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Jeep’s Wrangler-based ute to launch in 2019

Glad wrap: Jeep has pushed ahead with development of a Wrangler-based pick-up since the Gladiator concept emerged more than a decade ago, with production to start in 2018 ahead of an Australian launch the following year.

Australia important for first Jeep ute in decades as Manley confirms 2019 arrival

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Jeep logo21 Nov 2016

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS in Los Angeles

AUSTRALIA’S historically strong one-tonne 4x4 utility market helped drive the right-hand-drive business case for the upcoming Jeep JL Wrangler-based JT-series pick-up, which is now confirmed for launch in 2019.

Speaking to the Australian media at the Los Angeles auto show last week, FCA’s global head of Jeep and chief operating officer for the Asia-Pacific region, Mike Manley, revealed that he has championed the idea of a modern Wrangler utility for nearly a decade.

“There is no question on the pick-up for right-hand drive at all,” Mr Manley said. “The first production will be August or September 2018, so by the time that gets into our international markets, we’re probably looking at very early 2019.

“I fought for a long time … and one which I think would be very good in Australia, and that’s the Jeep pick-up. That one – since I really became involved with Jeep in 2009/2010 – was something that I felt we should have, and now we’re getting it.

“It’s going to be derived from the next-generation JL Wrangler … which goes into production at the end of 2017, while the first pick-up will be six months later into 2018.” Whether the JT receives the same degree of technology as the upcoming JL short-wheelbase hard-top and long-wheelbase JLU Unlimited wagon – expected to be unveiled at the Detroit motor show in January – remains to be seen.

Overseas reports on the new Wrangler indicate that, despite retaining a rugged body-on-frame construction and solid front and rear axles, aluminium will be used for the doors and other components such as the front mudguards, to help slash weight over the current version.

Mechanically, we understand that an eight-speed automatic transmission in lieu of a fresh six-speed manual gearbox may be made available on some versions to improve fuel consumption, especially on a revamped 3.6-litre V6 petrol, while a 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel is thought to be replacing the old 2.8-litre version. A four-cylinder turbo petrol may come later.

A total redesign, other noteworthy changes to the Wrangler include LEDs within the circular headlight motifs, a longer bonnet and more angled grille (that still retains the signature seven slots), LED daytime driving lights across the face of the front arches, slightly more angled pillars to help with aerodynamics (though still upright in usual Jeep tradition), and a complete rethink of the rear swing-door/tailgate operation.

The interior gains a bit more space, a far more contemporary dashboard with the obligatory Uconnect central touchscreen multimedia system and reputedly higher-grade trim.

Jeep made known its desire to reintroduce a Wrangler pick-up when it previewed the Gladiator concept at the 2005 Detroit show, which even predated the outgoing JK Wrangler by nearly a couple of years.

That name, by the way, was also used on the ute version of the SJ Wagoneer (not sold in Australia) from 1962 to 1971. The latter was referenced in another show vehicle, the J-12 Concept, in 2012, but has not been heard of since.

Australian 4x4 utility sales are up 9.6 per cent this year, with the Ford Ranger narrowly ahead of the Toyota Hi-Lux at 25,189 versus 24,946 units. After that it is blue sky to the third-placed Mitsubishi Triton on 14,869 new registrations.

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