Weeks ago we heard reports that Fiat Chrysler might make the next-gen Jeep Wrangler with an automatic transmission only. As of today that looks less likely– spies have posted pictures of a 2018 Wrangler development mule with what is definitely a stick shift.
These images, as captured by spy photographer Brian Williams and posted to JL Wrangler Forums, show a vehicle that pretty much looks like a normal Wrangler from the outside but is clearly identifiable as a prototype from the wires and weird-looking shifter.
Much like a nation leaving the European Union, the concept of a significantly revised Jeep Wrangler brings uncertainty and fear. What about the things we like on the current one? What about heritage? What about Jeepiness?! (an actual word allegedly used in FCA’s focus groups.)
People getting so worked up over the future of the Jeep Wrangler is really Jeep’s own fault. The company has done a tremendous job branding the seven-slat face of their little off-roader as a symbol of freedom, Americana and family-friendly badassery. We love the Jeep, and Americans buy it in droves not in spite of its poor on-road performance, atrocious fuel economy or generally lumbering personality—but because of it.
Now of course, many fans know deep down in their hearts that these inefficiencies will not be tolerated forever. As fuel economy and safety regulations get more stringent, many justifiably fear that a solid-axle truck with quick-release doors cannot survive too many more revisions of DOT rules.
There’s also the fact that, regardless of whether or not they admit it, the Wrangler has become significantly better to live with as it adopts the refinements sometimes feared by purists.
I’m still a huge fan of the manual transmission, for the same reason I like the Wrangler in general. It’s just fun. And I’m happy to see it’s at least being tested with what is likely to be the next version of Jeep’s 3.6-liter Pentastar V6.
I wouldn’t count on a diesel manual version (though possibly one paired with the reported four-cylinder turbo), but I think we can be excited anyway.