L.A. Auto Show 2017: Jeep Wrangler gets its first major upgrade in a decade

The new Jeep Wrangler adds a bit more luxury but is still well equipped for rugged terrain.

The word Jeep goes back to World War II. The brand has since been extended into a wide variety of vehicles, including several models driven by suburbanites over well-paved roads with no intent to trail blaze. But all Jeeps carry a whiff the off-road, hair-in-the-wind, mud-in-your-face product that got the phenomenon started.

What is it

The new fourth-generation of Jeep Wrangler — the 4x4 American icon entering its fourth decade.

Why it matters

To FCA, the Jeep brand is almost everything. Sales of its Chrysler and Dodge cars are sucking wind. Fiat’s pretty much a flop so far in the U.S., and Dodge Ram pickup trucks are about the only other bright spot.

Whether FCA holds on to Jeep or, as rumor would have it, plans to spin it off, the automaker needs to keep excitement high. Although the luxe Grand Cherokee SUV outsells the popular Wrangler, it’s the Wrangler that best embodies the rugged, off-road image that traces back to World War II.

What's new?

The first major upgrade in 10 years includes an all new turbocharged four-cylinder engine to add to the V-6 gasoline and diesel options; a new eight-speed automatic transmission in addition to the traditional six-speed manual; a two-speed transfer case with full-time four-wheel drive; a wider stance; a new interior with a variety of two-tone color options; a roll-bar the same color as the body; a push-button starter and smartphone-key entry; and touchscreen options in several sizes.

The competition

A strong argument can be made that there is none. Jeep’s public relations people are correct when they call it “the only true open-air 4x4 SUV on the market.“

The details

There’s a lot more technology and a tad more luxury than the previous Wranglers. But it still looks tough and maintains some old-school touches — analog gauges, round headlights, that full-size tire attached to the tailgate, doors that come off and a windshield that folds down. The four-cylinder engine is sized at 2.0 liters and comes with what Jeep calls “e-Torque” technology that shaves fuel use through automatic engine start-stop (at traffic lights, for example) and electric motor power assist.

The L.A. Auto Show runs Friday through Dec. 10 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Times coverage is at

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