No More Solid Front Axle on the Wrangler?
by Larry Morton
There is talk about the European controlled Chrysler/Jeep corporation doing something with the Wrangler that borders on blasphemy.
There have been strong rumors circulating that by the 2016 model year the Jeep Wrangler might lose its famous durable solid front axle and be replaced with an independent front suspension (IFS).
The reasoning presented seems to hinge primarily upon reducing weight, which would somehow translate into better gas mileage. Although this is a valid point, it does not tell the whole story.
While reducing weight is usually a good thing, most Wrangler owners add significantly more weight anyway with larger tires, winches, body armor, and more. So the average savings from weight reduction with an IFS would be negligible at best.
Another factor for going to an IFS setup is reportedly to soften the suspension and create a more car-like ride. Really? Ask any Wrangler owner if they bought their Jeep so that they could have a smooth car-like ride. I think not, although I am sure that the designers and builders are looking to market to those who will rarely (if ever) take their ride off road...sort of like the Range Rover crowd.
If Chrysler/Jeep does decide to take away the solid front (and possibly the rear..i.e. Grand Cherokee) axles from the
Wrangler, I fear that this may be the end of the "real" Jeep era which lasted for more than 70 years.
Don't get me wrong...I'm all for new and better ideas for all vehicles...as long as the ideas make those vehicles truly better.
Without the tough solid axles for which Jeeps have been known, I believe this iconic vehicle will be just another cookie-cutter rig designed for the country club, mall cruiser, or "wanna-be" set.
I also have nothing against the independent front (or rear) suspensions, but on a Wrangler they will increase the initial cost to purchase, and increase the cost of repairs. IFS systems are complex, and expensive to build and maintain.
Notice that Chrysler/Jeep has stepped up marketing all of their Jeep products to women and guys who dream of going off-roading, but will probably rarely (or never) do so.
That may be fine from a marketing and sales angle, but to those of us who know what these rigs were historically designed and built to do, it feels like a piece of greatness is once again succumbing to so-called progress.
Hopefully, Chrysler/Jeep will not do away with the solid front axle in the Wrangler, or at least allow the customer to have an option. Either way, we shall see.