How has the Jeep Wrangler lasted so long?
The Jeep Wrangler is an anomaly in the car world: its basic format has been wildly successful for 80 years because its outdated technology is part of its appeal. And this SUV is only picking up steam.
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Back in WWII, the allied forces knew they would need a nimble 4×4 to transport troops across Europe’s broken infrastructure. The specs the military requested were similar in size and ability to a modern side-by-side. But the best 1940s Detroit could do was the Willys Jeep.
The mighty little Jeep was instrumental in winning the war. When Willys offered a post-war civilian version, veterans and others snapped it up.
Willys merged with AMC which was bought by Chrysler Corporation which became part of Stellantis. The company only made slight tweaks to the successful Willys Jeep. The resulting Jeep Wrangler is selling as well as ever. In addition, some Jeep Wrangler models hold their value better than anything on the road.
Is the Jeep Wrangler future-proof?
Being outdated has always been part of the Jeep Wrangler’s charm. Its layout may not make it the most efficient SUV, but it offers a unique, and in-demand driving experience. The Wrangler’s basic concept will be just as appealing to future generations as it is today.
The modern Wrangler is the result of incremental improvements to the original Willys Jeep. Like a 1940s truck, it has a heavy ladder frame, a cumbersome solid front axle, and part-time 4WD. It is also one of the last vehicles you can buy with a manual transmission.
The result may not be the quickest or most nimble vehicle while on the highway. It is also not very fuel-efficient. But off-road, it is stable and capable. The full frame and solid front axle allow the Wrangler to flex its way over technical terrain with no problem. A removable top and manual transmission put a Jeep’s driver even more in touch with the experience of navigating a trail.
Decades after engineers have designed “better” vehicles, the Wrangler is still in high demand. It is not going anywhere, anytime soon. Jeep will continue building Wranglers, though it will slowly add plug-in hybrid and then fully electric powertrains to its lineup. Used internal combustion Jeeps will hold their value, eventually becoming a sought-after platform for restorations.
What will future Jeeps look like?
Jeep reveals each year’s new prototypes at the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah. The 2022 lineup includes a fully electric Wrangler and several plug-in hybrid prototypes. They may be a preview of the future of Jeep.
The 2021 Jeep Wrangler Magneto was an early fully-electric Jeep concept by Stellantis. It is a full battery electric vehicle (as opposed to a plug-in hybrid 4xe) and also very much a Jeep. It features a traditional solid front axle and part-time 4WD layout. In place of a Pentastar V6, it boasts an electric motor connected to its manual transmission.
The Magneto might not be the most advanced EV around, but it is the most “Jeep” one. Companies like Rivian are exploring quad-motor drive systems, and maybe Jeep will offer such tech eventually. But the Wrangler has resisted many other technological advancements, and if it ever swaps its combustion engine for an electric one, we doubt much else about it will change.
Next, find out why electric 4x4s will be better off-road, or catch up on the history of the Jeep in the video below: