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What The New Jeep Pickup Will And Won’t Be

Posted in Project Vehicles on June 1, 2011
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Photographers: Courtesy of Jeep

Rumors of Jeep building a pickup have been running rampant likewell, rumors of Jeep building a pickup. It’s on, it’s off, it’s on again, it’s off, and it’s on again, in a noncommittal sort of way. Like Charlie Sheen and sobriety, there’s just no telling anymore. Even Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne left us scratching our heads earlier this year regarding the Jeep Gladiator truck concept. He said, I like that vehicle. I liked it the first day I saw it. There’s a better than 50-percent chance that you’ll get one.

You would kinda think the CEO of Chrysler would know a little more than if it was a 50/50 gamble, unless the heads of Jeep are literally sitting in some meeting room flipping a coin to decide what to build next. But regardless of all that, let’s assume the truck will be offered and focus on what it will and won’t be.

Expect it to come quick. Jeep recently refreshed the Compass with a complete makeover in less than 14 months. This is the new full-throttle mode of Chrysler and Jeep. A Jeep truck could very well already be in the works and show up as early as a 2012 model. That means we’ll be keeping an eye out in the California deserts this summer for Jeep trucks going through heat testing while towing (we actually spotted the Compass last summer). Most of the new truck could be assembled from existing components since it would likely be based on the JK Wrangler chassis (not the J8). In fact, from the front-seats-forward will surely be all-Wrangler. If you were secretly hoping that the Wrangler truck would have the Nukizer grille and front clip, sadly we think you will be disappointed.

It won’t be a traditional pickup. The new truck won’t look exactly like the Gladiator, Nukizer, or JT concept trucks, or even the production J8. But what you can expect is to find an amalgamation of all the Jeep trucks you have seen over the past several years. The Gladiator concept featured an extended cab and a third door along with nearly a 6-foot bed. All of that body leads to an unwieldy 138.4-inch wheelbase. That’s nearly 2 feet longer than the wheelbase of the current four-door Wrangler Unlimited and about the same wheelbase as a fullsize Ram Quad Cab pickup. It’s just too long, especially since it was as narrow as a current Wrangler. The production Jeep truck will be much shorter. Think of it as more of a multi-purpose vehicle with a truck bedand that bed will likely be much smaller than what you are accustomed to. It might be just big enough to fit a motorcycle in the back with the tailgate down. It could turn out similar to the GM Avalanche (and Jeep Gladiator and Colorado concepts) and include a midgate that opens up for more bed capacity. But it could have a separate bed like a traditional truck, similar to what’s found on the Nukizer and Gladiator.

It will come with the Wrangler drivetrain. That means you can likely forget about a diesel version for now, at least in the U.S. But by 2012, the 290hp Pentastar V-6 will be standard under the JK hood. With that power output you could see towing capacity ramp up to something less than 4,500 pounds, depending on transmission selection. Not exactly the diesel or Hemi V-8 under the hood and the 7,200-pound towing capacity we were hoping for, but better than no Jeep truck at all, right? We expect the standard pickup rear axle to be the JK Dana 44, although there is a possibility of the rear axle being upgraded to a J8-like Dana 60 for more load carrying capacity. We suspect the rear suspension will remain coil sprung and use most of the current Wrangler’s rear suspension components. So yes, most of the currently available lift kits would work with a few tweaks to coil spring rate.

There is already a diesel Wrangler overseas, and it is possible we could see a diesel Jeep truck here in the United States. European clean air standards will soon be similar to those here in the states, meaning that if Jeep can build a diesel Wrangler or truck clean enough for Europe, it may be clean enough for Americans, too. On top of that, Fiat, the owner of Jeep, has advanced diesel technology available.

It may not have a removable top. If we look to the past, none of the true Jeep trucks (J-series and Comanche) were convertible. This could also be the beginning of the end for the fully removable top and fold-down windshield on the Wrangler. Government stipulated crash ratings and safety standards are getting pretty tight. The truth is it’s expensive and problematic to produce a convertible 4x4. On a truck that’s intended to haul and tow heavy loads, it becomes even more difficult. It’s much easier to build a rigid crash-resistant body on a vehicle that has a permanent windshield and roof.

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