Our Predictions for the Wrangler-based pickup

Surely you’ve heard the news that Jeep head-honcho Mike Manley confirmed a pickup version of the next-generation Jeep Wrangler during an interview at the 2016 Detroit Auto Show. Since then, we’ve been busy listening to rumors and developing sketches of what we envision the Jeep Pickup will look like. In the mean time, we had already created a rendering for the next-gen Wrangler SUV, so attaching the cargo bed to the Wrangler didn’t involve rocket science.

The new Wrangler, presumed to be dubbed the JL, will likely debut for the 2018 model year. It’s highly likely Jeep will release the pickup version along side the Wrangler SUV, as Manley confirmed the Wrangler pickup would be available before 2019.

Both the Wrangler and Wrangler pickup will share the same chassis, drivetrain, interior, and most exterior parts, keeping costs down and maintaining the Wrangler image across both vehicles. The pickup will likely be available only as a crew cab, short bed configuration, built off the Wrangler Unlimited chassis.

Jeep will likely have to extend the Wrangler’s frame to accommodate the extra length needed for the bed. This means a longer, more stable Wrangler for on-road driving and trailer towing, but a slightly less maneuverable and (dare I say) capable Wrangler for off-roading adventures. It’s the break-over angle that will suffer the most, making the Wrangler pickup more vulnerable to high centering.

As for the name, Jeep could resurrect the Scrambler name, a moniker that dates back to the CJ-8 of the 1980s. There’s also the Gladiator name, most recently seen on the Wrangler-based pickup concept from 2005. Regardless of its name, the Wrangler pickup will be an exciting addition to the Jeep lineup. With that in mind, let’s dive into the speculated details.

Continue reading to learn more about the upcoming Jeep Wrangler Pickup.

Spy Shots

July 21, 2016 - First testing session

Exterior

The first noticeable feature will obviously be the cargo bed. This will likely be constructed from composites or plastics in order to save weight. The bed’s lining will also be plastic, much like the Toyota Tacoma and Honda Ridgeline. Expect to see some innovative cargo management features, like storage boxes or even a version of the Ram Box. The rear bumper will utilize the standard center step and license plate holder, while offering room for a trailer hitch receiver and tow hooks down low.

"Beyond the bed, the Wrangler pickup should carry all the same design details as the standard Wrangler."

Beyond the bed, the Wrangler pickup should carry all the same design details as the standard Wrangler. The front bumper, grille, headlights, fenders, hood, windshield, and doors will all be interchangeable. That’s great news for the aftermarket industry and consumers alike, given that aftermarket parts will fit both models.

Like the Wrangler SUV, the pickup’s windshield will no longer fold flat. This is because of stricter safety requirements and the need to strengthen the roof section. Speaking of the roof, rumors still suggest the next-gen Wrangler will have a permanent roof structure with removable panels. This will make the Jeep safer, but also slightly less Jeep-ish. Nevertheless, the removable roof panels, combined with the removable doors, should give Jeep enthusiast all the open-air freedom they’ve come to expect.

Interior

We still don’t know what FCA has in store for the 2018 Wrangler, but we do suspect the Jeep will have a more comfortable and refined interior. Never fear, the Wrangler will still have drain plugs in the floorboards and removable carpet, but the seats and dashboard should offer next-level-type comfort and style.

The in-dash infotainment system will have the latest version of Chrysler’s 8.4 Uconnect system, offering plenty of control for audio, navigation, and vehicle settings. We’d love to see Jeep partner with a GPS company like Magellan or Garmin to provide off-road navigation integrated into the Uconnect system.

Expect to see a TFT screen in the gauge cluster for a detailed driver information screen. The current Wrangler JK relies on an outdated LCD screen that looks like your granddad’s alarm clock.

Regardless of what the production version will look like, we fully expect the next-gen Wrangler pickup to be a comfortable yet utilitarian place to ride.

Drivetrain

As we mentioned before, the Wrangler pickup will share its powertrain with the Wrangler SUV. The base engine will likely be an updated version of the current 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6. Expect more horsepower, torque, and efficiency out of the engine. In our rendering of the Wrangler SUV, we predicted the Pentastar’s output to be 300 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque.

"The base engine will likely be an updated version of the current 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6."

Better yet, the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel will finally make its appearance in the Wrangler, offering 240 horsepower and a stump-pulling 420 pound-feet of torque. This will be the engine of choice for those who go off-roading or plan to haul and tow.

Both engines will be backed by the ZF eight-speed automatic transmission. 4WD will be standard across the board, likely with a traditional, manually operated transfer case. The two-speed unit will have positions for 2WD, 4WD high-range, neutral, and 4WD low-range.

The Rubicon trim will surely be an option for the pickup, giving the Jeep stronger axles, a more robust transfer case, electronically locking differentials, and the electronically disconnecting front sway bar.

Suspension and Frame

The Wrangler pickup will utilize an extended version of the Wrangler Unlimited’s frame. We’re betting on fully boxed rails constructed from high-strength steel with plenty of cross members for torsional rigidity. Extensive skid plating will be standard on upper trim models, especially the Rubicon.

The solid axles will make their return, giving the Wrangler pickup a solid foundation. Since this is a truck, Jeep may include the Dana 44 as standard equipment for the rear axle, while making the Dana 30 standard in the front. Rubicon models will have Dana 44s at both ends.

Suspension wise, the Jeep will likely utilize an updated version of the multi-link coil suspension from the JK, giving it plenty of flex off road, while becoming better mannered on-road.

Nevertheless, the Wrangler will continue to be a rough-and-tumble vehicle with plenty of trade-offs for its off-road prowess. Those looking for a cool daily driver for the suburban lifestyle may quickly grow tired of the relatively harsh ride. Then again, Jeep engineers may perform a miracle and somehow give the Wrangler and Wrangler pickup a smooth ride without compromising is abilities.

Prices

The Wrangler pickup will certainly be competitive with the current crop of midsize pickups. We’d suspect prices will start at $32,000 for the standard Wrangler Unlimited, so the pickup could carry a price equal to, or slightly higher than that.

Competition

Chevrolet Colorado Z71

The Colorado offers several cab, bed, and drivetrain configurations, but the Crew Cab Z71 will be the closest competitor. The truck can be had with either the 3.6-liter V-6 or GM’s new 2.8-liter Duramax four-cylinder turbodiesel. The Z71 trim offers meatier tires, upgraded shocks, and underbody skid plates for off-road action. 4WD is still optional, however.

Prices for the Colorado crew cab Z71 with 4WD start at $35,735.

Read our full review here.

Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road

The Tacoma has long ruled the midsize segment and continues to dominate with the new-for-2016 model. The truck features a new design, upgraded interior, and an all-new, 3.5-liter V-6. Toyota offers several different trim and TRD packages, but the TRD Off-Road is probably the most compatible with the non-Rubicon Wrangler pickup. (The TRD Pro would be a worthy competitor to the Rubicon.)

The Tacoma TRD Off-Road carries a starting price of $32,315 with the double cab (Toyota’s crew cab) and short bed.

Read our full review here.

Conclusion

Though all this is speculation, we’ve paid attention to the rumors and small nugget of information Jeep has dropped. Sure, there’s plenty of room for interpretation, but no matter what the next Wrangler and its pickup version look like, both will be more capable, more comfortable, more powerful, and more efficient than the outgoing Wrangler JK.

As Jeep prepares to unveil the Wrangler sometime in 2016, we wait impatiently to see what Jeep has planned. The Wrangler is a huge sales leader for FCA and the Jeep team can’t afford a mistake. Perhaps the next-generation Wrangler will outpace the Wrangler JK’s impressive sales growth of 20,000 units per year since 2011. More than 202,000 JKs were sold in 2015 alone, so there’s plenty at stake for FCA. In light of that, we expect great things from the upcoming JL.

  • Leave it
    • Will likely be slightly more expensive than other midsize trucks
    • Longer wheelbase decreases breakover angle

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