The next-generation Jeep Wrangler will keep its solid axles, preserving its off-road capability and the sanity of Jeep loyalists, a new report claims. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles [NYSE:FCAU] is expected to make major changes to the next Wrangler for improved fuel economy, and ditching the solid axles was long thought to be one of them.

Yet while some changes will be made to the Wrangler's suspension, the solid axles aren't going anywhere, according to Automotive News (subscription required).

Solid axles are preferred by off-road drivers for their handling on uneven terrain. Solid-axle vehicles are also easier to lift for added ground and tire clearance than those equipped with independent suspension.

MUST WATCH: The Bugatti Veyron Finally Sounds Like Your Brain Thinks A Quad-Turbo W-16 Should: Video

Yet solid axles are also heavier than more modern alternatives, and all reports so far say that Jeep is desperately trying to cut the Wrangler's weight in the name of improved fuel efficiency.

Jeep boss Mike Manley first hinted that engineers were considering nixing the solid axles back in October 2013. Over a year later, Dana invested in new machinery for the Fort Wayne, Indiana, plant that builds the axles--indicating that it plans to continue making them long term.

While the solid axles and the Wrangler's general body-on-frame design seem like they will be retained, many other changes are expected. The body that goes on that separate ladder frame could be aluminum, and an eight-speed automatic transmission is expected to be offered on at least some models. That transmission could be paired with a small turbocharged engine instead of the current 3.6-liter V-6, or possibly even a hybrid powertrain.

Whatever form it takes, the next Wrangler isn't expected until at least 2017, meaning it could on sale as a 2018 model.


Follow Motor Authority on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.