2017 Jeep Wrangler to use aluminium body, turbo engine

Brett Davis

The next Jeep Wrangler may drop some of its heavy-duty heritage and instead turn to lightweight technologies and turbocharging, according to Fiat Chrysler Group boss Sergio Marchionne.

2014 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

Speaking about the future Wrangler at the Paris Motor Show, currently underway, Sergio Marchionne said the company is currently debating whether to use a new aluminium body for the next model.

Using an aluminium body would obviously help to reduce the popular SUVs kerb weight and thus help improve fuel economy and reduce emissions. Jeep, like all manufacturers, is constantly trying to adjust and keep up with ever-tightening emissions and consumption restrictions.

While a lighter weight body would be welcomed by consumers, it will probably mean Jeep will have to shift production to another facility other than the iconic Toledo plant. Marchionne said to media,

“One of the things we are debating is whether this thing requires going into a material other than steel. If the solution is aluminium, then I think unfortunately that Toledo is the wrong place, the wrong setup to try and build a Wrangler, because it requires a complete reconfiguring of the assets that would be cost-prohibitive. It would be so outrageously expensive that it would be impossible to try and work out of that facility.”

The Wrangler has been produced at the Toledo plant in the US for over 20 years. It was built at the Brampton plant for a short period in 1980s. Even if production is shifted to another facility, Marchionne said he has no doubt there will be zero impact on jobs at the Toledo factory.

As for the powertrain options, the next-gen Wrangler could become turbocharged for the first time. In its current form the Wrangler uses a rather thirsty 3.6-litre naturally aspirated V6. It produces 209kW and 347Nm and has an official average economy of 11.7L/10k0km. There’s talk of a smaller unit being under consideration, using turbocharging technology to help maintain torque and reduce consumption. Marchionne said,

“We firmly believe that we have to downsize the engines that are going into the Wrangler, just in terms of displacements, and then increase the capabilities by putting turbos in and doing other things to that engine.”

Of course, the shift in personality for the rough and ready Wrangler might upset the more hardcore fans. Using an aluminium body and a turbo engine is set to be just the start of it. The new model, due in 2017, is also expected to showcase modernised styling with increased safety, more advanced in-car features and conveniences, and increased connectivity.

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