Can the Jeep, specifically the Wrangler, hold on to its heritage and reputation in 2017-2018? When a new Jeep hits the dealerships, and people have to decide whether it's time to pluck down thousands of dollars to get the newest edition of America's greatest vehicle, which way will the wind blow? The Jeep heritage goes back to the 1940's. In each generation of Jeep since then, there's always been a kinship, and a direct blood line to those early Jeeps. Whether it's the slotted grille, the short wheelbase, or the boxy body. The reputation comes from a "go anywhere" attitude, built into every frame and axle. It's a vehicle built to do one thing, and to do it better than anyone else. Period. No excuses. But what about its future?
Jeep Wrangler: Hand Tool Mechanics Meets the Computer Age
Sometimes the way you look at a Jeep depends on how old you are, or your younger experiences. If you owned an older Jeep - or any American vehicle from the 70's back - you're talking about a vehicle that can be fixed with duct tape and a screwdriver. If the points went bad, you changed them out in 10 minutes, and you're ready to go. Now you have to have a mechanic hook your vehicle up to a computer at a $100.00 an hour labor rate, then you might have to spend $800.00 for an electronic module. That's just so you can get the vehicle to fire up again. Vehicles back then were made of steel. They had ladder frames like a truck. They were just ... simple. Were they more dependable? I wouldn't go that far. But they were way easier to repair, and only required much cheaper, and fewer, parts. So when someone says older vehicles, or older Jeeps, were more reliable, I'm more on the side that they just seem that way, because they were much easier to repair. And most repairs could be done in the driveway, with simple hand tools. No need to call NASA.
Jeep Wrangler, Same As It Ever Was
New Jeeps, even the JK, are still very similar to older models. Except for the engine and some other nonsense computer and electronic parts and systems, at it's core, the Jeep JK Wrangler is still a lot simpler and basic than most vehicles made today. Solid axles, coil springs, shock absorbers. The chassis is still very familiar to most folks, regardless of how old you are. If you swapped out an axle on your '65 CJ, it won't be much different than on a JK Rubicon.
Expectations For Future Generations
So far, the rumors are saying that the new JK (JL code name ?) Wrangler will have solid axles. No IRS (Independent Rear Suspension). It should retain most of the components underneath. Few, if any, IRS systems are as durable as a solid axle setup. That's just the way it is when it comes to performance and reliability. It's a good idea to keep them. The new Wrangler will (most likely) do away with the fold down windshield. This is a point of showing your own age. If you had a CJ Jeep, you probably folded the windshield now and then. In today's world, for safety reasons, few young people will do that anymore. So Jeep (it's rumored) will give the Wrangler a fixed windshield. There's also talk of eliminating the soft top altogether. And I would say, this is a security issue as well. There are few parts of the country where you can safely drive around without a top. They've also become heavy over the years, and it's more of a task to remove them then ever before. Every Wrangler owner knows that they rarely take their hard top off, if ever (admit it). So it's no surprise that Jeep will just make a hardtop, use it as an integral part of the body, and do away with an actual roll bar.
"This Is My Life Now"
New Jeep owners, in 2017-2018 and after, will think Jeeps always had a hard top and a fixed windshield. Time will pass, and they won't know what it was like, decades earlier, when a Jeep was a simple, reliable, easy to fix vehicle. Will the new Jeep keep it's reputation intact, and stay true to it's heritage? Will it still be able to tackle the off road duties it was originally bred for? Or will it become a soccer mom's driver, just another boxy version of a Cherokee or Renegade wannabe? Will it become an overpriced mall crawler like an H2 Hummer? Will it be true to the real Jeepers, who look for new trails, new mountains, new vistas to find? We'll just have to wait and see. What do you think?