Fiat Chrysler Automobiles offered the first official look at the next-generation Jeep Wrangler on Tuesday, sharing three photographs that show the sport utility vehicle on the road and on the trail.
The surprise release came during an evening press conference for FCA’s in-house parts and accessories Mopar brand at the Specialty Equipment Market Association trade show in Las Vegas, nearly a full month ahead of the vehicle's debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
In a pre-recorded message, Jeep’s Chief Executive Officer Mike Manley thanked the off-road community for its enthusiasm for Wrangler and made a promise that the company hasn’t strayed from what made the Wrangler such an icon.
“I learned many years ago that Wrangler owners are amongst the most passionate and loyal customers in the world, so when we began redesigning the new Wrangler, we knew we had to walk that fine line between making significant improvements, but staying very true to Wrangler’s soul and of course its legendary four-by-four capability,” he said.
The video then cut to a trio of photos that could best be described as an appetizer for a Jeep crowd hungry for details about the new Wrangler. They didn’t show a lot, but they should generate plenty of buzz and — Jeep hopes — build up anticipation ahead of the official launch in Los Angeles on Nov. 29.
In addition to the photos, the company put out a brief statement Tuesday saying the new Wrangler will have “even more legendary Jeep four-by-four capability, a modern design that stays true to the original, advanced fuel-efficient powertrains, more open-air options, and is loaded with more safety features and advanced technology than ever before.”
Jeep officials declined to offer any additional comments about the vehicle Tuesday evening.
Like the current Wrangler, the new vehicle will be built exclusively at Fiat Chrysler’s Toledo Assembly Complex. When the revamped north plant hits full production, Toledo should be able to build more than 300,000 Wranglers annually — a significant increase from the plant’s current capacity.
The company invested some $700 million into the plant this year to prepare it for the launch. Production is expected to begin within the next several weeks. Company officials have previously said the vehicle will go on sale early next year.
For much of the car-buying public, the reaction to the photos is likely to be something along the lines of “Yep, looks like a Wrangler.” The basic style of the vehicle — slab sided, round headlamps, protruding square taillights, and flared fenders — isn’t much changed.
That’s no doubt intentionally. You don’t mess with a good thing.
That said, the images do appear to show a slightly more rounded and aerodynamic grille and a more rakish windshield.
There’s also a new character line creased in just below the door glass, and new vents sculpted into the quarter-panel just behind the rear fenders. The Wrangler’s turn signals, currently in the grille below the headlights, move out to the fenders where they join what looks to be a new, horizontal running light.
Though details remain light, it’s the closest to any real information the company has yet given about the upcoming vehicle.
Fiat Chrysler has been talking about the new Wrangler without actually saying much for years. Beyond the fact that the next generation would be lighter, get better fuel economy, and offer new powertrain options, company officials have been exceptionally tight-lipped.
That said, a few details do appear to have slipped out in recent weeks, capped by the leak of what is reportedly the full owner’s manual and user’s guide for the new Wrangler.
Those documents, which were posted online by jlwranglerforums.com, suggest the Wrangler will get a number of first-time features, including blind spot monitoring, parking sensors, a backup camera, push-button start, and a power sliding roof.
None of those details have been confirmed by Jeep.
However, the newly released photos do at least confirm that the option of going doorless and topless will continue.
The new Wrangler is one of Fiat Chrysler’s most anticipated — and most important — vehicles in years. The Jeep brand has been a profit machine for Fiat Chrysler, and the Wrangler is unquestionably the essence and heart of the brand.
In production since mid-2006, the current generation of the Wrangler has by far been the most successful. Though the only major change since the vehicle went into production was the mid-cycle addition of FCA’s 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine, the Wrangler has sold well even as it aged.
Just two years ago, Jeep sold a record 202,702 Wranglers in the United States. Though sales took a step back last year, 2016 was still easily the second-best year on record. Through September, the company has sold has sold 150,142 Wranglers in the United States, a 1 percent increase over last year.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Wrangler was named as SEMA’s "Hottest 4x4-SUV” for the eighth straight year.
Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. Comments that violate these standards, or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, are subject to being removed and commenters are subject to being banned. To post comments, you must be a registered user on toledoblade.com. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.