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Eight-speed auto, aluminum highlight the changes in store for the next Jeep Wrangler

The all-new 2018 Jeep Wrangler will rely on an eight-speed automatic transmission to return better gas mileage, a new report finds.

The Wrangler’s eight-speed transmission will be the same ZF-designed unit that is currently found in the Dodge Ram 1500, the Dodge Durango and the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Powertrain engineers expect that it will boost gas mileage by up to nine percent compared to the current model (pictured).

Engine options remain a mystery, though Fiat – Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has hinted that the 2018 Wrangler will be powered by an engine smaller than the 3.6-liter V6 found under the hood of today’s model. A four-cylinder engine will likely return to the Wrangler lineup after a long hiatus, but Jeep CEO Mike Manley has previously ruled out offering a two-wheel drive version of the off-roader.

What also remains to be seen is whether the next Wrangler will retain the current model’s bulky solid axles or switch to an independent suspension. Adopting an independent suspension setup would help the Wrangler shed precious pounds at the cost of some of the off-road capacity that has made it an icon for decades.

Marchionne has all but confirmed that the next Wrangler will be built with aluminum components, a switch that will allow it to lose several hundred pounds. All told, the numerous weight-saving measures will make it possible for the Wrangler to retain its body-on-frame construction and its off-road chops while complying with the strict fuel economy regulations that are scheduled to come into effect in the United States and abroad over the coming years.

The next Jeep Wrangler is expected to bow at a major auto show in either 2017 or 2018. More details about it will emerge in the months leading up to its introduction.

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