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Jeep is about to reboot the rock-crawling Wrangler — here’s what we expect from it

Ronan Glon
jeep wrangler news rumors specs performance release date rg rubicon copy

2016 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

Ronan Glon/Digital Trends

Jeep is putting the final touches on its first new Wrangler in more than a decade, and the company is under a tremendous amount of pressure. On one hand, brand loyalists want the off-roader to change as little as possible. On the other hand, the Wrangler needs to become lighter and more efficient to meet looming regulations in the United States and abroad. Engineers and designers are walking a fine line to keep both sides satisfied.

More: Jeep is preparing three brand new off-roaders that will give you deja vu

At this point, official information about the next-generation Wrangler — known as the JL, internally — is few and far between. We have a decent idea of what to expect based on leaks, spy shots, and revelations made by insiders, but Jeep is keeping its lips sealed until its long-awaited off-roader breaks cover this fall at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Will it still look like a Wrangler?

It’s not too far-fetched to say the Wrangler is as emblematic as the Porsche 911, and Jeep knows better than to mess with an icon. Evolutionary at best, the JL-series model will continue to feature a tall grille with seven vertical slots, round headlights, flared fenders, and a rear-mounted spare tire. Its overall silhouette won’t change much, either.

Perhaps the most notable modification up front is that the turn signals will move from the grille to the fenders. In profile, expect the JL to adopt a more rakish windshield, a small concession made in the name of aerodynamics. The back end will receive only minor tweaks, such as new-look lights inspired by the ones found on the Renegade.

The hood and the doors will be made out of aluminum in order to shed weight, according to a supplier memo leaked to the press last fall. Interestingly, the Wrangler’s removable top might be replaced by a series of individual panels that can be stored on-board, allowing owners to go topless on a whim.

Are the rumors of a Wrangler pickup true?

Jeep has built several pickups in the past, and the brand has been teasing us with the prospect of a modern Wrangler-based truck since it introduced the Gladiator concept (pictured below) during the 2015 Detroit Auto Show. Several aftermarket companies have developed kits that allow you to turn the current JK Wrangler into a truck inspired by the CJ-8, but Jeep has cautiously opted to steer clear of the segment.

jeep wrangler news rumors specs performance release date gladiatorconcept
jeep wrangler news rumors specs performance release date gladiatorconcept

That’s about to change. Company officials have confirmed the next Wrangler will spawn a pickup for the first time ever. From what we can tell, it will be identical to the four-door Unlimited model, from the tip of the front bumper to the C-pillar, and it will receive a medium-sized bed beyond that. It will be more of a lifestyle-focused model for outdoors enthusiasts than a dedicated workhorse developed to put in long hours on a construction site, however.

What’s under the sheet metal?

The next Wrangler will inaugurate a turbocharged 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine. Called Hurricane, the direct-injected mill will generate about 300 horsepower in its most basic state of tune. Its torque output — a figure of utmost importance to off-roaders — hasn’t been revealed yet.

Offered at an extra cost, the 2.0-liter will shift through an eight-speed automatic transmission developed by ZF. While purists will undoubtedly scoff at the idea of turbo four in a Wrangler, downsizing is necessary in order to meet stringent fuel economy and emissions regulations in the U.S. and abroad. We emphasize “abroad” because the Wrangler is becoming increasingly popular in overseas markets like Europe and Asia.

More: Jeep wants to dominate every SUV segment, and it might do just that

The standard engine will likely be a naturally-aspirated, 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 carried over from the current model. Buyers will be asked to choose between a manual and an automatic transmission.

Suspension tweaks will make the Wrangler more comfortable around town and on the freeway, but that doesn’t mean it’s going soft. The solid axles that greatly contribute to the Wrangler’s off-road prowess will remain. And, of course, four-wheel drive will come standard regardless of how many cylinders are under the hood.

Will the Wrangler go diesel, hybrid, or both?

Long-standing rumors claim Jeep will offer the next Wrangler with a turbodiesel engine for the first time in the U.S. The idea is far from ground-breaking; tens of thousands of current-generation models are roaming the streets of Europe with an oil-burner rumbling between the fenders. However, the reputation of diesel-powered cars — including the ones built by Jeep and sister company Ram — has taken quite a hit in the past few months, so we don’t know whether a diesel Wrangler is still in the cards.

Jeep boss Mike Manley has previously admitted he sees the Wrangler as the ideal candidate to receive some form of electrification. Going hybrid would give the Wrangler more torque down low, while improving fuel economy. We’re not ruling it out, but realistically a gasoline-electric model won’t be available at launch.

When can I buy one?

Production of the 2018 Jeep Wrangler is scheduled to start in November at the company’s Toledo, Ohio, assembly plant. Sales will begin shortly thereafter. Interestingly, the current Wrangler will be built alongside its replacement for approximately six months.

Buyers holding out for the pickup truck will need to be patient. It was originally scheduled to arrive a few short months after the standard model, but Manley told The Detroit News that its launch has been delayed until late-2019, meaning it will land in showrooms as a 2020 model.

Prices for both models have yet to be released.