With FCA recently confirming that a PHEV version of the Jeep Wrangler is indeed coming for the 2020 model year, we managed to catch one testing out in the wild, and it would seem that the Wrangler is about to go finally go green, but in a way that should still please its legions of adoring fans.
Spotted testing in Metro Detroit during a fierce rainstorm, this particular example stands out because it is arguably the first time we have seen a PHEV version in a decidedly more on-road package (versus other testers that wielded beefier off-road tires), which could indicate that the model is very close to a future unveiling. The exterior styling here does not change much from other Wrangler models, but keen observers will note the black cladding that runs across the hood and both fenders. Even at this late stage of the game, there is no obvious indication of where the charging port for the accompanying cable would go, with suspicious lumps located on both fenders. However, we suspect that the production port will ultimately end up on the drivers side to help it work better with many charging stations that tend to put their cords on the left side. Unlike prior sightings that had European market lenses, this tester had bright red units for its taillights, which denotes its status as a North American spec model.
While a combination of bad lighting and equally bad weather prevented us from getting a good detailed view of the interior, look for this particular area to also not change very much either, with the only major revision being expected tweaks to the gauge cluster to accommodate PHEV specific information, including regen braking percentage, battery charge status, and more. Otherwise, look for the PHEV to largely follow in the tire tracks of its non-electrified cousins, and still offer buyers a state of the art cabin that not only brings better build materials to the Wrangler, but also a richer list of standard equipment, and off-road spec features to please Wrangler buyers that want the best combination of style, functionality, and value.
Jeep has so far not officially confirmed many key aspects of the performance hardware that will find its way to the PHEV Wrangler. But it’s highly likely that the combustion part of the equation will be handled by the familiar naturally aspirated 3.6 liter Pentastar V6. As for the electrification technology, Jeep claims that this particular setup will be placed in a protected area between the exhaust and the driveshaft, but stopped far short of offering any further information beyond that. The brand has revealed in the past that it plans to produce some of the electrified components in house at a separate site located near the iconic Jeep Plant in Toledo, Ohio. Developing a hybrid system from scratch is quite expensive, so we suspect that Jeep engineers will borrow some key components from the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, but tweak them for the rugged demands that the Wrangler will place on them.
As is the case with other sightings of the PHEV, the tester we caught was a four door Unlimited model, and we are curious to see if the electrification treatment is exclusive to the larger model, or if Wranglers with the two door configuration can get in on the act too. On that note, there is a strong chance that the hybrid system could make its way to the Gladiator pickup, but while FCA has so far not confirmed anything of the sort, the two models are mechanically similar, are produced at the same plant, and theoretically the amount of engineering needed to make the unit work on the Gladiator would be minimal. While a Jeep Wrangler may be the last likely candidate for a hybrid transformation, the model’s lackluster fuel economy numbers (and their subsequent effect on FCA’s broader CAFE fuel economy numbers) make it a logical choice for a project like this.
With the current pace of testing, we suspect that the Jeep Wrangler PHEV will make its debut very soon, possibly as early as the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show. Barring any unforeseen snags, look for the first sales to begin sometime in 2020. When it eventually makes its debut, we look forward to hearing more about several key aspects including pricing, final fuel economy figures, and whether both body styles are hybrid capable.