We all know the charmingly gruff Jeep Wrangler will be more modernized for the next generation “JL” due in 2018. But rumor has it the company is now asking customers how they’d feel about no more manual transmissions.
Regarding the JL Wrangler’s powertrain, it’s been tentatively confirmed that it will get a fuel-saving 2.0-liter turbo engine option and an upgraded version of the current Pentastar V6, both paired to a new Chrysler-built 850RE eight-speed automatic transmission. The 3.0-liter VM Motori diesel as seen in half-ton Ram trucks and the Jeep Grand Cherokee is also expected to be an option, paired with a new ZF-made 8HP75 eight-speed auto. This information has been circling around the web for while and is neatly organized on JLWranglerForums.com.
Mention of a manual gearbox has been conspicuously absent.
But my suspicions that Jeep will drop the three-pedal configuration altogether increased significantly this week when I heard the company addressed the idea directly at a public “Q&A session.”
“How do you feel about no manual transmission option? Would you be interested in a 3-spd transfer case? Are you okay with not having a windshield that folds down? What about a hybrid power plant option? How much towing capacity and payload should the 4-door have?”
These were all pitched to customers and potential customers by Jeep reps at the 2016 Overland Expo according to off-road guide outfit Barlow Adventures, which works closely with Jeep at product media launches and publicity events.
The notion of a three-speed transfer case is interesting, and might add a level of flexibility off-road that would placate purists angry about dumping the stick shift. Nevertheless, at the risk of repeating a Jalopnik cliché I’m sad to hear about Jeep sniffing around an automatic-only Wrangler.
Of course more Americans are opting for automatics every day, and many consider it the better off-road option anyway. A spokesperson at Jeep told me the take right for stick-shift Wrangler right now is “between 10 and 20 percent.”
But even after driving a manual-shift Jeep all the way from Los Angeles to Moab, over a few trails, and back again, I still think the stick is simply more fun. Even if sixth gear is hard to find on that long-throw tractor-box.
Jeep will not confirm or deny specifics regarding future products, but we’ll keep you posted as soon as anything comes out definitively regarding the fate of the Wrangler’s manual transmission. We now know the old-school gearbox is on the chopping block, we’re just not sure how keen the executioner is.