Before we get to Chrysler's message, it must be reported that Jeep did not speak on or off the record about a Wrangler pickup at an '11 model year product briefing Monday. Mike Connor reports that he spied what appeared to be a disguised Wrangler pickup truck near Woodward Avenue last weekend. Connor was able to see a badge for the probable sub-model name: Brute.
Considering the success of the Wrangler Unlimited four-door model, it's an easy bet that Chrysler-Fiat is working on the long-rumored Wrangler pickup for near-term production. The Unlimited takes about 60 percent of current Wrangler sales, and a pickup is potentially incremental sales for the brand. A pickup ought to be ready for production by the first half of 2011.
The '11 Wrangler is one of two updated models that Jeep highlighted to show how it's spending money on mid-cycle updates, a strategy that has been very successful over at crosstown rival Ford. For '11, the Patriot also gets a facelift, with chassis and noise-vibration-harshness (NVH) improvements, and a better interior.
So does the '11 Compass, but Jeep didn't include it in this preview.
The Wrangler's facelift is mostly limited to new sheetmetal, but since it's a much more loved Jeep, we'll start with that. The top-of-the-range '11 Wrangler Unlimited Sahara will come with a body-colored top replacing the black top of previous models years. The Wrangler Unlimited Sport retains the black-only top, though all '11 Unlimiteds get a redesigned "daylight opening" (DLO) with smaller D-pillars for a larger rear window and rear side windows, creating better visibility. The tops always have been made of a composite material, making redesign easier and cheaper.
All '11 Wranglers get improved acoustical treatment, or insulation, to reduce NVH. The new interior features the Jeep-brand standard steering wheel, which made its debut in the '11 Grand Cherokee, with controls for the radio, cruise control, hands-free phone and other functions; plus better interior plastics and other materials, with real, useable door armrests, and more storage cubbies.
Other new Wrangler/Unlimited features include:
- Heated seats
- Automatic temperature control
- Power heated mirrors
- Added 12-volt outlets and a 115-volt outlet
- Standard electronic stability control, hill-start assist, and trailer sway control
- A new USB interface for use with the Media Center, which adds streaming Bluetooth audio
- Express-down power windows
- Garmin interface for the navigation system
In addition to better interior plastics, the Wrangler's center stack has been cleaned up, and the climate controls are electrically operated. The brushed chrome front passenger grab handle on all Wranglers/Unlimiteds is stamped with "Since 1941" and anticipates a big celebration Jeep has planned for its 70th anniversary. And there are what the designers call "Easter eggs," two illustrations in the blacked-out outline of the Wrangler/Unlimited's windshield.
The one at the top of the windshield is the cartoon form of the iconic seven-slat grille, with headlamps, that will cast a shadow inside the cabin on sunny days. The other is at the lower corner of the passenger side of the windshield, and depicts the profile of a Wrangler about to climb up the side of the windshield. Nice, low-cost touches.
There are more, and bigger storage compartments, and under the rear cargo compartment, slots to store door hardware when the doors are removed. The rear door now has a strap with detents to hold it open on hills.
The 2011 Patriot gets a facelift with a more rounded grille and front fascia and foglamps moved into the lower fascia from the far corners. Badging is updated and the rear fascia is redesigned, with the lower fascia now better covering the muffler and with backup lights integrated into the taillamps. There's new black lower cladding on the sides, and all Patriot 4x4s are raised one inch, to equal the height of offroad package-equipped models.
Patriot for '11 comes with an upgraded sound insulation package, which Jeep says adds negligible weight to the vehicle, for better road and powertrain noise. The ride and handling has been rejiggered, with a firmer, more controlled ride, Jeep says. Dampers have new rebound springs and there's an increased torsion bar rate in the steering gear. The interior gets new, soft-touch upper door panels.
Both the updated Wrangler and Patriot launch this fall, though Chrysler is being vague about the exact date. An updated Compass will follow by the end of '10. None of these mid-cycle facelifts comes close to the kind of work Ford has done on its Fusion, Mustang, and Edge in the past two years, reflecting Chrysler's more tenuous financial position. Jim Press, Chrysler's president under Cerberus ownership, began quickly working on last-minute changes to new models when he arrived there in September 2007. Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has done what he can since Fiat (of which he's also CEO) took over in the summer of '09, but there are a lot of models to fix. The Patriot upgrades will have to suffice until an all-new Patriot (and Compass) are released in late 2012.