Prices for the two-door Wrangler start at £34,740

Prices for the two-door Wrangler start at £34,740

There are certain cars that just keep on selling, no matter what their age. The Wrangler is about to enter its tenth year of production and yet sales keep rising. As was the case in 2016, production looks like being in excess of 250,000 units in 2017 too. 

Surely only the Grand Cherokee and Ram's big pick-ups are more profitable?

Though nowhere near as successful as the Wrangler series, the old Land Rover Defender was one of these sorts of vehicles. In the case of the ancient English 4x4, emissions and safety legislation finally did for it, whereas FCA US could easily keep on building the JK72 Wrangler (two-door) and JK74 Wrangler Unlimited (four-door) even after the replacement arrives in late 2017. Which is exactly what will happen. Imagine what the benefit will be for the company's bottom line - surely only the Grand Cherokee and Ram's big pick-ups are more profitable?

Something else which certain versions of the Defender have in common with the Wrangler is the rare feat of second-hand examples now appreciating in value. So says a 4 July report by vehicle history check firm cap fci. Its data found that certain versions of the Wrangler diesel bought new in the UK market from 2011 onwards have risen in value over the last two years. 

"Demand for the Wrangler is high. The high-end modification market is supporting prices of this model, and they are available in relatively small volumes. The overall effect is to support used values to create the rare phenomenon of depreciation free motoring", hpi's Tim Bearder says.

The average values of a Jeep Wrangler two-door automatic at three years and 30,000 miles have risen from £16,950 to £19,700 in the last 24 months.

The average values of a Jeep Wrangler two-door automatic at three years and 30,000 miles have risen from £16,950 to £19,700 in the last 24 months, hpi claims.

Even its most ardent fans would hesitate to call the 2017 Wrangler a sophisticated 4x4 and yet there is a certain undeniable charm to the thing.

The Wrangler's age isn't too hard to see. A flat pane of glass is what you must peer through, reflections and all, the dashboard and door panels are covered in tough rather than soft moulded plastic trim and if you're reliant on self parking tech it's best to look elsewhere. Speaking of which, you will need to actually use your eyes and good judgement when parking. Why? There's no rear or forward radar let alone a reversing camera. Width is more of an issue than length, though, plus you sit high so slotting in and out of spaces is dead easy.

There are other quirks. How about electric window switches which have auto down but not up? And these are sited…where…on the doors? Nope. You'll eventually find them on the centre console. Right under the tiny-small infotainment screen. The one which had to be told to connect to my iPhone every time I got in to drive. And how about the need to use an ignition key to open the bonnet? This panel being secured by two externally mounted rubber clips.

The alarm went off in the press car. Twice. Roof panels were firmly on, doors, tailgate and windows fully closed, so who knows what ghost was in the machine? Something else: leave the headlight switch in auto mode and when you unlock, these big, round halogen lamps illuminate. Then, if it's daytime, when you start the ignition, they turn off. There's nothing wrong with that; it just looks strange. All part of the character and fun of ownership?

Sales: up, up, up

Only the Grand Cherokee, with deliveries of 116,379, is outselling the most aged model in Jeep's line-up.

This is certainly a much-loved vehicle, as those 98,922 US market Wrangler deliveries during the first half of CY2016 show. Would you believe that that's also 45,000 more than the number of Renegades which have found buyers in the US so far this year? Surely the Cherokee, another young model, is outselling the Wrangler? Its sales stand at 81,368. Only the Grand Cherokee, with deliveries of 116,379, is outselling the most aged model in Jeep's line-up. 

This current shape Wrangler sits on the same body-on-frame platform as the previous generation TJ model built between 1996 and 2006. North American sales started in October 2006, the model having had its debut at that year's Detroit auto show. 

The standard engine in the US was originally a 205hp 3.8-litre pushrod V6 but for some markets, a 2.8-litre four-cylinder diesel, supplied by VM Motori premiered at the Paris show in September 2006. The Wrangler Unlimited, the four door longer wheelbase model, was new for North America's 2007 model year. It has since become the best selling body style.

The diesel is for markets outside North America only.

There was an updated interior and minor styling updates for the 2011 model year: production started in August 2010. The revised model debuted at the Paris motor show in September 2010, as did a more powerful 2.8-litre engine. The diesel is for markets outside North America only.

For the 2012 model year, the Wrangler and Unlimited were given a new, far more powerful petrol engine. This was also the first pairing of the then Chrysler Group's 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 with a manual gearbox. The old four-speed automatic was also ditched. The manual is a six-speeder, while the auto has five speeds.

For the 2013 model year, there were new seats and some other tweaks to the interior. About a year later, a Wrangler powered by a 3.0-litre V6 had its global debut at the 2013 Chengdu motor show. This addition to Chrysler's Pentastar family produces 230hp. It is sold only as China, as its capacity places the vehicle below a tax threshold.

FCA has kept on updating the vehicle, which is another reason why sales have remained so strong.

FCA has kept on updating the vehicle, which is another reason why sales have remained so strong. The 2015MY Wrangler was announced in September 2014 and this gained a new sound system, a Torx Tool Kit for removing the top, doors and bumper end caps plus optional Black Steel and 31-inch Dueler Tire Package for Sport variants.

The 2016 model year Wrangler and Unlimited were more or less carried over, and the same applied for the 2017MY variants.

Even though a replacement model is due to enter production in late 2017, FCA will keep building the current model into the first quarter of 2018 so as not to lose any sales momentum, something it also intends to do with the next Ram 1500 pick-up. 

Summary

It's not easy to imagine the two-door Wrangler as a family car, or even as a day-to-day vehicle for many people and yet, it really does have a strong appeal. The 2.8-litre diesel is noisy (and not especially economical), while only having five ratios for the automatic transmission feels decidedly behind the times. Yet that only adds to the sense of occasion every time you climb up and into the Wrangler. The steering has a lot of play, the suspension likes to let the body sway and you also won't find it too limo-like in its ride quality.

If you want a sophisticated Jeep, best to look elsewhere. But the looks are going to be hard to improve upon and in Britain at least, some people have apparently even made money by investing in a Wrangler. And a quarter of million people a year worldwide is a big base for dealers to work with when the replacement model appears.

Future Wrangler

FCA will be able to manufacture both the current Wrangler and a new one due to these vehicles being built in different parts of the Toledo production complex.

FCA will be able to manufacture both the current Wrangler and a new one due to these vehicles being built in different parts of the Toledo production complex in Ohio.

One big piece of news is the addition of a pick-up body style. No name has been announced but 'Scrambler' and 'Gladiator' are said to be under close consideration. In March, the head of Jeep, Mike Manley, told the media that the Wrangler-based pick-up would enter production in late 2019 for the 2020 model year.

The Wrangler successor should also be available with a diesel in North America. A ZF eight-speed automatic will feature as should FCA's 2.0-litre gasoline turbo engine. This will be manufactured at Trenton Powertrain in Michigan. The 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 is expected to be the only carryover engine for the North American market. FCA told the media in January 2016 that the next Wrangler would also be available with mild hybrid and hybrid powertrains.

The next Wrangler should have aluminium body panels.

The platform will again be a ladder-frame arrangement. While this meets the need for a rugged vehicle, these sorts of chassis are not known for their light weight. So to offset that, the Wrangler should have aluminium body panels. The pick-up, however, will likely have a steel tray. 

There are two plants at FCA's Toledo Assembly complex. The smaller, Toledo South, builds the body-on-frame Wrangler, while the other site, Toledo North, makes the unibody Cherokee. Contractors continue to work on converting the North plant to ladder frame vehicle production.

Suppliers have reported that FCA wishes them to prepare for annual combined production of 350,000 Wrangler series models at Toledo. The current shape Wrangler will reportedly remain in production at Toledo South into the first quarter of 2018, perhaps longer.

The model code for the Scrambler/Galdiator is JT.

Confirmation of production of the next Wrangler at Toledo North came in July 2016. This was followed in January 2017 with an announcement by FCA US that 'an all-new Jeep pickup truck' would be manufactured at Toledo South. The model code for the Scrambler/Galdiator is JT.

Alcoa is said to be supplying aluminium panels for JL, the next Wrangler. The new model will reportedly use Alcoa's C6A1 high form alloy as well as the company's 6022 alloy sheet for the hood/bonnet and door panels. A951, a pre-treatment aluminium sheet bonding technology, is also said to be part of the supply deal to FCA.

JL Wrangler production is due to commence in November.