Though the official debut of the next-generation Jeep Wrangler is still three weeks out, we now know for certain the vehicle is getting an eight-speed automatic transmission that will claw a few more miles out of every gallon of gas.
That confirmation comes from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which recently published fuel economy figures for a pair of models from upcoming Wrangler lineup, all to be built in Toledo. Fiat Chrysler has yet to publicly release any information about the new Wrangler’s powertrain options or its estimated fuel economy.
But the EPA says the next-generation Wrangler will pair its V-6 engine with either a six-speed manual or the eight-speed automatic. Both of those versions get better fuel economy than their predecessors.
The EPA estimates the Wrangler Unlimited with the eight-speed automatic will return 18 miles per gallon in the city and 23 miles per gallon on the highway for a combined rating of 20 mpg. The current Wrangler Unlimited, with its five-speed automatic, is rated at 16 miles per gallon in the city and 20 miles per gallon on the highway for a combined rating of 18 mpg.
An increase of three miles per gallon on the highway may not sound like much, but it represents a 15 percent jump in fuel efficiency.
All Wranglers are made at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Toledo Assembly Complex. A factory at the complex has been revamped, and workers trained to make the redesigned Wrangler. The current Wranglers also will continue to be made at factories next door into the first half of next year.
The EPA gave the new manual-equipped Wrangler Unlimited an estimated rating of 17 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway, for a combined rating of 19 mpg. Those figures are also better than the current manual-equipped version — a powertrain combination that will carry over — suggesting that Jeep’s efforts to cut weight and improve aerodynamics have been successful.
As of Tuesday, the EPA hadn’t published its fuel economy ratings for the two-door Wrangler, which tends to get slightly better fuel economy than the heavier four-door brethren. It also hasn’t published ratings for the expected four-cylinder gasoline engine or the diesel. Both of those powerplants should deliver better fuel economy than the V-6.
All that said, people don’t buy Wranglers for the fuel economy, and Wrangler sales have hardly been suffering because it’s a bit of a gas hog. Through October, Jeep has sold 163,533 through November, putting the Wrangler within reach of its second-best year on record.
Experts say the additional fuel economy isn’t likely to push sales higher.
“With low gas prices, fuel economy has not been at the top of the list of requirements for consumers,” said Michelle Krebs, an analyst with AutoTrader.com. “People who want a Wrangler want a Wrangler. A bit more fuel economy is nice but not a reason to buy.”
However, with government regulations it has been important for Fiat Chrysler to find ways to make the Wrangler more efficient without making it less rugged. Officials had floated the idea of going with an all-aluminum body to cut weight, though they later backtracked on that idea.
The new Wrangler will debut on Nov. 29 at the Los Angeles Auto Show and will be in auto dealership lots for sale early next year.
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