Next for Jeep Wrangler – Electrification?

A lot has happened in the UK market since the latest generation Jeep Wrangler arrived two years ago. The biggest change for vehicles like this has been the move away from diesel and thus increasingly electrification. In fact, a prototype called Magneto will be revealed over Easter, leading many to wonder if this heralds an all-electric Wrangler.

Other than the name and the fact that it will be seen for the first time at the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, we don’t know much about Magneto yet. The gathering in Utah always brings a lot of publicity for the brand, with many concepts having premiered there over the years. Will this be a pure design study or could it instead be a prototype?

It’s perhaps inevitable that full electrification will eventually come for the Wrangler, but with the US by far the model’s top market, Stellantis can take its time developing a production vehicle. Elsewhere – China and Europe immediately come to mind – the possibility of a Wrangler EV seems bigger. With the exception of Tesla, buyers in North America have so far not been drawn to electric SUVs yet, which is likely to change and perhaps sooner than some expect.

As of a few months ago FCA US has already added a PHEV option for the Wrangler and it is available worldwide. Announced last September, sales in Europe, North America and China have either started or are coming fairly soon.

The Wrangler 4xes plug-in hybrid powertrain consists of two motors that complement a 2.0-liter gasoline engine, drive goes to both axles via ZF’s 8P75PH eight-speed automatic transmission, while the 400V, 17 kWh nickel manganese cobalt battery pack is mounted under the rear seat. The maximum range in EV mode is 25 miles. Combined power and torque are 375 horsepower (280 kW) and 470 lb ft (637 Nm).

I recently tried the same engine, albeit without the dual motors, in the existing gas-powered Wrangler. The only other time I’ve tried a JL range model was two years ago, and on that occasion the ones I drove at the UK media preview were diesels.

I seem to have been cursed to only drive this Jeep when the weather beats it down, but this time at least I managed to experience some outdoor driving, albeit briefly. On the press tester, this consisted of two lightweight panels – one above each front seat passenger. They are easy to detach and there are no rattles or leaks when each one is back in place. In fact, the entire vehicle was very quiet all around; something I didn’t expect considering the doors and glass are thinner than most cars, there’s a lot of empty space and the thing itself has long-travel suspension and huge chunky tires.

The petrol engine we get in Europe is a 2.0-litre ‘Hurricane’ turbo produced at Trenton Powertrain in Michigan. In North America there is also a 3.6-litre Pentastar petrol or 3.0-litre EcoDiesel which is also a V6, while in some countries other than the US and Canada the 2.2-litre MultiJet II diesel is another option. Each is mated to a ZF eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission and drive goes to the rear axle.

Engaging all-wheel drive is as simple as pulling a stubby lever to the left of the PRND and, as you’d expect, there are low and high range options. I can attest to the Wrangler’s incredible off-road capabilities, but just as impressive is how civilized it remains in all conditions.

What I hadn’t had a chance to assess at the time of market launch in early 2019 was the model’s performance at highway speeds. Can high-speed lane changes be as potentially heart-stopping on a windy day as experience showed me could be the case with the previous generation? Not at all. When you look at how much room there is for wind to get under the big front wheel arches, it’s nothing short of amazing. It’s a bit of a buffet but that won’t scare anyone away.

The interior looks as good as it did two years ago and don’t forget that the JL Wrangler has been around since late 2017 in the US, so that’s an even bigger compliment. Some things could possibly benefit from an update that is on the way for the 2022 model year. That includes the touch screen which is now a touch on the small side. However, I can’t fault the plastics or really any other aspect of what the driver comes into contact with, because while it’s not quite what anyone buying a £50,000 car would expect, this is by no means a typical car so you cannot think of it as such.

If it didn’t have a supercharged V8 under the hood, I even think the Wrangler would be my preference over the Defender, which is an expensive proposition in any form. And you also cannot remove the roof and doors or fold down the windscreen, as you can in the Jeep. Other than the Land Rover there really aren’t any other rivals and I actually doubt too many Defender intenders would be that interested in the Jeep anyway.

Along with the impending PHEV and perhaps an EV, there’s even more to come for the Wrangler, but sadly the baddest, loudest variant won’t be coming to the UK. The Rubicon 392 Concept was first mentioned by FCA last July and was said to be only a prototype. Powered by a 392 cubic inch (6.4-liter) V8 rated at 450 horsepower and 450 lb ft of torque, it was confirmed for production in November. Even better news, the Rubicon 392’s engine produces 470 horsepower (350 kW) and 470 pound-feet (637 Nm) of torque.

The exhaust note from the 2.0-litre turbo I drove for a week is actually a bit fruity and all the better for it, but with more manufacturers touting the musical magic of their latest electric cars (eg a 1960s F1 car for Lotus) Evija), come on Stellantis, if you end up building a Wrangler EV, how about making it sound just like the Rubicon 392?

The Jeep Cherokee 2.0-litre petrol turbo has a CO2 average of 260g/km and returns 24.8mpg on the combined cycle.

New half doors for Jeep Wrangler

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