Worry not, Wrangler fans: The next generation of Jeep's iconic off-roader will retain all the abilities you know and love. That's the plan anyway, but Jeep also wants the new model to join the rest of the industry and aim for lighter weight and improved fuel economy.

Speaking to Edmunds, Jeep boss Mike Manley says the company must be "innovative" in its approach to the next Wrangler, expected to debut in 2017, as a 2018 model. That innovation is necessary to ensure the Jeep survives into the future, something Manley describes as "vital for the brand".

Development is already underway on the next-generation Wrangler, part of a wide-ranging update to the company's models. Over the next few years the Grand Cherokee will see an update, the Patriot and Compass will both be replaced by a new compact crossover, a new Wrangler and Grand Cherokee will be launched and, in 2018, the brand is expected to launch a new Grand Wagoneer. All these changes also kick off with this year's all-new Renegade compact crossover.

What the next Wrangler must do is improve on the current model's 18 mpg combined rating (17 mpg city, 21 mpg highway). Currently, the Wrangler uses a 3.6-liter V-6, but Manley says there will be "continued improvements" to the company's powertrains. A diesel model may be considered, if the take-up of current Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel sales doubles to 16 percent of total GC sales. The next Wrangler will sit on its own platform though, rather than an adaptation of one of the firm's more road-biased platforms—the Jeep boss says he wants to "push the benchmark even further".

That's extra important when an all-new Land Rover Defender is also on the way over the next few years—one that takes the current (but unavailable in the U.S.) Defender and modernizes it to the standards car buyers now expect. The next-gen Wrangler will definitely be a vehicle to watch.


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