HOW hard is it to improve on an icon? Coke tried it in the 1980s with the introduction of New Coke, Shapes recently tried to ‘improve’ its barbeque-flavoured biscuits with a new recipe and Apple Maps once tried to supersede Google’s technology.
All three examples failed spectacularly. So maybe you should not mess with the formula that made your product a success in the first place and instead, just iterate and not revolutionise.
This was the approach Jeep adopted when building the next-generation of its iconic Wrangler off-roader, keeping all the fan-favourite things about the original but bringing in new technologies to make it better than ever.
Styling remains close to its predecessor with the fourth-generation Wrangler wearing a boxy and rugged look that can be traced back World War II and the Willys Jeep.
From the outside, it really doesn’t look like the new Wrangler has changed that much. Jeep’s off-roader still sports its classic boxy proportions, trademark seven-slot grille and squared-off wheelarch designs.
However, keen-eyed car-spotters should spy the new headlights that have been integrated into the front grille to keep the Wrangler in line with the rest of the Jeep family including the new Compass and Renegade which have already adopted the design motif.
Overall the body has been smoothed and drag has been lowered by nine per cent, while some higher-spec variants will also net LED head- and foglights, as well as a body-coloured roll bar.
The front fascia is the most obvious giveaway of the new-generation Wrangler, with the headlights now integrated into the iconic seven-slot grille.
However, it’s under the sheet metal where most of the changes have been applied, which is arguably where most of the important changes always occur.
New and updated engines have been promised from Jeep for the fourth-generation Wrangler, but only three of them have been detailed and none have yet been confirmed for Australia.
The first engine to grace the new off-roader is a carryover 209kW/353Nm 3.6-litre Pentastar V6, while new to the range will be a 200kW/400Nm 2.0-litre turbo-diesel and a 194kW/595Nm 3.0-litre oil-burning V6 taken from its Grand Cherokee sibling.
Some versions of the new Wrangler will be powered by a potent 194kW/595Nm 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine, which is taken from its large SUV Grand Cherokee stablemate.
As it stands now however, the two diesel engines are already a no-go for Australian-spec Wranglers, meaning local versions will at least be powered by the old Petastar V6.
While the outgoing Wranglers paired that Pentastar powertrain with a five-speed automatic transmission, the updated model will likely employ a new eight-speed cog swapper for better fuel economy figures.
Aside from the petrol engine, Jeep Australia is also expected to bring in a 2.8-litre CRD diesel to bolster its line-up and give the new Wrangler a gutsier powerplant.
One engine already confirmed for the Australian-spec Wrangler will be a carryover petrol Pentastar V6 engine, although it will likely be mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission.
The new-gen Wrangler will also make use of aluminium in its construction to save weight in the doors, hinges, bonnet, guards and windscreen frame, as well as from a magnesium rear swing gate.
The Wrangler will be available in either two- or four-door body styles, with three flavours – Sport, Sport S and flagship Rubicon – available in the former and the latter gaining a second-from-top Sahara variant.
All versions will be underpinned by a 4x4 drivetrain with Sport and Sahara variants making use of a Command-Trac terrain system, while Rubicon versions gaining a more hardcore Rock-Trac mode for extreme off-roading.
Inside the new Wrangler, the cabin has been updated with new Uconnect infotainment systems, up-spec materials and new steering wheel.
The Wrangler will also come with four skid plates to protect the underbody and has a rated wading depth of up to 760mm and boast a towing capacity of up to 3500kg, depending on engine.
Jeep has also updated the ageing interior with a range of 5.0-7.0 or 8.4-inch Uconnect infotainment touchscreens – the latter two having Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity – new trim materials and a refreshed steering wheel.
Taking over the mantle from the third-generation Wrangler that first started production in 2006, Jeep’s JL-series off-roader will see service for about 12 years.
In 2012, Jeep released a special edition of the Wrangler dubbed Call of Duty: MW3 Special Edition to promote the release of a video game bearing the same name.
Throughout its life though, various special editions were produced including Rocky Mountain Edition, Call of Duty: MW3 Special Edition and 75th Anniversary edition to keep interest in the model fresh.
Prior to that, the second-generation Wrangler was produced over 10 years from 1996 to 2006, with the TJ series model powered by either a 2.4-litre inline four cylinder, 2.5-litre four pot or 4.0-litre six-cylinder engine.
The first-generation Wrangler saw service from 1986 to 1995, with styling characterised by square headlights instead of the later models round front lighting signature.
Where the icon started was in 1941 with the Willys MB, which was later more commonly known as Jeep.
However, the model which started it all can be traced back to 1941 with the Willys Jeep that was used extensively throughout the Second World War as a light military utility vehicle.
After so many iterations and over three-quarters of a century in production, the Jeep Wrangler has truly become an icon of the automotive industry.
The new Wrangler then, with its familiar looks and undeniable off-road capability should continue the success for Jeep for many more years to come.