Upgrades set for Wrangler V6 engine, transmission

Better performance, efficiency expected


Chrysler Group LLC will take the first step toward addressing one of the major complaints of Jeep Wrangler owners this summer when it replaces the vehicle’s often-maligned 3.8-liter V6 minivan engine with the company’s award-winning 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine and a new 5-speed automatic transmission.

Workers at the automaker’s Trenton North engine plant built their last 3.8-liter engine this month, marking the end of 20 years of production of the powerplant that for years drove vehicles as varied as the Chrysler Fifth Avenue and certain versions of the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans.

The 3.8-liter was retuned and introduced into the Wrangler in 2007, the same year then-DaimlerChrysler introduced the four-door Unlimited version of the iconic vehicle.

“We’ve sold a lot of upgrades for those because of them being sluggish,” said Mark Greenwood, co-owner and manager at Diversified Truck, Auto, and Off-Road, in Holland. He said Wrangler customers have spent $1,500 or more on add-ons trying to boost horsepower and torque.

“If they put a different tire on there, they really noticed it.”

Although it has a larger displacement than the Pentastar engine replacing it, the 3.8-liter produced 202 horsepower and 237 pound-feet of torque in the current Wrangler, compared with the 290 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque generated by the 3.6-liter Pentastar in the current year’s Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Todd Goyer, a spokesman for the Jeep Brand, would not confirm the 2012 Wrangler’s new powertrain, but ordering information made available to dealers indicates that the Pentastar will be the vehicle’s standard engine and that a five-speed automatic will replace its current four-speed version.

Both powertrain introductions should also help improve the Wrangler’s fuel-economy ratings, which were 15 miles per gallon, 19 mpg city this year. According to the Chrysler-centric site Allpar.com, the new powertrain and other changes will improve the Wrangler’s fuel economy ratings to 16 and 23 mpg for the 2012 model year.

The 2012 Wrangler’s engine and transmission, which will be identical to that of the highly praised 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee with its current five-speed automatic, should help address a concern on the Wrangler from some Jeep enthusiasts and critics: that it lacked sufficient power and torque for such a heavy vehicle, especially in the four-door Unlimited model.A 2011 Wrangler Rubicon has a curb weight of at least 4,460 pounds; the new Grand Cherokee weighs about 200 pounds more.

Contact Larry P. Vellequette at: lvellequette@theblade.com or 419-724-6091