By on June 24, 2016


The #SaveTheManuals crew can breathe a sigh of relief. It looks like the upcoming 2018 Jeep Wrangler won’t be an automatic-only model after all.

Spy shots of a Wrangler test mule’s interior shows a six-speed manual transmission, meaning Fiat Chrysler Automobiles got word from owners that the tranny option was worth saving.


In May, we learned that FCA executives were hanging around the 2016 Overland Expo, asking owners what they thought of the possibility of ditching row-your-own versions of the next-generation Wrangler. Going by existing inventories, roughly 10 percent of Wranglers leave the lot with a stick shift, and many auto pundits agree the unit isn’t a joy to operate.

Messing too much with the Jeepiest of Jeeps is a recipe for revolt, so FCA probably felt it was safer to leave the damn thing alone.

We know that the 2018 Wrangler will gain a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission, but the next manual could also be a new unit. The photos show a different shift lever, and reverse gear has been moved from the lower right to upper left position.


Expect the manual transmission to be offered on lower-end trims, mated to the 3.6-liter V6, and possibly the upcoming 3.0-liter diesel V6. Jeep is expected to offer a turbocharged 2.0-liter “Hurricane” four as an upgrade, though it’s doubtful the roughly 300 horsepower unit will get a manual transmission mate. The Hurricane engine was already spied undergoing testing in a Wrangler.

Besides the new engines and transmissions, the next-generation Wrangler will see weight-saving measures and aerodynamic tweaks aimed at wringing every last bit of gas mileage out of the boxy model.


[Images: © 2016 Spiedbilde/The Truth About Cars]

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42 Comments on “Long Shift Lever Fans, Rejoice: Next-Gen Wrangler Will Get a Manual Transmission...”

  • avatar

    …and all was right in the world…

  • avatar

    I was kinda hoping it would have something like eleven speeds, just to keep up with the automatic Jeeps. That and with 4H and 4L ranges would make for a lot of bragging rights.

  • avatar

    I’d think that the Wrangler and the ponycars would be the last vehicles to give up their manual transmissions.

  • avatar

    If you buy a Wrangler to use as a true offroad vehicle, you want the
    auto tranny. It allows you to concentrate on DRIVING and not on
    shifting gears. If you’ve ever done any serious offroading you know
    the truth of the above statement. An 8 speed auto tranny is not
    necessary. A strong 5 speed auto is quite sufficient. Lockout hubs
    and a manual transfer case are also quite desirable in a true offroader.
    Of course, most wranglers will never see a road or trail more difficult
    than a graded gravel forest service road that a passenger car could
    traverse with no problems.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re correct, especially when rock climbing, but I use mine mainly for every day driving, so I Drive a stick. My off-roading is mainly at deer camp.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        The manual transmission allows you to idle up and over obstacles.

        An auto is nice, but off roading a manual is the best option.

        The problem is knowing what gear to be in.

        Did you know you don’t necessarily start off in first in a stick shift 4×4?

        The real issue is with a manual off roader, is you must understand off roading, how engine, drivetrain combos function, etc. Autos are great for the wanna be off roaders, the weekend warriors.

        • 0 avatar

          How many people burn out their clutch trying to work up a steep hill from a dead stop? I’ve got a stick Wrangler and while it’s great once you’re moving, sometimes just GETTING moving is a problem.

          • 0 avatar

            “How many people burn out their clutch trying…”

            If it’s their truck, their clutch, then ‘their’ problem. If it’s your truck, you take away the keys. What are they doing driving a manual when the shouldn’t? I’ve taught several to drive a stick shift and we start on the steep hill, half way up and from a dead stop. Repeatedly. I control the E-Brake so we don’t have a problem. Once they master that, the rest is gravy.

          • 0 avatar

            Wrangler with a stick? When in low range, leave it in first gear and turn off the ignition to stop. Use the starter motor to get moving again without depressing the clutch. That’s how the pros do it on the Rubicon.

    • 0 avatar

      In the over 40 years I have been off-roading in Colorado (from CJs to my current TJ), I never once wished for a slushbox, but whatever suits your purpose…

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      Driving a auto lets you concentrate on driving off road, especially rock climbing?? WTF??

      So, you change gears when you are in arduous off road conditions, ie, rock climbing?

      Hmmmm ….. I’d hate to tell you this, you’ve never off roaded, really.

    • 0 avatar

      As an off roader I basically agree. Trying to manipulate a clutch and gas while you’re simultaneously being tossed by rocks is far from ideal.

      For frequent snow use, however, I’d recommend manual.

      • 0 avatar

        Not to put too fine a point on it, but if you are getting tossed around enough to have trouble operating the vehicle you are going way too fast.

        • 0 avatar

          TTCat – if you are in loon sh1t or deep snow momentum is your friend. You are going to get bounced around.

          • 0 avatar

            I have no idea what you consider “loon sh!t”, but I doubt it requires speed if you are equipped correctly and have basic skills – and momentum is only your friend to a certain point, after that, its your winch, or more likely my winch, since I spend a lot of time pulling “momentum guys” out of trouble…

          • 0 avatar

            TTCat- really soft terrain can be traversed more easily at speed. There are obvious limits to that. For example: My buddies and I used to ride our dirt bikes all year round. We could ride on top of the snow if there was a bit of a crust and we kept the front light and had some speed. I’ve been in bumper deep snow in my truck and as long as I kept moving I was fine. Same can be said for soft sand. I’ve skimned across bog on a sport quad with similar technique as my dirt bike on snow. Nose light with speed. Sometimes breaking over the top of a hillt will mean hanging up if going too slow. Enough momentum will carry you past that “hang up” point almost like a mini- jump.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle


      Thing is, nobody really agrees what “real off-roading” is.

      I take it from your definition that you live on the West coast, or close enough, where rock crawling is considered real off-roading.

      If you lived in the South, you might consider mudding to be real off-roading.
      In the North-East or North-West, logging trails are considered off-roading.
      Anywhere in the snow belt, off-roading is what you’re trying to avoid half the year. The talented drivers manage to stay on the road, if you catch my (snow) drift.

      A buddy retired a YJ with over half a million miles on it. His job involved building the actual damn road, so he did a sort of off-roading (“no-roading?” “pre-roading?”). He wouldn’t qualify as “real” enough for you, cause he wasn’t out with buddies on weekends drinking beers and slowly driving over boulders in a state park. This would make him laugh.

      Manuals make more sense for some types of roads, and less for others. You get a lot more control over torque with a manual, which is a blessing when the road is half dirt, half flooded, half snow (they aren’t mutually exclusive). On the other hand, if you’re at maximum articulation and your main worry is tipping-over and sliding down a cliff, then maybe a manual is a distraction.

      • 0 avatar

        You are correct – offroading has different meanings in diferent
        locales. I’ve never thought there was any purpose in going to
        Moab and driving the sandstone; I never thought driving thru
        mud bogs, popular down south, was any fun. I learned quickly
        that driving dangerous stretches of road for the “thrill” of it
        was kinda stupid. So I learned to confine my offroading to
        roads that went somewhere interesting. There’s an awful lot of
        that in CO. And out here in OR too.

        And yes, I drove a manual shift for years – a 71 Bronco with a 3
        speed on the column. It was a real POS but it got me where I
        wanted to go. Since then, it’s been automatics, and always will
        be. To each his own.

      • 0 avatar

        heavy handle – well said.

        An automatic does have an advantage in mud or deep snow or anyplace where you need some speed and momentum and shifting gears would loose some of that. Same can be said for a long steep hill where you might need to grab another cog or downshift but not be able to afford the loss of momentum.
        I’ve driven vehicles with long throw shifters and you’d be screwed when shifting. Everything I’ve read says the Wrangler manual isn’t the fastest or most accurate to shift.
        A couple of guys in the Jeep club have gotten new lifted Wrangler Unlimited’s with 35’s and they went with the automatic. Those dudes are hardcore off-roaders.

      • 0 avatar

        I get your point, but there are also logging trails in the South East as the logging industry thrives in those areas.

        I’ve done serious low-mph off roading on some pretty rough trails (deep ruts, huge holes and only slick clay was showing) in my 1986 Isuzu Trooper 5 speed, a 2006 F-250 4wd auto. These were never-maintained logging trails that hasn’t served their intended purpose for years, with steep inclines as well.

        When the going got super rough, it was best to try to “power through” with the F-250 and let its commercial-grade frame (and your head, possibly) take the abuse. It would pull itself out, but it wasn’t easy to control wheel spin and it slithered like a fish on an steep grade covered in nothing but slick, wet clay and to its credit, it did pull a mid 90s K1500 out of a deep rut where it slid and got stuck as the guy only then discovered that the 4wd wasn’t working. All during a pouring thunder storm of course.

        The Isuzu (and other low-geared manual 4x4s I’ve driven such as my future B-I-L 87 Samurai, etc) was much easier to control and “work” its way through at a slower pace. It was smaller and obviously less powerful, but it climbed like a billy-goat. I would leave the trail and drive into the tree plantations at will. The others were too big or couldn’t “fly” through it. Im sure they would’ve made it if they could snake through the pine trees, lol, but it seemed like the Trooper loved it. I did.

        Even my manual 1991 Ford Explorer (this was in the Pacific Northwest) was like that, although the Mazda trans was crap. Anyway, it had a manual transfer case and manual hubs as well (Topper had auto hubs). Lock it in 4LO, use 2nd or sometimes first and it was pretty decent being stock with all seasons on it. Went everywhere my buddy’s 88 4Runner went. This was logging trails, woods with some hills and rocky, extremely steep mountain trails. My best friends automatic 92 Ranger 4.0 (same vehicle pretty much as Explorer, but with automatic everything) again sorta needs to go faster to keep moving in the mud especially.

        This is what I’ve found works best with my limited off-roading experience. That is in trucks…(I used to drive FWD cars in places they had no business going lol). Im sure ROTFLMAO will tell me how I’m wrong I am in a condescending manner, but oh well.

        • 0 avatar

          JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N – extreme stuff favours smaller vehicles. I’ve had dirt bikes, quads, small trucks and full sized.
          Nothing other than a good set of boots can beat a dirt bike in the tight nasty stuff.
          A quad set up for “bogging” is tough to beat because with big enough tires they’ll actually float.
          A very narrow short wheel based rig is great in narrow twisty crawl around and over stuff.
          Bigger trucks have their place to shine. A short rig will not out climb a properly set up full sizer. Faster terrain favours a wider longer rig.

          Pro’s and con’s to each.

          Just pick what works best for you and your off-roading preferences.

          Some will slag a particular truck or SUV because it won’t perform in their niche. My preferred off-roading might just happen to be different than someone else’s. It isn’t wrong or bad. Just different.

    • 0 avatar

      For technical offroading, like rock crawling, you’re certainly right. But even as offroading goes, rock crawling is a small niche. And one unusually averse to buying new anything.

      For “overlanding”/ “exp” use, manuals make more sense. Not that you can’t still use an auto, but in that scenario, the auto ha no real advantages. While the manual tends to be a bit lighter, and much less complex if something should break.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        I think the best overall transmission to suit the widest variety of off road activities is a manual.

        If you want to specialise in mud, rock climbing, etc correctly I know you will have difficulty obtaining registration for driving on our roads vehicle that are purposely built for these types of off road activities. So, your 4×4 will be pushing the limits of meeting ADR regulations. It seems we are stricter in this area then what I’ve observed in the US.

        Most 4x4s are a compromise vehicle in many ways. I suppose you must look at how much you will drive on and off road first and foremost. Then look at what off roading attributes you want from your vehicle for when you off road.

        If you are serious about off roading you will even consider aftermarket equipment as well in your purchasing decision.

        I’ve owned both auto and manual off road vehicles. I’m finding on road at times I wish I still had an auto, but off roading I do like my manual. So, a manual is what I bought, the ownership of a manual far outweighed the the positives an auto would of given me at times on road.

        I think the best overall size off road vehicles are in two categories/segments. The SUV based on a midsize pickup, ie, Everest, Prado, etc. According to how you use your vehicle a midsize short wheel base picku (current short wheelbase) will be your best bet. Midsize pickups do have quite restrictive turning circles.

        The reason I state these two sizes is they are good for on road, day to day living as well as offering the best compromise in most off road situations.

        Off road vehicle size doesn’t mean it’s the “ducks guts” in any particular situation. Take the Dakar, many vehicles, even the Mini’s won. So, smaller vehicles can perform very well in desert situation.

        Saying a large vehicle is best, is not understanding how to setup and operate a 4×4. I suppose it’s like saying a midsize is the best race car because it wins NASCAR. People must be flexible not limited to their own backyard with little knowledge of off roading. This will allow you to maximise building your off road vehicle to better suit your needs.

        IFS and live front ends do come into play, here as well. But you can overcome many obstacle by just having front and rear locking diffs with an IFS 4×4. Lifting is good, but many are lifted to “look” pretty, a hairdresser 4×4 pickup. We have them here to.

        Lift must be carefully considered. Anticipated payload, dampening to suit your off road activities, etc.

        Live axles are better and the cheapest option for the front end. But, you then trade off on road behaviour.

        4x4s are a totally compromise vehicle of what you want as a daily driver and an off roader. Most who own them never explore the limits of themselves and/or their 4x4s.

  • avatar

    Well, as long as they’re bringing back the Hurricane 4-banger, might as well bring back the two-stick transfer case. What could possibly be more studly than a stick shift transmission? One with three sticks!

  • avatar

    All I can say is YAY! Once my Unlimited is paid off- 2019, I can go buy a Scrambler with a stick, and have two of them.

  • avatar

    Dealers won’t order any and then FCA will point to the failure of sales as the reason to delete. The CUSTOMER is the dealer, not us.

    • 0 avatar

      Dealers receive about 15-20 percent of them manual. There is a high take rate on these as compared to the industry. As for a dealer “ordering” a Wrangler…they usually get what they’re given.

  • avatar

    The last picture is that of the Jeep Wrangler in it’s natural state; going to buy liquor and groceries.

    • 0 avatar

      OMG LOL Having owned two of them many years ago (not a h8r), I have to admit the modern bigger, more plastic version totally fits this comment. Just add some frilly fuzzy/lacey thing from the rear-view to block most visibility and you’re there.

      Ok, question for curiosity: Did they make the Wrangler bigger and softer to attract female buyers? Or did the change (which I believe was partly due to the need for door-intrusion bars) cause the increase in female buyers? How many JK drivers as a percentage are female?

      I’m not trying to be a misogynist, its just that the overall majority of drivers I see in them, even the dealer-lifted chrome-wheel unlimiteds, are female. Is it only my region? Of course my YJ and TJ were both uncomfortable coal-carts, and now the JK is a cash cow, so whatever they did it succeeded.

      • 0 avatar

        Willyam – the Wrangler Unlimited for many has become the family kiddy hauler. There used to be 2 Unlimited’s on my street. One belonged to a young couple with 2 kids and the other couple were “DINKS”. They did not want a minivan and since CUV’s and small SUV’s have replaced the minivan they did not even want that associated stigma. My truck saw more tough stuff than those two rigs.

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle


        Let’s not forget that these trucks are expensive, and most families can’t afford to own several large vehicles.
        You may be seeing Unlimiteds that haul the kids to school on weekdays and then go camping on weekends and hunting in-season.

        Funny story: a friend was ranting about how he only ever sees minivans and SUVs with a single occupant, and what a waste that was. I pointed-out that he’s retired and lives downtown. By the time he gets up and sees these SUVs, the kids have already been dropped-off at school. He conceded. His kids have been gone long enough that he completely forgot about the morning school run.

  • avatar

    A poll of my 18-21 year old kids and their friends revealed that NONE can drive a stick. In certain vehicles, a manual transmission seems like a natural, and this is one of them. I do wonder about resale though, given that the vast majority of these Jeeps are driven by poseurs. An automatic might be a safer choice. My 18 year old son is just DYING for a Wrangler, but I don’t think he’s ever ridden in one, much less driven one.He’s going to have to be content with the ’06 Kia Sportage he drives now, unless he bucks up and buys something himself.

    I just spent 2 days driving a borrowed short bed,regular cab 4wd Chevy Colorado that my father in law owns, and that little truck about knocked my fillings out…is a Wrangler worse?

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, a Wrangler is far worse in on-road ride and handling than any pickup truck sold in the last 25 years.

    • 0 avatar

      Most Wranglers ride pretty soft.

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      Define Poseur.

      Good god. Here is why people like a Wrangler, it is a convertible 4×4 that doesn’t scream I hate myself and drive an 06′ kia sportage. I mean stop already with the poseur BS.
      Yes, I have Wrangler with a MT. We use it, and enjoy it, take the top off etc. No, we don’t go rock crawling. Yes, when it snows I take it to work instead of the car. What is so poseur about this?

      • 0 avatar

        @87Morgan- I would say the Wrangler kinda is poseur ride for most owners as is that “trail rated” ad campaign. BUT it is no more than a sports car that never sees the track, a pickup truck that never towed anything and has no scratches in the bed, a “look at how green I am” hybrid car with an empty roof rack spoiling the aerodynamics, a lot of motorcycles, or… in other words the majority of vehicles on the road.

        That’s not to say everybody should drive only a plain boring sedan, minivan, work truck, or a fuel saving motor scooter. It doesn’t mean everybody should smugly point fingers at all the (other) “poseurs” on the road either. (Except coal rolling bro trucks and fart can muffler sport subcompacts- but we should pity for those people.)

        It’s nothing to lose sleep over. Have a thick skin, spend your money how you want, and enjoy driving what you want. Cheers!

        • 0 avatar
          87 Morgan

          My skin is pretty thick. I believe we are in agreement that one should be able to drive what they want without being called a poseur.

          I like to think your car is an extension of your personality in many ways.

          All is good.

  • avatar

    “Expect the manual transmission to be offered on lower-end trims, mated to the 3.6-liter V6, and possibly the upcoming 3.0-liter diesel V6. Jeep is expected to offer a turbocharged 2.0-liter “Hurricane” four as an upgrade, though it’s doubtful the roughly 300 horsepower unit will get a manual transmission mate”

    So it starts, Jeep wants to limit the manual to the lower end trims, and engines. In a few years the take rate of the manual will be significantly lower, since it is only being offered in configurations that no one actually wants to buy. At which point Jeep can justify discontinuing the manual, with the poor excuse that no one is buying them anymore.

    • 0 avatar

      As usual. Dealers do not want any choices. With choice the dealer needs to know their customers and predict sales or be willing to order vehicles. Without choice (colors, transmissions, engines) all they have to due is predict model mix. Now if only the OEM would cut back to a single model the dealers would be in heaven.

      Everyone says order what you want but I’ve gotten so much push back from dealers when attempting this that I’ve never done it. For an order they won’t commit to price (even though I’m leaving a hefty deposit), won’t even guess when delivery will occur (could be 6 weeks could be 3 months).

  • avatar

    The new Wranglers have drive by wire and have a pretty sweet set up. IN four low you can start the engine with the vehicle in gear and the clutch out. plus it has a “no stall” feature that will crawl at walking speed and feed in throttle as you encounter obstacles, effectively acting like an automatic where you let it idle up the trail. It’s really slick.

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