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How will Wrangler keep its tops “free”?

by David Zatz on

Even as the 2018 Jeep Wrangler grows ever-closer, sources are divided as to how the roof will be handled — though we are starting get some clarity.

The JT pickup, due in 2019, will almost certainly have a fixed roof with removable panels. As for the Wrangler, some believe it will have the setup shown in the  scale model below (whose front styling was rejected):

The model above has the same removable panels as the pickup, with a fixed windshield. So does a “more likely” styling study shown below.

Owners expressed several views. Many owners opt for the hardtop and don’t take it off, using the front removable panels. On the side of the fixed-roof/removable-panel model we have:

  • A body structure with less lower-body reinforcement, yielding better gas mileage and acceleration
  • An inherently stiffer structure which brings fewer creaks and rattles, and less body flex, helping the Wrangler’s quality ratings
  • Lower wind noise and fewer water leaks, increasing customer satisfaction and cutting warranty costs
  • The ability to include roof-rail attachment points
  • Removable panels which are easier to take off and store

The downsides mainly apply to the hard-core Jeepers for whom the Wrangler was created (with thanks to “Dr. Jeep”):

  • The removable roof and fold-down windshield make overhead clearance far better — you can fit into places you could not otherwise
  • With no roof, it’s easier to install or replace a roll cage
  • The removable windshield is easier to replace if damaged
  • A fully integrated roll structure would be much harder to replace, and owners might not be as willing risk their Jeeps off-road, using dedicated vehicles instead — and hurting Jeep’s hard-won credibility

Jeep Wrangler roof slider system cloth

The soft top will survive, but could be changed to a design like like the hard panels or Fiat 500C.  A year ago, Allpar was told that we could expect to see a power soft top; whether this is based on a permanent fixed roof structure is still in question. “Ruptured Duck” presented his view of how it would look in the image above (using the pickup as an example). This would still provide the feeling of “open-air freedom,” without a completely removable roof.

The company could spend more and, in some ways, take fewer risks by making two versions, but this would dramatically increase the engineering costs.

At this time, it is looking as though the 2018 Jeep Wrangler will have a fixed windshield and roof structure — by which we mean pillars and an outline — as in the Ruptured Duck drawing. Still, we can’t be certain until we see the real thing.

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