2016 Jeep Wrangler Changes Coming – Aluminum doors, New Rear Axle Possible

Jeep Wrangler JK Big changes are on the horizon for the Jeep Wrangler, fueled by changing fuel economy standards. The iconic off-road machine is going to drop some serious weight and more than likely its solid axle setup. Could Jeep be going too far?

CAFE Has Wrangler on The Ropes

Rumors have been swirling for years about the future of the Jeep Wrangler, especially after the Corporate Average Fuel Economy regulations changed. In a nut shell, the CAFE requirements now look at the vehicle’s “footprint” to determine fuel economy standards. This footprint is determined by taking the track in inches (width from wheel center to wheel center), multiplied by the wheelbase in inches, then divided by 144 and you’ve got square footage.

What does that all mean? It means the Jeep Wrangler must hit fuel economy targets that similar sized (not similar purpose) vehicles do like uni-body SUVs. With the Wrangler being heavier than the other SUVs, it HAS to change.

Why the change now?Jeep Wrangler Off-roading

The CAFE regulations will be implemented in 2016 and 2025. This implementation cycle means we will see the first changes now and then even more restrictions later.

The 2016 Jeep Wrangler Will Lose Weight

In response to the 2016 regulations, Jeep is planning on making lots of changes to the Wrangler including using aluminum body panels, air suspension system and dropping the heavy solid axle setup.

Fueling the speculation is Jeep brand boss Mike Manley who told Automotive News that there are no guarantees that they will stick to the solid axle setup.

We’re already in an environment where it’s a challenge to produce a vehicle in that way, and it’s going to get harder,” Manely told Automotive News. “What I can tell you is that the vehicle is absolutely fundamental to our DNA, and it’s going to become progressively harder to make sure that the vehicle meets all of the standards that are required for it.”

The best way to make a more fuel efficient vehicle? Drop the weight. That is exactly the mindset behind dropping the solid axle on the Wrangler. By using an independent suspension system and more electronics, Chrysler can cut a significant amount of weight from the vehicle. This weight loss will correlate to an increase in fuel economy thereby avoiding a fine from the EPA for each vehicle sold.

On the flip side, Jeep could lose significant sales momentum with these changes. Purists and true off-road enthusiasts could seek out the older solid axle models of the past and ignore newer Wranglers with more electronics and an independent suspension. Also, after-market suppliers, like those that go to the SEMA show, will have their work cut  new products to adapt to a new suspension setup.

This puts Jeep in a tough spot. They can’t simply drop the Wrangler and start over nor can they make too many changes that will turn off customers.

What do you think? Can Jeep successfully incorporate the mpg changes it needs to or is the Wrangler dead?

Authored by Tim Esterdahl

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18 Responses to “2016 Jeep Wrangler Changes Coming – Aluminum doors, New Rear Axle Possible”

  1. ed

    I have 11 jeeps they start with 1952 rust free willys truck, and go up to the 2015 jku. All of these jeeps have a place in history and there time in that place. My 1961 willys wagon is not the suburban of today by no means but its still a cool rig. My 2009 JKU lifted automatic has 238,920 miles on it with a small transmission issue at 228,000, covered under my life time factory warranty. My 2005 LJ rubicon has 107,000, both of these are good jeeps each have there own purpose. The LJ is a rubi with a 4″ lift, this thing is much better to drive than my 1971 jeepster which only has 70,000 miles but does not compare to the drive of the jku. My 2009 jku corners like a car on the back roads, it is the best balanced of all my jeeps, the forward control trucks being the worst balanced. JKU just seems like the perfect ride but a little wide in the woods. I like them all but each in different ways, but if it becomes a uniframe ride in 2016, I will not be buying into that. Pay the penalty and charge us for it you already are anyway and make improvements not government set backs or just put diesel engines in them. But you have to consider within my opinion that I am jeep positive person – my father and uncle had a jeep dealership from 1952 to 1984 when they told them they had to take Renault to keep jeep, they told them no thanks. I have a photo of me 2 yrs old in 1960 on the front bumper of a brand new CJ-5. keep jeeping ed

  2. Cary Nickel

    I’ve owned a 2000 TJ since new. It’s seen plenty of hard off road use and keeps plugging along today at over 180,000 miles. The very few major issues I’ve had with it can be directly attributed to my beating the heck out of it off-road. A couple years later we bought a 2002 Liberty thinking it would be a good family sized alternative…how wrong we were. It’s been the worst vehicle I’ve ever owned, bar none. It’s had problems, major and minor, continuously since the warranty expired, and it hasn’t seen near the off pavement use the Wrangler has. It’s not even a good car. As for the JK? Frankly, I have no interest in the oversized hulk, and my experience with the Liberty tells me that if ANY of today’s Jeeps share any tech whatsoever with that Liberty, they are all tainted to the point I don’t want anything to do with them. Independent suspension and more electronics will be the death knell for whatever they build and call a “Wrangler” next.

  3. Vito Rigatoni

    All vehicles today are just full of bells and shitles, period. If you want a real off road rig buy an old jeep and have it built to your specs, it would be cheaper in the long run. The Egyptian military J8 version would solve all of these issues if they were offered to the American market, talk about tough as nails jeep. All car manufactures just want to pump out big numbers and the quality issue can be worked out later. Toyota IMO is the last quality built vehicle but they could do better.when a jeep cost almost 40K there is a problem especially if there are basic quality issues. 4wd anything should come with lockers for true 4wd ability. Good luck folks, it is what it is. I still own my old CJ7 which is an 83, have had it 32 years and will never sell it, talk about bare bones but fun as hell to drive.

  4. Joe in the Woods

    I think the Wrangler JK is the end. Stop while your ahead! Just start making trhe new vehicles and us who want the Wrangler….we will survive!

  5. Joe in the Woods

    My JKU is GREAT! It is ok on the road… it is great off road….it pulls my 16′ Jon Boat completely overloaded with hunting gear for four in the winter with no problem…(Duck Hunting)

  6. MS

    If the front suspension is like that of the new Cherokee, many companies have already said they will not be making any lift components for them.

  7. SpecialForcesVet

    Aluminum body makes total sense. Or carbon fiber. What about de Dion suspension? Solid axle geometry with unsprung weight advantage of independent suspension. More complex which is big neg. Any other reasons it would not hack it for off road use?

  8. D.j. Cagle

    The wrangler started going downhill when they stopped production of the TJ…

    • brkshr

      Agreed! I’ve been debating between buying a JKU and the LJ for awhile now. I want the extra room and the JKU’s look nice lifted. After driving the JKU, I decided that it definitely wasn’t for me. I felt like I was driving a minivan. So I’ll buy an LJ and throw some money into it.

    • Francis O'Boyle

      The sales actually went up, not down. Where did you get your stats?

      • D.j. Cagle

        Not in the sales .. I’m talking reliability … Sales are up because the addition of all the creature comforts but all that resulted in a downward spiral in reliability.. Example.. My TJ rubi has manual swaybar disconnects.. less convienant but 100% reliable.. My wife’s JKU rubi has electric.. You never know if the damn swaybar will reconnect after it’s disconnected. It took us an hour to get it to reconnect yesterday.. That’s just one example of many…


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