Jeep wants both the Wrangler 4xe plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and the Wrangler 392 V8 in Australia, but has stopped short of confirming that either will actually launch here, citing the dreaded right-hand drive factor.
The most environmentally friendly and most beastly Wrangler derivatives form two range ‘bookends’, and would no doubt generate copious headlines. But they also need to actually generate profit beyond recouping development costs.
The Wrangler two- and four-door range is currently sold here with a 3.6-litre ‘Pentastar’ V6 petrol engine. The company sold 1175 units here in 2020, making it the company’s second most-popular model after the Grand Cherokee.
Australian media spoke with Jeep’s global president Christian Meunier recently, and as you’d expect one of the first subjects broached was the Wrangler 4xe.
“I’d love to [bring it to Australia]. Not yet, but I’d love to. And I’m working on it,” Mr Meunier said when asked if we’d see the electrified Wrangler here at some point.
Mr Meunier had just confirmed the new-generation Grand Cherokee 4xe PHEV will launch here by early 2022, potentially opening the door to a range expansion.
“Each time I talk to Australian people, journalists, dealers, employees, there’s a little bit of a doubt about electrification. I think there is a doubt that electrification is going to be coming soon,” he added.
“And therefore, I get a lot of questions about diesel, V8s and things like that, which I love to answer but at the end of the day, electrification is coming and I’m convinced It’s coming much sooner than people think.
“I’m working on getting the Wrangler [PHEV] to Australia, and hopefully we can make it happen. For now, it’s not approved. But I want to make it happen… that product is outstanding.”
So, what’s stopping Fiat Chrysler from sending it here, then?
“It’s down to Kevin [Jeep Australia chief Kevin Flynn] being able to show me that the business case can make sense, right?” Mr Meunier replied.
“I think the development of right-hand drive upfront at the beginning [of a project] makes a lot more sense. Because that’s where you get a lot more economies and savings, and the investment comes all together.
“It’s very hard to do it after, but we’re working on it. I’m considering when we’re going to make it happen. At least that’s my goal,” he finished.
Jeep’s Australian chief Kevin Flynn said he’d “keep us posted” on the progress.
The 4xe mates the Wrangler’s turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine – not sold here – with two electric motors and a 17kWh lithium-ion battery pack, mounted beneath the second-row seat. Jeep claims outputs of 280kW of power and 637Nm of torque, and a 40km electric range.
Mr Flynn was then asked about Wrangler V8. The Wrangler Rubicon 392 Concept version featured a 6.4-litre engine with 336kW of power and 610Nm of torque hooked up to an eight-speed automatic and a full-time four-wheel drive system with a two-speed transfer case.
More importantly for Jeep fans, the concept carried the Trail Rated designation, and featured a glut of modifications aimed at improving off-road ability including Dana 44 axles, electric front and rear differential locks, and a 2.0-inch lift kit including new springs and shocks.
“We obviously made our request and we would certainly love to have it here [in Australia],” Mr Flynn said. “I think we all know, the fit here would be outstanding. So we will continue to make those requests.
“But you know, the demand for that vehicle in the States is going to be unbelievable. It really is a unique vehicle. So it’s going to be a tough ask, because the demand is going to be so great, but we won’t stop asking. That’s for sure.”