A two-door Wrangler Rubicon powered by a new design 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine with 201 kW of power and 400 Nm. And a four-door Rubicon with the latest version of the 3.6-litre Pentastar V6(213 kW and 353 Nm). Came Downunder.
These vehicles are the first test units of six prototype stages that are built before the final ‘job-one’ production version.
The key objective of the technical evaluation program was to collect a range of specific vehicle performance data prior to the commencement of right-hand drive production of the new Wrangler, which begins later this year.
Two engineers from Jeep’s engineering section based themselves in Alice Springs to cycle through an intensive test program that primarily focussed on suspension calibration and extreme hot weather engine performance. This follows extensive testing in major international markets including China, India, Brazil and Russia.
“Australia presents some incredibly unique driving environments so it was in our best interest to visit and understand if there were some new learnings that we could apply to the development of the new Wrangler – specifically for this market,” Wrangler program manager John Adams said.
“Explicitly, we were looking at the effect of Australia’s corrugated roads on long-range and high-speed drives which are common for much of the country’s population outside of the cities – and how our suspension tuning processes these inputs, combined with the extreme heat effects on our engine, transmission and cooling system management temperatures.
“We understand there’s an expectation from the Australian market that their vehicles are appropriately tuned to the country’s driving conditions and it’s for that reason we initiated the program to investigate if there’s anything we could be doing differently when it comes to delivering the Wrangler for Australia,” Adams added.
Prior to its production in the United States, the all-new Wrangler underwent more than 6.2 million kilometres of testing. Extreme-weather testing occurred in various environments, including the blistering Arizona heat (58 degrees) and acute cold of Alaska (-40 degrees) for months at a time.
Test JL Wranglers have already taken on the famed Rubicon Trail in a completely unmodified guise – a mandatory capability test for the Wrangler to wear the Rubicon moniker.
With daytime temperatures in excess of 45°C, Alice Springs provided Jeep’s US engineers with a challenging proving ground in which to put the Wrangler through its paces, serving up a variety of tough and technical terrain – including high-speed corrugations, washouts, soft sand hills and low-range rock climbs. Both Wranglers performed flawlessly in the extreme conditions.
Jeep’s off road development lead engineer, Bernie Trautmann, was pleased with the progress made during the Australian evaluation. “Our mission here was to collect as much data as possible, from as many different driving conditions as possible and the Australian outback certainly delivered this opportunity.
“We were really happy with the way the vehicles performed and were able to gain some valuable accelerometer and engine data to take back to our US headquarters for analysis, before determining our next steps,” Trautmann said.
Newly-appointed Head of Jeep brand for the Asia Pacific region, Steve Zanlunghi, said that this development program further highlighted the importance of the Australian market. “Thanks to feedback from our customers and dealer network, we have been in discussion with our US headquarters for some time now regarding local testing of our vehicles.
“Last month’s program is a clear illustration of our commitment to providing our customers with vehicles that are not only fit for purpose, but exceed their expectations when it comes to quality, comfort and an exceptional driving experience no matter how demanding the conditions.”
The 2018 Jeep Wrangler will commence right-hand-drive production later this year. A sale date is yet to be announced.