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2016 Jeep Wrangler to ditch solid axles?

by Drew Johnson

The Jeep Wrangler could be in line for some major changes.

The next-generation of Jeep's go-anywhere Wrangler SUV may be forced to dump its rugged solid axles in order to comply with upcoming efficiency standards.

The Wrangler has a well earned reputation as an off-road vehicle thanks in part to its solid axles, but Jeep may be forced to completely redesign the SUV's suspension in order to cut weight. Although extremely capable, solid axles carry a significant weight penalty compared to modern independent suspensions.

Jeep CEO Mike Manley has so far dodged any questions related to the next Wrangler's suspension, but the executive acknowledges that managing regulations with the SUV's DNA is a difficult balancing act.

"We're already in an environment where it's a challenge to produce a vehicle in that way, and it's going to get harder," Manley told Automotive News. "What I can tell you is that the vehicle is absolutely fundamental to our DNA, and it's going to become progressively harder to make sure that the vehicle meets all of the standards that are required for it."

Manley quipped that if he manages to "screw up the next Wrangler, then I probably wouldn't be able to leave my house for a long time."

Die-hard Jeep fans scoff at even the idea of an independent front axle, so it remains to be seen how the setup will be viewed on the next-generation Wrangler, due out in 2016. However, as the Jeep Grand Cherokee has proven, a vehicle with an independent suspension can still be 'Trail Rated'.

Jeep Wrangler sales are up 11 percent to 119,941 units so far this year.

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