For years, aftermarket upfitters such as AEV have been Hemi-swapping Wranglers. Their conversions aren’t cheap, but it’s an idea that makes so much sense, it’s hard to see why Jeep doesn’t sell a V-8 Wrangler right from the factory. And while they’re at it, why stop with the 392? Why not offer Hellcat-powered Wranglers and Gladiators? Turns out, it’s a crash safety issue.
At the reveal event for this year’s Easter Jeep Safari concepts, Jeep’s North American boss Tim Kuniskis made it clear that we shouldn’t expect a Hellcat-powered Gladiator or Wrangler anytime soon. When asked by Australia’s Drive, Kuniskis said, “Everybody always asks me that question: It fits. You know that. It fits like a glove.” Even though that sounds like a good thing, it’s actually not. “But the problem is that it fits like a glove and there is no air space around the engine and the whole external space of the vehicle so you have no crush space,” he continued. “You have nothing that can be used to absorb energy in a crash. It is not a problem to put it in—other than emissions and fuel economy—except it would never pass any crash tests, and that’s a problem.”
And he’s right. That is a problem. We’d like to believe there’s a solution that doesn’t involve a total front-end rework, but until Jeep figures that out, we understand its desire to develop vehicles it can actually sell. In more positive news, Kuniskis said the two-door J6 concept shown above could go into production if there’s enough interest. Getting to that point will probably be a challenge, but he’s at least open to the idea.
“The thing that [would] preclude us from doing it is that the segment is [predominantly] four-door, five-foot-bed vehicles,” he told Drive. “And if you look at the segment and displace it down to the two-door versions, the segment is tiny . . . so how do you make a business case out of that? The viability of making a business case out of that is tough. But it is totally lifestyle and is it totally different in the segment? Yeah, it probably is, because Wrangler two-door sells pretty well, too.”