Rumors and speculation about the next-generation Jeep Wrangler took a sharp turn recently with the news engineers are looking closely at using an aluminum body. The fuel-economy benefits of aluminum may be good for Chrysler’s EPA goals, it isn’t good for consumers who prefer the stronger steel bodies.
In a recent AutoNews.com story, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne said they are looking at making many substantial changes to the next-generation Jeep Wrangler. These changes could include a unibody platform, turbocharged engines and an aluminum body. With the switch from a solid rear axle to independent suspension already being speculated, the next-generation Jeep Wrangler could be a radically different vehicle.
All of these changes are driven by consumer’s demand for better fuel economy and the upcoming EPA’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy targets. Currently, the Jeep Wrangler is facing lots of scrutiny for both.
The next-generation Jeep Wrangler is expected in 2017. This is at the same time as the first milestone of the new CAFE requirements hit. The next is in 2025.
It is becoming increasingly likely the next-generation Jeep Wrangler will have a change to its suspension. This won’t disrupt things too badly with aftermarket companies needing to make the most adjustments.
Engine changes also won’t be to terribly disruptive for Jeep Wrangler fans.
The biggest change could be the switch to the aluminum body. With the majority of Jeep Wrangler owners going off-road and/or spending vast amounts of time rock climbing, the aluminum sheet metal will likely get dented quite often. Unlike steel, aluminum isn’t as easy to pull out dents and it doesn’t handle the abuse like steel panels.
Marchionne said the move to aluminum is being fueled by the 2015 Ford F-150 and its use of aluminum body panels. While this truck has been tested to take a beating on job sites, it is still a big unknown whether consumers will flock to it or if it will hold up for all consumers.
On the upside, the weight reductions provided by aluminum can account for 1-2 MPG. Combined with a smaller displacement turbocharged engine, the fuel economy continues to improve. These improvements will result in real-world savings.
On the other hand, many Jeep Wrangler owners add many modifications to their rides. This additional weight renders the aluminum reduction as either null or significantly reduces it.
This switch to aluminum could be also drive up the price on the 2017 Jeep Wrangler. Aluminum is simply more expensive to produce and use on vehicles. While the new 2015 Ford F-150 didn’t see any marketable increase in price, many critics speculate Ford is eating more profits to keep the price low. With the recent merger, FCA doesn’t have the same cash position to do the same.
With the debate surrounding the future of one of Jeep’s most iconic vehicle rages on, Jeep fans will have many rumors to wade through.
In the end, the next-generation Jeep Wrangler must be more fuel efficient and weigh less. While this is great news at the pump, it causes lots of concerns when driving down the trail.
Image via: Allpar.com