Jeep’s global boss says the upcoming electric Recon SUV won’t threaten the Wrangler, which will remain the brand’s pre-eminent off-roader even when it goes electric.
“We believe there is huge potential for the two to co-exist for a period of time but over time there will be a Wrangler BEV as well.
“The Wrangler is the king, trail-rated 10, the best in class, the king of the hill. The Recon is going to be a very good contender, but it is not going to be as good.”
It’s unclear when the mooted Wrangler EV will be launched. Earlier this year, Jeep executives said plans for an electric Wrangler weren’t in place yet but that this year’s Magneto concept was “kind of an open door to the laboratory”.
Jeep already offers a plug-in hybrid version of the Wrangler in other markets, and it has become the best-selling PHEV in the US. The company says two-thirds of Wrangler 4xe customers have never had a Jeep before.
It will continue to offer combustion-powered and PHEV versions of the Wrangler for some time.
While dimensions haven’t been released for the Recon, Jeep says it’s roughly the same size as a Wrangler, and it has been confirmed for an Australian launch.
Like the Wrangler, it also features removable roof panels and doors, but Jeep says the Recon – entering production in 2024 – has a “very distinct personality and will stay like that”.
Jeep hasn’t confirmed power, torque and range figures for the Recon, but has confirmed the rugged-looking off-roader will be able to tackle the Rubicon Trail and will offer e-locker axle technology, tow hooks, under-body protection and Jeep’s Selec-Terrain traction management system.
It will be built in North America along with the upcoming Wagoneer S – the latter wearing a placeholder name – and both vehicles will be based on the STLA Large architecture but feature dramatically different styling from each other.
Jeep says for the more upmarket Wagoneer S it’s targeting a range of 644km, a power output of 447kW, and a 0-60mph (0-96km/h) time of around 3.5 seconds.
Mr Meunier suggests the Recon won’t have quite as much range, owing to its boxier, less aerodynamic design.
In addition to rolling out a range of EVs, Jeep will also expand its plug-in hybrid 4xe range with Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer 4xe models due in 2024. Eventually, these jumbo Jeeps will also get full battery-electric versions.
The first plug-in hybrid Jeep in Australia will be the Grand Cherokee 4xe, due here next year.
Other future Jeep EVs should also wear familiar nameplates, with Mr Meunier noting “they will be a little bit more mainstream, replacing existing models” and “won’t be in addition to the existing lineup”.
While some of these electric Jeeps won’t be aimed at the off-roading crowd, Jeep has previously said it isn’t concerned electric vehicles will take the challenge out of heading off the beaten track.
“I’m not worried about it,” said Jeep Exterior Design head Mark Allen earlier this year.
“We’re making it too easy for people. They’ll just find a harder trail.”
Mr Allen also highlighted the possibilities of EVs for off-roading, in particular the ability to control the four wheels individually plus the glut of low-end torque.
He also cited the possibility for additional drive modes, including one with such a heavy level of regenerative braking that a driver could go down a very steep incline without needing to ever touch the brake.
Mr Allen pointed to how many differing levels of difficulty already exist in off-roading, and how commonplace large off-road tyres have gotten.
“I’m also convinced that the range and charging issues, weight and complexity are going to go away as we get further down the road,” said Mr Allen.
“I’m also really encouraged by the wide, open-arm reception that we got last year for Magneto and the future that electric holds for off road. Not scared of it.”
Earlier this year at the Easter Jeep Safari, Jeep revealed its second Wrangler Magneto EV concept – though it says its Safari concepts aren’t indicative of production vehicles.
The Magneto 2.0 features a custom-built axial flux electric motor that operates at up to 5250rpm, plus four lithium-ion battery packs – distributed throughout the chassis for weight balance – for a total capacity of 70kWh. They run on an 800V system.
Total outputs are 466kW of power and 1152Nm of torque, good for a dizzying 0-60mph (0-96km/h) time of two seconds. That’s considerably quicker than last year’s concept, which had a 6.8 second claim and outputs of 213kW and 370Nm.
Like last year’s Magneto, the concept features an unusual-for-an-EV six-speed manual transmission but with the first gear ratio changed from 5.13 to 3.36. A selectable maximum regeneration function, however, promises a true “one-pedal” driving experience.
It spans a 305mm longer wheelbase, and has been lifted by 76mm compared to a regular Wrangler. It also rides on 40-inch off-road tyres and 20-inch wheels, with locking Pro-Rock Dynatrac axles front and rear.