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Trucks, Jeeps

2018 Jeep Wrangler: Still steel, still capable after all these years

Updated May 17, 2016: Hurricane shots

The next generation of the iconic off-roader will be the 2018 Jeep Wrangler “JL,” debuting in 2017 (for the 2018 model year), followed by a pickup. Buyers can expect eight-speed automatics and six-speed manuals, with 300-hp turbo fours rumored in addition to the usual V6; gasoline Jeeps will get the second-generation eight-speed made by Chrysler (850RE), while diesels will get the “pure” ZF 8HP75.

2018 Jeep Wrangler

A former Jeep enginer weighs the options:
open roof or fixed steel roof?
the pickup
weight, strength, and safety
transmissions •  engines

Decided: aluminum-vs-steelsuspension choices • Toledo?body (unibody vs frame)

Jeep reportedly tried an independent suspension for Wrangler, based on the 1963 Jeep Wagoneer or a Ram pickup, but Larry Vellequette of Automotive News wrote on February 15, 2015, that they would stick with floating solid axles. This will help Mopar and the aftermarket to keep selling modifications, and make it easier to keep the ground clearance high; and there has been talk of both suspension tweaks and axle upgrades.

Rumor had the Wrangler switching to an aluminum tub, but in May 2015, Sergio Marchionne said, “I think we can do almost as well without doing it all-aluminum.” The Wrangler will likely use a tough hydroformed steel frame to save weight and increase rigidity.


The Jeep Wrangler is a key vehicle for Chrysler, the “ring that controls all Jeeps,” and Sergio Marchionne has said many times they cannot reduce its off-road capability. Whether this means they will actually not reduce its capability remains to be seen.

Redesigning the top of the Wrangler could save even more weight. Cars without tops need heavy bolstering, and as the Wrangler is built to withstand abuse, it has more supports than usual. Engineers may replace the “safety bar” with stronger tubes over the top and reduce lower-body reinforcement, partly to avoid being punished by regulatory changes. Jeep could then also do a fixed-roof version with relatively little re-engineering and retooling.

2018 jeep wrangler

2018 Jeep Wrangler hardtop

Weight remains the biggest factor in city mileage.

An Allpar source claimed, “The traditional soft top is gone, [replaced by] removable soft panels over the substructure. The sport bar design is gone. It even appears to have built in grab handles.” This would be consistent with Bob Sheaves’ predictions. He also wrote, “The taillight design will change, but bumpers, tailgate construction, and the 5x5 wheel bolt pattern are mostly the same as the current ones.

This does not necessarily mean the loss of the soft top, removable doors, or even the fold-down windshield.

2018 Wrangler JL engine bay

The appearance of the Wrangler is not likely to change much, other the “roof replacement” structure, and aerodynamic improvements may be brought about mostly by changes in the windshield angle, mirrors, and underbody covers. The front turn signals are to be pushed back onto the fenders, as in a past generation, so no sidelights would be needed in North America. The tail-lights are likely to change to Renegade-style ones, and the headlights, while sticking to round shapes, should gain an LED oro HID option.

2018 jeep spy shot

Diesel engines, pickup trucks, and other changes

Many expect Jeep to finally issue a U.S. diesel version of the Wrangler, to boost fuel efficiency while pleasing hard-core off-roaders (thanks to its low-end torque). It’s likely that the company will attempt to do a light-hybrid version a year or two after the main launch, and that a stop-start will be standard or optional, perhaps left off the Rubicon. The standard American engine will be a V6 (upgraded with more efficiency), and the upcoming, rumored-300-hp Hurricane Four. Europe will continue to get a diesel.

wrangler engine spy shot

Most expect Jeep to make the Wrangler more aerodynamic, with a slightly larger slant to the windshield. The fold-down windshield may be dropped; it is unique for Jeep in North America, but few seem to care about it. Removable doors are likely to remain; the grille is reportedly to get a bend near the top. (See the Jeep Shortcut concept below for a preview of how these changes may look.)

shortcut concept

drawings of the 2018 Jeep Wrangler grille

A limited production pickup version (Gladiator? Comanche?) has been rumored and is quite possible, showing up around 2019-2020 depending on the draw of the primary Wranglers. A fixed steel roof is not beyond the boundaries of reason, especially if production capacity exceeds demand in the new plant.

New axles

Allpar sources generally agree that there will be a new Dana axle, with a larger bolt pattern (going from 10 to 12); the Dana 44 bolt pattern did not change even when they increased the ring gear size and pinion for the current JK. The 44 has been used for many years, and advances in the state of the art may have led to a major upgrade for economy and off-road performance alike.

IRS 2017 Jeep Wrangler

Flip-up rear window

A new patent application shows a unique full folding back glass design. The Jeep Wrangler is used for the illustrations.

The current Wrangler has a tailgate/spare tire that swing sideways, then the backglass can open upwards. The patent application is different in that the backglass folds all of the way up to the roof, with clips built into the roof so it can be pinned down and left all the way open. There are clips inside, to hold the struts after they are disconnected from the backglass (so it can reach the roof).

Driving with rear glass open could cause exhaust fumes in the cabin, and can also draw in mud when used off-road. Still, there are people who would like to be able to keep the backglass of their Jeep Wrangler open while driving with the top on, so the next generation Wrangler may include this as an optional package. It could also just be a patent to cover research and development on something that will never get used.

How to build it?


Steel or aluminum?

New suspension

Unit-body, frame...?
2018 Jeep Wrangler
Open or fixed top?
Weight and strength
2018 Wrangler engines
True Jeep

Original Jeep
Allpar Jeep Home

Related Jeep Wrangler pages at allpar

The 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL: suspension aluminum vs steelopen or fixed roof pickup
body engineering
weight, strength, and safetytransmissionsengines

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