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Published: Tuesday, 9/17/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Jeep aims for monster year

Record-selling Wrangler tweaked for ’14; Dragon set to debut

The Jeep Wrangler Dragon special edition, made in Toledo and on sale this fall, is expected to retail for $36,095. It created quite a buzz when it made its debut as a design concept in China last year. The Jeep Wrangler Dragon special edition, made in Toledo and on sale this fall, is expected to retail for $36,095. It created quite a buzz when it made its debut as a design concept in China last year.

Opting not to mess with a good thing, Jeep is making only the smallest of changes to the Wrangler for the 2014 model year.

Not that changes were really needed. The current Wrangler — which has remained basically the same since 2007 — is widely regarded as the best yet, and sales are at a record pace. All Wranglers are built at the Chrysler’s Toledo Assembly complex.

The only across-the-lineup change for 2014 is swapping the amber turn-signal lenses below the headlamps for clear ones. Jeep is also adding six exterior colors. The rest of the changes are in newly available options and trim packages.

For the first time, the base Sport model is available with Chrysler Group LLC’s 6½-inch touch-screen Uconnect system. Jeep is also offering a 32-inch off-road tire-and-wheel group package on the Sport model.

The biggest news for 2014 are a new trim level and two special editions, including the wild Wrangler Dragon based on the concept shown at last year’s Beijing International Automotive Exposition in China.

At the time, Chrysler said the concept was meant to “showcase the opportunity for special editions that might be available for Chinese customers in the near future.”

The vehicle was well received in China, but it also generated a lot of buzz in the United States, where it was later shown at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

“When we introduced the Jeep Wrangler Dragon Design Concept last year, we received tremendously positive feedback. Our loyal Jeep enthusiasts asked us to build this unique Wrangler, and we are delivering exactly what they’ve asked for,” Mike Manley, Jeep brand chief executive officer, said in a statement.

The Jeep Wrangler Dragon edition comes only in black trimmed with several special bronze-colored accents. As the name suggests, the Jeep prominently features a large dark charcoal-colored dragon decal that runs from the hood down across the driver’s side of the vehicle.

Dragons also emblazon the spare tire cover and the gauge cluster.

The Wrangler Dragon will go on sale in North America this fall. A company spokesman said it could be sold elsewhere, including China, eventually, though there are no current plans to do so.

Still, China has been a major growth market for Chrysler and more specifically, Jeep. The Jeep brand makes up almost 80 percent of Chrysler Group’s sales outside of North America.

Chrysler sold 46,074 Jeeps in China last year, more than doubling its sales there in 2011. Through August, Jeep has sold 36,802 vehicles in China.

Chrysler says the flashy special edition will have a limited production run, though no specific build number has been set. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the Wrangler Dragon is $36,095.

Jeep is reintroducing the Freedom edition, which adds military-themed touches inside and out.

A new off-road trim level is also coming for 2014 in the Wrangler Rubicon X.

Through August, Jeep had sold 107,957 Wranglers, up 12 percent from last year. The last time the Wrangler had an overhaul was for the 2007 model year.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.

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