is a diesel engine option, which could potentially increase the Wrangler's fuel economy by up to 30 percent.

What are your feelings about a Wrangler with independent suspension?

Source: Automotive News (subscription required)