By on March 10, 2014

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Rumored to be in the early stages of development, the fourth generation of the Jeep Wrangler could have an power-retractable top as one of a few items designed to attract more customers to the off-roading legend.

Road & Track reports the top would be aimed as a high-end option at those who can’t be bothered undoing the soft-top or disassembling the hard top found on current models. Also on the agenda are removable doors and a frame redesign aimed at delivering a smoother ride while retaining the Wrangler’s solid axles.

What won’t make it to the new Wrangler? The folding windshield and rear-mounted spare tire, due to safety concerns and an overall goal of saving weight.

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79 Comments on “Jeep Considering Power-Retractable Top For Fourth-Gen Wrangler...”


  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I don’t care much about the Wrangler (like at all), but I will say that losing the visible rear tire is probably a mistake. It’s something unique which very few are still doing, and immediately identifies the car as a Wrangler.

    I thought the folding windshield went away years ago! And the doors are already removable, so why’s that on the agenda as a new feature?

    • 0 avatar

      Doors are probably a miscommunication. Currently Wrangler comes with 2 kinds of doors from the factory: full frame and half doors. The half doors are like frameless doors on Mustangs, except they don’t even have glass to be raised. If you want glass, you take it and insert it into slots on the door. The half doors make an exceedingly unpopular option. I think the take on those may be 0.25% (1 in 200) or less. People probably buy more of those doors as spare sets than is installed on production line. So I fully expect the half doors to go away together with the folding windshield.

      What they probably mean is reassuring the aftermarket that doors could be replaced.

      I have full doors (with glass that can be raised by a crank) and I never folded my windshield (which is ostensibly foldable but is a huge pain to fold: you need to take wipers off, unscrew reinforcement plates, etc.).

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    No rear mounted spare? Don’t understand that one. It’s a great place to hang it, and gives you a bit more protection out back.

    • 0 avatar
      Topher

      I think you missed this sentence: “What won’t make it to the new Wrangler? The folding windshield and rear-mounted spare tire, due to safety concerns”

      The rear-mounted tire is convenient in small bumps, but quickly becomes dangerous in higher-speed accidents because it allows the forces of the collision to circumvent the bumper and directs them into the passenger compartment.

      • 0 avatar
        racer-esq.

        I would put the rear mount tire in the weight column. Not the safety column. The minimal rear overhang on the Wrangler (where a horizontal spare would go) means that most likely the Wrangler is switching to run-flats or a foam kit. That will save significant weight. If there is a safety issue it is rear visibility, not cash protection. Rear-mount spares if anything are worse for slow speed accidents because they divert the force from the flexible plastic bumper cover to the metal hatch. In a higher speed accident the metal hatch is toast anyway.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Out of curiosity, how much does the whole rear tire + mounting assembly weigh?

          It’s just occurred to me that we’re having a continental kit discussion here.

          • 0 avatar
            racer-esq.

            Looks like 70 – 100 for the wheel and tire.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            To me, that doesn’t seem like something heavy enough to warrant deletion on fuel economy grounds.

            I agree they’re not particularly safe, and they cause more damage than if there were just a bumper there in low speed car-car accidents and bumps.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        If you read the linked article, the spare tire isn’t considered a safety issue. They’re cutting it to reduce curb weight.

        Original text in R&T article:

        “Dropping the folding windshield would be a no-brainer for increased safety and lessened vehicle complexity, while getting rid of the full-size spare tire could help shave precious pounds from the curb weight.”

        Off roaders love not having a full sized spare tire. Nothing gets you back to safety like a three-wheeled Jeep. Oh well. They’re a small market that doesn’t matter compared to fans of Queer as Folk.

        • 0 avatar
          racer-esq.

          Jeep is trying to match Land Rover’s legendary ability to strand people.

          One the CAFE score is in MOPAR will offer a spare tire kit.

        • 0 avatar

          As long as you can buy a bumper with tire carrier, there’s no problem. It’s going to balance the winch in front marvelously.

          • 0 avatar
            joe_thousandaire

            They aren’t going to say they’re getting rid of the rear spare for safety reasons. That would be the same as saying, “the Wranglers’ not very safe right now”. The IIHS eviscerated SUVs with rear spares recently, I doubt you’ll see a single one on the road in a couple years.

  • avatar
    YellowDuck

    +1. The rear mounted spare must stay, as must the round headlights and upright 7-slot grill. The doors are already removable. If 1% of current owners ever fold the windshield I would be surprised, so no big loss there. Anything that improves ride quality would be welcomed, but honestly sticking with live axles at both ends means this car is always going to suck going over washboard on dirt roads at speed (currently its number one handling weakness).

    Mixed feelings about the power top. No doubt there would be some uptake, but a big part of this vehicle’s charm is its relative simplicity, paid for in the form of some lack of convenience. Sounds like a cool gizmo that might have a better place on a different Jeep offering.

  • avatar

    > the fourth generation of the Jeep Wrangler could have an power-retractable top

    Queue whining about sissification of the macho Jeep.

    Unfortunately real men walk over those rocks instead of sitting on their fat ass pushing a petal. Might as well stay at home and play video games.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    You want to save weight…but then offer a heavy and complex power top as an option?

    I don’t understand.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      It won’t be out for a few years yet, so we don’t know for sure that it will be heavy and/or complex. It could be a fairly simple top like on the Fiat 500 (but much bigger and more macho, of course).

      A retractable top will certainly encourage more Wrangler owners to go topless (so to speak). Don’t the current hard tops take most of a day to remove?

      • 0 avatar
        afedaken

        @Heavy Handle

        My YJ’s hard top is 1/2 a dozen sheet metal screws, and 16 bolts away from being separated from the body. About half an hour to pull it all the way off the body if I have to do it myself, or less if I have help lifting the damn thing. I’m guessing that I could cut half of that time by installing the quick release kit, or sorting my damned sockets so I wouldn’t have to hunt for the right ones.

        The soft top is a 15 minute affair if my buddies with TJs are to be elieved.

        Neither is as easy as the current JK’s soft or hardtop, (which I admit I haven’t tried) or the 30 second softtop on my Pontiac Solstice (which itself is laughable to my Miata owning friends).

        • 0 avatar
          heavy handle

          I’ve got a friend with a half-million mile YJ (original owner). He says he only took the hard top off once, dropped the windshield, drove around a bit and put it back on. Couldn’t be bothered to do it again.

          • 0 avatar
            afedaken

            The hardtop is a seasonal affair for me. Off when the nights get into the 50′s, on after Halloween.

            What I see more commonly, (and do when we get an early warm spell) is folks leaving the hard top on, but dropping the doors, and the hatch glass. Makes for almost as much air flow, but is a lot easier to do.

            I’ve never dropped the windshield. Here in PA, your inspection stickers go there, and if the police don’t see them, you’re getting stopped.

      • 0 avatar

        Current hardtop is quick to remove and put back, but the problem is, unless you have a hoist, it takes two people. I built a hoist out of eyelets and rope that I bought in ACE Hardware for $23 all told.
        http://zaitcev.mee.nu/hardtop_hoist

        Actually, before that, I found a quick way to deal with it: crawl inside, raise, and lift the hop with my back. The problem with that is that it’s all too easy to lose balance and pop a window up the tub’s corner. After a couple of close calls I figured enough was enough and built the aforementioned hoist.

        But no, it doesn’t take half a day in any case. More like 10 minutes.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Those Italianos like em heavy up top! Molto benne!

  • avatar
    bfisch81

    Jeep TJ owner here…

    Folding windshield: Never taken it down nor do I really want to. I know of almost no one who regularly takes down the windshield.

    Rear spare: I don’t care where the spare is located but they HAVE to provide a full size spare as standard. That’s a non-starter for Jeep people. Maybe they’ll go for a sidemount like back in the days of the Willy’s CJ.

    Removeable doors: Doors are not terribly easy to remove(especially full steel) and I’m not a huge fan of running without them but it’s a signature feature and something that Jeep people do pretty frequently.

    Power hard top: Most hardcore Jeep Wrangler buyers are not going for this option. Author(s) are correct in that it will be to attract others to the brand.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      What would be the purpose of taking down the windshield? Better visibility at low speeds? Seems to me like something which would just cause more wind noise as Wranglers age.

      • 0 avatar
        afedaken

        @CoreyDL

        Some folks like bugs in their hair.

        Some like em in their teeth.

        FWIW, the removeable frame makes the fight against RUST easier. When it starts, you just pull the glass, pop in a new frame and gasket, reinstall the glass, and you’re on your way. No welding involved.

      • 0 avatar
        bigdaddyp

        What?!?
        It’s a brick with 4 tires. It’s loud all the time, bedsides, If you are doing it right, the roar from the v8 you dropped in drowns out all the wind noise anyways.

        Actually, never noticed wind noise from that seal under the windshield but being a separate piece makes it easy to replace the frame when it rusts*, which it probably will.

        *i own a Cj, self destructing from rust may vary by model, see internet for details.

      • 0 avatar
        Les

        The fold-down windshield only really makes sense if you’re configuring your Jeep for pure non-road utility spec, but aesthetically to me never made much sense since the CJ/Wrangler went from a simple roll-bar to a full-on roll-cage. Can easily do without that feature in modern spec.

    • 0 avatar
      ellomdian

      “Jeep people”

      As a former “Jeep People” I am sure any of the more-money-than-brains posers buying a brand new Wrangler for any kind of real off-roading is going to check the after-market box for a Bumper Spare carrier, just like they are going to throw 3 inches of spring spacing on it before they even drive it.

      “Jeep people” don’t really buy new – haven’t for 15 years – and marketing to them instead of pretending like you are marketing to them (and actually marketing to the people who buy your vehicles new) is a good way to suffer the slings and arrows of forum-fanboi bull when you make a compromise in the name of safety or economy.

      • 0 avatar
        Les

        Thing is, one of the biggest selling-points of Jeeps.. particularly the Wrangler.. is it’s high resale value. Guess where that comes from? “Jeep People” snatching-up the trade-ins after Buffy from the Delta-Delta-Delta sorority gets done with it. If “Jeep People” stop doing that and start becoming, say.. “Tacoma People”.. it’ll scuttle the Jeep brand.

        • 0 avatar

          > Thing is, one of the biggest selling-points of Jeeps.. particularly the Wrangler.. is it’s high resale value. Guess where that comes from?

          Generally resale value of used depends on how much of a new one’s functionality is retained.

          Used cars for example lose value because their tech get outdated and wear/tear diminishes remaining life. Assuming only the last part, a car that remains exactly the same for 200k, one half used ~100k should sell for ~half price.

          That in mind, the Wrangler should retain well because moderate wear isn’t obvious given the already rough design, reliability is decent, and there’s frankly minor at best improvements in newer ones.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      As the owner of 2 TJ Wranglers, I can attest to the fact that I’ve never folded the windshield down on either of my Jeeps. The one on my ’02 really isn’t that hard to do – just a few bolts where the sport bar ties into the windshield frame and a few bolts that lock the pivot brackets down.

      The ’06 is a bit more of a challenge with the hard trim around the inside of the windshield frame.

      The problem with ’07 and newer Jeeps is the curved windshield – the hinge is in the center, and the entire corner brackets need to come off, not just a lock bolt like mine. Plus, a JK with the windshield down actually has worse visibility off road since the corners of the windshield frame curve upwards and obscure your view of the trail from certain angles. This isn’t the case on a TJ – folding the windshield down improves offroad forward visibility, even if only by a little bit.

      As far as the doors – I think they are super easy to take off. I take mine off every summer and either run soft doors or tube doors.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I’m not a big Wrangler fan, but I kind of like the mechanical nature of the car. I’m sure that actual Jeep fans will largely skip this option.

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    By the time this comes out I’m planning on being able to 3-D print a Citroën Méhari from scratch, so I’m not worried.

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    I think this is brilliant.

    It took me about 3-4 minutes to take soft top completely off of the JK Wrangler.

    I had one as a rental. 2011 Wrangler, IIRC. Four door with the soft top.

    The cheap plastic windows were already starting to pop out of the canvas surround on the right and left rears. I just remember really hoping that they didn’t fly out and I would get stuck with the charge from Enterprise Car Rental.

    This could be a hit, although likely a very costly option.

    Think of all of the daddy’s little girls you see driving these things around. One look at the power top option, they’ll be putty in their father’s (or ummm- slightly older “friends”, dare I say) hands.

    • 0 avatar
      raresleeper

      Rather, the men in their lives would be putty in THEIR hands.

      Sheesh. Makes no sense when its bass ackwards.

      Nonetheless, I do believe Sergio is on to something, here.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I’m glad the folding windshield won’t be included. It was just another water leak waiting to happen. Of course *real* Jeep owners don’t care about water getting inside.

    • 0 avatar

      Current model Jeep is fairly easy to dry. It has something like 11 large holes in the tub, covered by rubber plugs. Last time I got rained in, I pulled the carpets, opened plugs, and hung carpets to dry on the roll cage overnight. Put it back together in the morning and it was like new: no electrical problems, no mold smell.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      I have 2 TJs and know lots of other Jeep owners…none of us have ever had a leak from the gasket at the base of the windshield frame. Anecdotal, I know, but that’s been my experience.

      • 0 avatar

        TJ is somewhat different. You guys have 2 hinges and we only have 1 in the center. Also, our windshield is curved.

        But in any case, it’s hard to gauge the prevalence of leaks with so few people ever bothering to fold the windshield in JK. You can say that the design was chosen to ween Jeep owners off the practice. Sure, you _can_ fold a JK windshield, but it’s made so ridiculously difficult that it’s a practical impossibility.

  • avatar
    GoFaster58

    “Off road legend”…lol. Most Jeep owners I know never park their Jeep in the grass much less go off roading. Jeep is losing its reputation under Fiat.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    At this point, I think it would be best if Jeep splits the Wrangler into two distinct products: one for off-roaders and one for on-roaders. Any compromise between the two will make the ultimate product worse for both segments.

    I’m thinking make the Wrangler as modern and civilized as the Grand Cherokee, Cherokee, and Renegade, but retain a low-volume, stripped-down, serious off-roading model, perhaps bringing back the “CJ” name.

    The on-road Wrangler would have none of the stuff necessary for off-roading that will add weight and hurt fuel economy; the CJ would have none of the creature comforts hardcore mudders don’t want classing up their rides.

    Jeep has already done this by offering both the Patriot and Compass. Here it makes more sense because the differences will be more than skin deep. And by offering both choices, they end up satisfying everyone.

    • 0 avatar
      Skink

      phila, Wrangler and CJ: that is a brilliant strategy. Let’s hope FCA is reading.

    • 0 avatar
      jayzwhiterabbit

      Well, most of the people who buy a Wrangler as a fashion accessory rather than an off-roader learn their lesson. Many car buyers see these vehicles with the top off on the pile of rocks on the dealer lots in the Spring, and take the plunge only to find that they end up hating the everyday aspect of driving the vehicle. I’ve had two wranglers, currently an ’08 Unlimited. Everything (I mean EVERYTHING) about this vehicle absolutely sucks on a daily-driver basis (besides styling). Terribly uncomfortable seats, loud as hell even with the hard top on, top-grade sound system is 1980′s quality, ancient engine and 4-speed that are as slow as Christmas, I could go on and on. BUT to those of us that are about quality time off-road, with the top down/off, and blasting through sand on the beach, it’s worth it.

      Yes, a Land Rover is very much more refined and luxurious, but also costs several times more and is seriously expensive to repair and maintain. My Wrangler has 100k and I just replaced the thermostat. That’s it! No other problems, ever. Runs and looks like new.

      I sold my ’95 Wrangler with 245k almost trouble-free miles (only parts to fail were Mitsubishi starter and transmission) for good money in ’07 when I got the Unlimited. These are great off-road trucks for fun-loving, rough-around-the-edges people.

      Verily, it is a Jeep thing :).

      • 0 avatar

        > Well, most of the people who buy a Wrangler as a fashion accessory rather than an off-roader learn their lesson.

        Truly first world problems.

        Sometimes people are willing to wear some remarkably uncomfortable getups to make a fashion statement.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    I’m pretty sure these announcements are more for fiat to gauge interest and see what all they can get away with.

    Where else is a spare going? Can’t go underneath, massive no-no when offroading, certainly can’t fit inside. Therefore they must be implying a donut spare or a fix a flat. Which obviously means your effed offroad.

    Retractable top simply wouldn’t sell well, a highly complicated top that restricts the vehicles abilities, nah wouldn’t last.

    Obviously they’re not catering to the offroad crowd here.
    As much as people dislike posers they are the best thing in existence for offroad vehicles. They buy them irrespective of their shortcomings and in ten years the people that use them have a fresh vehicle that hasn’t been beat to hell… … To beat to hell.
    And if actual offroaders won’t buy them, the posers are gone as well.

    • 0 avatar

      > And if actual offroaders won’t buy them, the posers are gone as well.

      I don’t think you understand. The poser aren’t posing for the actual anything. They’re posing for other posers and people who barely care. They don’t pick the Wrangler because of spec y or z, they pick it because it *looks* off-road something or other. The “actual whatevers” aren’t involved in this process.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        While I’ll agree you make a valid point, eventually if you lose the actual offroaders who will fight or better yet buy the offroad goodies, then the vehicle will start to morph, eventually to the point that posers would get called out on its inability to be “BA”.

        • 0 avatar

          To further illustrate, allow me a simple demonstration of how much the average person thinks about cars:

          “Hey, Hummer drives the tough looking one with like knobby tires. I guess he’s an outdoorsy type, lol.”

          Now consider the variety of vehicles which can be visualized by this sentence.

    • 0 avatar
      azmtbkr81

      I agree, Jeep is testing the waters for a car based Wrangler. First it was the solid axles and now this. I’m hoping that this mysterious new GMC 4×4 will keep Jeep honest.

      A full-size spare is indispensable for even light duty off-road driving. Fix a flat doesn’t work so well for repairing a 4in sidewall gash. Having to drop an extra grand on an aftermarket bumper and spare just to hit the trials would be terrible.

  • avatar
    SpeedJebus

    Previous JK owner here.

    - Softtop was a 5 minute affair, tops. I agree that a power option is unnecessarily overcomplicating something on this vehicle.
    - Folding windshield? On the JK, theres about 10 pieces of trim that have to be removed in order to fold it down, so, nope, not going to miss that.
    - Spare on the outside? It’s part of the Jeep aesthetic.

    The beauty of the Wrangler is its simplicity, for better or for worse.

    Some days I say I’d go back. I loved my Jeep. But, they’d have to improve quality (Upper engine rebuild at 9000km, new engine at 38000kms.), and improve the dealership experience. Too much of a nightmare for something so clear-cut (in my eyes at least).

  • avatar

    Personally I would not like a power hardtop due to extra weight. It’s slightly noticeable when the current top is off, and it’s only 50 or 55 pounds. But as long as it’s an option, why not? They already build Wranglers with electric door locks and Sun still raises in the morning.

  • avatar
    ezeolla

    As a TJ owner, the only thing I am worried about is losing the rear mounted spare. It would totally change the look of the Wrangler for the worse

    I imagine the power soft top would be an option similar to the SkySlider roof that the KK Liberties had. I could see that working very well for the people who are willing to spend the cash on it. It takes the current 3-piece hard top to a whole new level

    • 0 avatar

      JK hardtop has a feature that TJ didn’t have: the front panels can be left in place, providing something of a bikini top. I use that mode every time and if the slider roof opens front to back only, I won’t be able to use it.

  • avatar
    Les

    Hmmmm…

    Loss of folding windshield? The folding windshield is more or less an anachronism now, perhaps some day a new CJ will be born as a (regulations permitting) road-legal side-by-side ATV and then the folding windshield will find some use.. in a new Wrangler though? It will not be missed.

    Electric retractable roof? I’m sure there will be some sun-bunnies that would like this feature, but personally I’m worried that cost concerns will require that things needed to make this feature work in the models that have it will require structural carry-over into the ones that don’t and compromise the Wrangler in ways that would be unacceptable. Pass.

    No more rear-mounted full-size spare? Well, where are they gonna put it then? Ooooh, oh.. or you mean just deleting the spare completely, as so many cars in that size-range today are doing as a cheep and cheerful method of reducing weight, right? Oh, well in that case….

    YOU GO TO HELL!! YOU GO TO HELL FCA, YOU GO TO HELL AND YOU DIE!!!

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    Considering the body variability on Wranglers, it’ll be a miracle if they can get a power folding top to work seamlessly, fit properly and not leak.

    The soft top is reasonably easy to fold down, at least on the 2-dr models. It got quite a bit easier when they went to the “cable” tensioned top in 2010 or 2011 (I don’t remember which), but be prepared for the top to do some interesting things in a heavy crosswind. I will say that I think the SWB TJ top was easier to put up and down than the early JK tops, and it fit a lot tighter too.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    It would be interesting to see the solution to removing the rear mounted spare. While most are envisioning the common solution of run-flats or a can of fix-a-flat, something that could actually fly in a Wrangler context is an externally mounted spare ‘not’ in the rear, say a driver-side, rear-quarter mounted or on the roof. It’s that or inside the interior in the cargo area.

    As to the reason, that’s a no-brainer. It’s not safety, nor even weight. It’s profit. Those full-sized spares are expensive (especially with the big tires that Wranglers come with). You can damn well bet that if a full-size spare disappears from the Wrangler, the price won’t go down one penny.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    It’s not a matter of whether you take off the doors, the top and flip down the windshield. Point is you can. Doing these things makes for a much better wheel’n experience, which the original owner may never do. But they can.

    So who are we to judge if the don’t? They may be too concerned about voiding the warranty. A broken axle (housing or carrier) with scrape marks from rocks found on the under carriage. Electrical problems with water spots left on the inner body paint. Or a blown engine with water (not antifreeze) in the cylinders. Yes Off roading is what a Wrangler is designed for, but within reason. Not hardcore.

    Will insurance pay for an off roading mishap? Like a rollover? What about a crashed Corvette on a race track?

    But shouldn’t we also judge that new or late model Corvette owner that doesn’t take it out to the track? Ever? Wtf? Or the pickup truck owner that only buys the occasional strips of lumber then uses a towel to protect the tailgate protector?

    The flat and foldable windshield and removable top/doors is, was just part of the CJ, TJ, etc, history and legendary lineage dating back to the Willys war GP. The same with the rear tire carrier.

    The fold down windshield is great for wheel’n, but to drop it for driving on public roads is lame. In the city, don’t.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      Jeep doesn’t honor damage offroad warranty? WTF jeep?

      Muddy and scratched up GM honored everything that broke offroad.

      • 0 avatar

        Warranty story is somewhat mixed and changes dealership by dealership. Some are scumbags and clearly scheme to avoid warranty work. Others almost seem like they actually profit by fixing under warranty. I heard of people getting warranty repairs on sensors after a Hemi swap without problems.

  • avatar
    Meko_Suko

    The gf had a Jeep Liberty with the Skyroof in it. It was a pretty nice option. You could open it from front to back and vice versa. You could also open it only partially in either direction.

    I’d think this would do well on a Wrangler. You already know what a real Jeep is and this would just seem to bring you closer to the outdoors w/o having to remove equipment.

    My .02


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