Speaking this week on the floor of the Detroit Auto Show, Jeep's global chief Mike Manley said "the hybridization could actually help Wrangler," noting it could improve torque distribution, a critical element for four-wheel drive vehicles.
Manley added, "Electrification, absolutely. I could see Wrangler being a form of electric." The Jeep boss didn't offer further details, though a hybrid Wrangler has been rumored for years.
The next-generation off-roader is due for the 2018 model year, which means a reveal is imminent. Hybrid technology would likely be used to assist the Wrangler's performance and efficiency, rather than as a total fuel-economy play. The next-gen Wrangler is expected to have LED lights, updated and more aerodynamic design, and greater use of aluminum. A turbo four-cylinder gasoline engine, a diesel engine, and an eight-speed automatic transmission are also among the powertrain rumors, though the diesel may be in jeopardy after the EPA accused FCA US of installing emission-control software on its EcoDiesels.
Despite the changes, this new Jeep will be instantly recognizable as a Wrangler, Manley told us. "It's the icon of our brand."
Also heartening for enthusiasts, the Wrangler is getting a pickup variant built alongside the utility vehicle in Toledo, OH. Manley wouldn't speculate on a name, though it has a long list of historic choices. Jeep used "Comanche" on a Cherokee-based pickup from 1986-92 and had the Gladiator/J-Series for a larger truck from 1963-87. "Of course we could go back to one of the record books [for a name]," Manley said.
Meanwhile, Jeep also confirmed that the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer models will return to its lineup in 2020, slotting above the Grand Cherokee and giving Jeep an entry in the upper luxury SUV segment. Manley said the Wagoneers will compete in the $60,000-to-$100,000 price range. They will be based on a body-on-frame platform sourced from the Ram and built in Warren, MI. "Ever since I've been associated with Jeep, in my mind, they needed to come back to the portfolio," Manley said.
Jeep's other spotlight vehicle, the Grand Cherokee, will get a new generation launching in 2019, Manley said. Though the current line has been on sale since 2010, Jeep has added interior updates and special variants to keep it fresh. Before the new model arrives, a Trackhawk version with the 707-horsepower Hellcat engine is expected to send this generation out on a high note.
Jeep continues to perform well in a market that is displaying strong demand for SUVs, crossovers, and trucks. Jeep sales rose six percent in 2016 to 926,376, the best showing of any of FCA US' brands.