Like children tucked away in their beds on Christmas Eve awaiting Santa’s arrival, the collective Jeep community waits with sparse patience for the long-awaited arrival of the new Jeep Wrangler JL. We have been teased, tempted and taunted with spy photos, artist’s renderings and our own biased suspicions of what the future holds for our beloved Jeep, and yet we still find ourselves indefinitely awaiting the day when the present is finally under the tree, ready to be opened. Until then, all we can do is speculate as to what the future holds for the Wrangler platform.
Certainly not everything you read on the internet can be taken as truth; I’m pretty sure that there is photographic evidence proving, not only, the existence of Bigfoot but that he had considerable hand in rigging our nation’s recent elections. For that reason, we have to take the evidence that we see and hear from various media sources online with ‘a grain of salt’. Essentially, just because one off-road forum stated that the new Wrangler JL will feature full-time AWD does not make it so. One thing that we do know, with a great deal of certainty, is that the engineers at Jeep have labored tirelessly to make the new JL more fuel efficient than it has ever been before. That, alone, is a great cause for celebration. With current JK owners experiencing lackluster fuel economy on even bone stock models, a trend towards better fuel consumption balanced with performance would be welcomed. What that means in terms of design is that we are likely going to see an increase in the ‘rake’ of the windshield allowing it to carve through the wind rather than slam into it. This reduction in wind resistance will ultimately result in better MPG numbers at the pump but will most likely come at the expense of the iconic folding windshield. While this seems like Jeep is callously parting ways with a long-standing styling tradition, I feel it is a fair trade-off in that the benefits gained far outweigh the under-appreciated ability to fold the windscreen forward and flat to the hood, if the mood were to strike you- a feature that I would dare to say goes vastly unused in today’s society.
The area of discussions about Jeeps design of the new JL that is arguably the most heated is in regards to the top, whether it will be a soft or hard top and if it will preserve the Jeeps heritage of providing its owner with a true open-air driving experience. While I am a firm believer in the rule that real Jeeps don’t have tops (or doors for that matter), the Jeep Wrangler JK has changed the establishments thinking on this premise. With many JK owners opting for a more expensive hardtop, the target demographic has seemingly chosen the year-round convenience and security of a fixed roof and removable doors as an acceptable compromise to noisy soft tops and the cumbersome hardware they entail. With this in mind, much of the buzz around the new JL eludes to a modular fixed roof structure with a three removable sections- one over the front seats, one over the rear seat and one over the cargo area for greater versatility. This concept means that the roof rails that run horizontally from a-pillar to d-pillar would stay in place, thus doing away with the need for a separate sport bar. This would allow the JL to meet strict Federal Safety standards that have always plagued the Wrangler in rollover testing. What this means in regards to the plausibility of an upcoming soft top is unclear. Significant evidence exists in the US Patent office that German company responsible for the open roof system utilized in the Jeep Renegade have filed patent requests for a power-retracting soft top, similar to those used on the Fiat 500, built on an SUV platform with stationary roof rails unlike any previous Wranglers roof structure. Outside of such a retracting roof skin, I do think it is safe to say that any new soft top that might be offered would bear little resemblance to anything we’ve seen on prior Jeep models. With changes come new possibilities.
The JL stands to receive its motivation from a 3.6 Pentastar V6 engine with talk of a new 2.0 liter Hurricane Turbo 4 engine that produces in excess of 300 horsepower being introduced as an option- truly a drivetrain I would like to take on some rock ledges. Rumors of the distinct possibility that a diesel power plant will be offered are still being touted, if not shouted from Jeepers rooftops, with the existing 3.0 EcoDiesel used in the Ram 1500 trucks being the likely subject, a twist which could make a 30 MPG Wrangler a reality. An 8-speed ZF Automatic transmission will likely do the gear selection with the three additional gears improving the JL’s credentials in the quest for better fuel economy. A 6-speed manual gearbox may likely find its way between the hydro-formed steel frame rails to put the purists at ease, still sending the power to solid axles, front and rear, the way God intended. The likelihood of the JL being presented in an electric or Hybrid form is certainly possible but would appear to be fairly far out on the horizon due to numerous weight and space considerations.
With a considerable amount of uncertainty looming around the JL, it does seem as though the new flagship for the Jeep brand will maintain its overall “boxy” appearance and the legendary seven slot grille will remain in place, although it has been given a contour where it will slope rearward slightly towards the top of the vertical slats to match the longer fenders as they project forward of the grille. The JL will receive a treatment of trendy LED lighting from the factory as well as a few aluminum body components in the interest of weight reduction. Jeep promises to make the new JL a satisfying Go Anywhere / Do Anything vehicle that Jeep enthusiasts have grown to expect and love. Rest assured that we won’t rest easy until it’s here.
As for the JT (the new Wrangler in pickup form)…were saving that dream for next Christmas!