An extension of the Wrangler’s length, to fit an eight-speed automatic, has been all but confirmed by spy shots of a disguised new “JL” on the road.

Former Jeep/Truck engineer Bob Sheaves had predicted the company might try to shorten the driveline , to keep the two-door Wrangler roughly at its current length, but also wrote that they may lengthen the vehicle somewhat to fit in the long rear wheel drive transmission, transfer case, and engine while meeting crash standards.

As Mr. Sheaves wrote in 2014, “The problem in the short-wheelbase Wrangler is the assembled length of the drivetrain, and suspension travel not allowing a propshaft to fit.”  While the short-wheelbase (two-door) Wrangler is no longer as popular as the long-wheelbase (four-door) Unlimited, it is still an important model and is more off-road-ready than the Unlimited. Making the Wrangler two-door longer would challenge engineers tasked with making the “JL” at least as capable as the prior version.

Mr. Sheaves suggested that they could, since they have the rights to the transfer case, change its length rather than altering the transmission itself. While Jeep may still do that, they may also lengthen the Wrangler’s body.

Keeping the five-speed is a “no go,” since it limits economy and acceleration alike, and is made under license from Mercedes. Truck transmissions won’t fit.

Expected engines remain the 3.6 liter V6 in the US, as well as a VM diesel offshore; the diesel is possible in the US as well, since it appears to have been designed to meet North American emissions standards without cheats. Eventually a four cylinder turbocharged engine seems likely for base models.