The Jeep Wrangler ute is coming, with an international debut due in 2018, and Australia has been firmly involved in the initial engineering design process.
Jeep is currently working on the next-generation JL Jeep Wrangler, which is expected to launch in the USA during 2017 and will form the basis for the new Wrangler ute. The new model, which has been spied testing in the USA, will likely feature an aluminium bonnet and doors to reduce weight.
The new model will also spawn single- and dual-cab utilities. These lifestyle 'trucks' are expected to be launched in 2018, around 6-12 months after the JL Wrangler's debut.
Speaking to media at the 2016 Los Angeles motor show, Mike Manley, head of Jeep, RAM and COO of the Asia Pacific region told CarAdvice that right-hand drive is locked in and that it's the right product for the Australian market.
"One of our upcoming models will be very good for Australia and that’s the Jeep pickup," Manley said.
"Production of pick-up will be September 2018, so by the time that gets into international markets you’re probably looking at early 2019."
It's understood that FCA Australia has been involved in the engineering process for the new ute, with specification requirements leading the way for Australian suitability.
CarAdvice also understands that Jeep will use Australia as one of the test locations for the Wrangler ute. In terms of the timeline, we could see a vehicle testing in Australia in Q2 2018 to ensure it will meet the demands of Australian buyers.
While engines are yet to be confirmed, they are likely to include a naturally aspirated 3.6-litre Pentastar V6, a turbocharged diesel and a new 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine.
An eight-speed automatic ZF Sachs gearbox is also expected to replace the current five-speed automatic.
Manley is a fan of the Australian market and the JL Wrangler is expected to pave the way for more right-hand drive American favourites such as the Dodge Charger and Challenger, both of which are currently being evaluated by FCA for Australian consumption.
CarAdvice will keep you posted as more information about the 2019 JL Jeep Wrangler ute comes to hand.