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Detroit Motor Show: Jeep Wrangler

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The latest Jeep Wrangler doesn't look too different from the original Willys Jeep launched 65 years ago.

However, things have to move on - not only because of modern expectations of performance and comfort, but also because of safety legislation.

The new-generation Wrangler has a frame 100% stiffer and 5.5 inches wider than that of its predecessor and a longer wheelbase, wider track, revised suspension, increased ground clearance, new electric axle locks, an electronically-disconnecting front sway bar, revised front and rear axles and transfer cases, plus larger wheels and tyres. All this adds up to, Jeep says, more off-road capability and more on-road refinement, though it wouldn't have been hard to improve upon the latter.

Increased cabin dimensions mean more room all round for people and luggage. Safety equipment now includes crucial-for-SUVs stability control (a three-mode system), electronic rollover protection, child seat anchors, seatbelt pretensioners and front and side airbags.

The new three-panel modular hard-top roof comes with many more door/roof/windscreen position configurations and options include electric windows, door locks, sat nav, an MP3 player and satellite radio, as well as a folding canvas hood for the rear roof section.

Cabin noise is said to have been reduced by 20%, and the seats have been reshaped. The new suspension is claimed to give flatter cornering, better absorption of bumps in the road, improved steering feel and a more comfortable ride.

The basic recipe for a stripped-out utility vehicle, however, remains the same, with the removable doors, exposed hinges and fold-down windscreen still on the spec sheet.

Three versions will be offered to US buyers, badged X, Sahara and Rubicon, plus an extensive list of options and accessories. The Rubicon version has extra heavy-duty axles and additional skid plating to protect the fuel tank, transfer case and transmission oil pan. The X and Sahara models have a part-time two-speed gear transfer case, giving an extra set of low-range gear ratios, and a limited-slip rear differential; Rubicon versions add an uprated transfer case with electric front- and rear axle-locking.

The Wrangler receives a new 3.8-litre V6 engine to replace the old 4.0-litre straight-six unit; this more powerful 3.8 gives 205bhp and 240lb ft of torque, in combination with either six-speed manual or four-speed auto transmission. Towing capacity is now up to 2,000lbs and an optional towing package with uprated rear axle and trailer hitch is offered.

More details of UK-market Wranglers will be announced nearer to the on-sale date. Production begins in Toledo, Ohio in the autumn.
 
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