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Jeep takes Wrangler Down Under for local testing
Next-generation Jeep Wrangler heads to Alice Springs for hot-weather program
12 Feb 2018
FIAT Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Australia has opened the door for local testing of its models, following confirmation that two prototypes of the new-generation Jeep Wrangler were put through their paces in and around Alice Springs last month.
Focusing on suspension calibration and overall hot-weather performance, a pair of Jeep engineers from the United States were tasked with readying the Wrangler ahead of its launch in the fourth quarter this year.
This program was the first step in a six-stage process that culminates with the completed model, meaning engineers were simply sent to collect data prior to right-hand-drive production.
If this information indicates adjustments need to be made, then the prototypes will return with the necessary parts for another round of intensive local evaluation.
Hence, an Australian-specific tune for the JL Wrangler is possible, depending on the outcome of the extensive prototype testing – the results of which are still being examined.
FCA Australia CEO and head of Jeep brand for the Asia-Pacific region Steve Zanlunghi said that the move to test the Wrangler locally was inspired by customer and dealer feedback.
“Thanks to feedback from our customers and dealer network, we have been in discussion with our US headquarters for some time now regarding local testing of our vehicles,” he said.
“Last month’s program is a clear illustration of our commitment to providing our customers with vehicles that are not only fit for purpose but exceed their expectations when it comes to quality, comfort and an exceptional driving experience no matter how demanding the conditions.”
This suggests that more Jeep models – as well as those from other FCA brands – could be in line for local tuning in the future, offering a ride and level of performance that is better suited to Australian conditions.
According to Jeep Wrangler engineering program manager John Adams, Australia was picked to be a test country alongside the US, China, India, Russia and others due to its challenging environment.
“Australia presents some incredibly unique driving environments, so it was in our best interest to visit and understand if there were some new learnings that we could apply to the development of the new Wrangler – specifically for this market,” he said.
“Explicitly, we were looking at the effect of Australia’s corrugated roads on long-range and high-speed drives which are common for much of the country’s population outside of the cities – and how our suspension tuning processes these inputs, combined with the extreme heat effects on our engine, transmission and cooling system management temperatures.
“We understand there’s an expectation from the Australian market that their vehicles are appropriately tuned to the country’s unique driving conditions, and it’s for that reason we initiated the program to investigate if there’s anything we could be doing differently when it comes to delivering the Wrangler for Australia.”
More than 6.2 million kilometres of testing was conducted in the US alone prior to left-hand-drive production, including stints in piping-hot Arizona (58 degrees Celsius) and freezing-cold Alaska (-40 degrees Celsius).
Furthermore, the famed Rubicon Trail in South Lake Tahoe, California was despatched of by an unmodified Wrangler – a necessary requirement for the model to be awarded the Rubicon moniker.
Comparatively, Alice Springs offered up daytime temperatures in excess of 45 degrees Celsius that allowed engineers to test the prototypes across high-speed corrugations, washouts, soft sand hills and low-range rock climbs, with both Wranglers handling the conditions well.
Commenting on the Wrangler’s performance Down Under, Jeep off-road development lead engineer Bernie Trautmann said he was impressed with the progress made during the technical evaluation program.
“From the outset, our mission here was to collect as much data as possible, from as many different driving conditions as possible, and the Australian outback certainly delivered this opportunity,” he said.
“We were really happy with the way the vehicles performed and were able to gain some valuable accelerometer and engine data to take back to our US headquarters for analysis, before determining our next steps.”
Specifically, one Australian prototype was a two-door Rubicon powered by the new 201kW/400Nm 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine, while the other was a four-door Rubicon with the carry-over 213kW/353Nm 3.6-litre Pentastar V6.
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