Jeep has just unveiled the new JL Wrangler, and it is much more than just a facelift update.
In massive news, the JL will be offered with 33-inch tyres, and in Rubicon form it will safely and legally fit 35-inch tyres in stock configuration thanks to the raised fender flares. That is huge news for Australian 4WDers who love modifying their vehicles. But it certainly doesn’t end there. Here are some other genuinely exciting facts we discovered about the new JL Jeep Wrangler while in LA at the official launch.
NEW ENGINES AND DRIVELINES
We will also continue with the 213kW/347Nm 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 petrol engine updated with fuel-saving stop-start, which will be joined by a new 2.2-litre turbo-diesel four that is listed as pumping out 147kW and 450Nm. That replaces the current JK Wrangler’s 2.8-litre which produces 147kW and 460Nm. Both engines will come exclusively with Fiat Chrysler Auto’s 850RE 8-speed automatic transmission. That’s right, no manual.
Australians, brace yourselves: A new 200kW/400Nm 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine and the 194kW/600Nm VM Motori 3.0-litre already sold here in the Grand Cherokee are only for the North American market.
A petrol/electric plug-in hybrid confirmed by Jeep global boss Mike Manley on-stage in LA and scheduled for release in 2020 is also unconfirmed for Australia. One Wrangler we can say is coming to Aussie is the Scrambler pick-up – which breaks cover in 2019. Drill further into the drivetrain and there’s more changes. The familiar Command-Trac and Rock-Trac 4X4 systems are gone in the Australian-spec; replaced by the Selec-Trac full-time speed transfer case – the first time a ‘set and forget’ system has been offered with Wrangler.
Jeep is saying the key off-roading approach, breakover and departure angles are all improved with the JL. Wading depth remains unchanged at 760mm and the braked towing capacity is expected to stay unaffected at 2,300kg. There are four skid plates, front and rear tow hooks, and the Rubicon gets rock rails and 33-inch tyres.
Both wheelbases have been extended slightly and both bodies are a little longer (but essentially no wider or longer than before). Yet Jeep says the new-generation is up to 91kg lighter than its predecessor. The chassis alones contributes 45kg of that saving, yet it is also claimed to be stronger thanks to the strategic use of high-strength steel. An increased use of aluminium panels, including the new windshield frame that has been made mandatory by roll-over crash safety regulations, also contributes. The tailgate is now magnesium and wrapped in an aluminium skin. But the aluminium bonnet used in North America is replaced by a steel item in export markets because of pedestrian protection regs.
Suspension remains a combination of solid axles and coils, although Jeep says it’s been retuned and revised for better on-road behaviour and off-road clearance. Hydraulic assist for the recirculating ball steering has been ditched for electric assist, and the Ultimate’s turning circle drops from 13.1m to 12.4m.
Another number Jeep is proud of is the 9% improvement in aerodynamic efficiency, although reducing the Coefficient of drag (Cd) to 0.454 is hardly cutting-edge. But that reflects the ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ brick on wheels design that is intrinsic to Wrangler’s appeal.
The round headlights and 7-slot grille are signature items, the latter now featuring a break-over on its top edge. That, along with the increased rake of the windshield, aids aerodynamics. Other details worth noting are the vents cut into the bonnet to reduce flutter, the bigger windows and the LED headlights with low-beam component inspired by the Electrobinoculars used by rebel troops in the sci-fi movie series Star Wars. Kid you not.
There are two hard-tops and two soft-tops, including a new Power-Top that retracts at the push of a button. Jeep says the Wrangler is more user-friendly, thanks to easier roof removal and a windshield that now requires only four bolts to be unscrewed rather than the previous 26. Naturally, the doors still come off too.
There’s more obvious change inside where the Wrangler has undergone concerted modernisation. Most obvious is the fourth generation Uconnect screen in the centre stack that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connection as well as off-road pages. There’s also dual-zone climate control, mobile phone storage (!) and more rear-seat room aided by the wheelbase stretch. There’s been notable effort into upping the luxury feel of the Overland.
Jeep designers love inserting geeky retro details into their vehicles and the JL is no different. The airbag cover on the steering wheel boss has an original Willys MB steering wheel motif; there’s an MB silhouette on the gear shifter and an information plaque on the tailgate… also inspired by the MB.
Jeep is touting more than 75 available active and passive safety and security features for the new Wrangler, including blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-path detection, a reversing camera built into the spare tyre mount and electronic stability control with electronic roll mitigation.
However, autonomous emergency braking is not currently available – which means the chances of Wrangler picking up a five-star ANCAP crash safety rating are extremely low. That’s exacerbated by the fitment of only four airbags – no curtains of course – which seriously hinders the chances of doing well in the pole test.
Jeep owner Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ aftermarket and performance brand Mopar will also offer more than 200 accessories for the Wrangler, of which 113 are earmarked to come to Australia. Ninety-five per cent of Jeeps sold in Australia are accessorised. The figure is 98% in the USA.
Jeep says this latest Wrangler has been subject to nearly 6.3 million kilometres (repeat million) of testing. Global venues already visited include China, Brazil, India, Italy and New Zealand. In North America, it has been subject to the heat of Arizona and the cold of Alaska; as well as the traditional Jeep task of successfully traversing the rugged Rubicon Trail.
Happily, Jeep confirmed in LA that Wrangler would be tested in Australia early in 2018. Where and what is being examined remains a mystery – but if you’re in the Outback in the next couple of months and spot a zebra-striped Jeep, get out your camera and take some snaps. You could be onto a scoop!