2017 Jeep Wrangler Will Keep Solid-Axle Suspension
Simpler Suspension Aids Off-Road Abilities
In a bit of good news for off-road enthusiasts and the aftermarket, Automotive News has received word that the next-generation Jeep Wrangler will keep its solid front and rear axles, rather than making the switch to an independent suspension. The agency didn’t reveal where that information came from, and it has yet to be confirmed by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), but it’s a promising rumor that should assuage fears that the next Wrangler would sacrifice capability in the name of efficiency or comfort.
The current off-roader inherited its solid-axle suspension from its predecessors, including the legendary CJ Jeeps. Although old-fashioned, the layout makes lifting and modifying the Wrangler relatively easy and cheap compared to its independently sprung off-road competition like the Toyota FJ Cruiser and Nissan Xterra.
Rumors that the next Wrangler, due in 2017, would have an independent front (and maybe even rear) suspension set off a firestorm of worries in the automotive aftermarket, which has found modifying similar setups to be extremely difficult. For example, the current unibody Jeep Cherokee is very difficult to lift. The company has shown an elevated Cherokee Dakar concept at Jeep events and auto shows, but that kit required a complete redesign of the suspension that would be prohibitively expensive for most consumers.
However, although the Wrangler will apparently maintain its rugged suspension, Jeep still has plans to bring the SUV into the 21st century. Weight loss will come via an aluminum body, and it will likely be physically smaller as well (which bodes well for off-road maneuverability). Additionally, one of the off-roader’s iconic features, the folding windshield, will likely go away in favor of a raked, fixed windshield design. That’s definitely a shame, but then again, if the Wrangler looks something like the awesome, aggressive Jeepster Concept of 1998, we won’t complain too much.
Automotive News also reported that the next Wrangler will come with downsized, turbocharged engines. The 1.4L MultiAir I-4 from the new Renegade is likely too small for even a smaller, lighter Wrangler, but FCA’s stable of engines also includes a 1.7L turbo four that produces 237 hp, and there’s always the possibility of a light-pressure turbo bolted to the 2.4L Tigershark I-4 or 3.2L Pentastar V-6.
Rumors have also swirled about a light-hybrid system making its way into the Wrangler. That setup seems very well suited to the vehicle’s mission, as the instant torque of an electric motor would be perfect for slow rockcrawling and easing out of mud and sand.
Whatever the case may be, FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne promises that whatever powertrain makes it into the Wrangler, it will be more powerful and fuel efficient than the current 3.6L Pentastar V-6 in the current Jeep.
With smaller proportions and rugged solid axles, we’re relieved to hear that the next Wrangler will likely keep its off-road abilities, even if we’re a bit sad the windshield won’t fold down anymore. However, that’s a small price to pay, given the current economic and environmental conditions that once threatened the mere existence of the Wrangler.
Source: Automotive News