IT’S NO secret that good ol’ live-axle 4x4s are on the decline, and news that Nissan has brought the hatchet down on the GU Patrol means that another one has bitten the dust. While the Patrol name lives on in the Y62, it’s the end for the Patrol ute. It also means the LC79 is the only Japanese-made, liveaxle, heavy-duty 4x4 ute available. If you disregard the American pick-up trucks, such as those we’ve tested in this issue, then the HD ute market looks pretty poor compared to the booming one-tonne ute segment.
Just weeks before the news from Nissan broke, FCA Australia revealed it was looking seriously at the double-cab ute version of the next-generation Jeep Wrangler (JL?) that has been confirmed for the USA. That truck isn’t due to go into production until 2018, but with the new Wrangler set to retain live axles front and rear, the Jeep pick-up could give us another ute with real off-road potential. As one offroad ute is laid to rest, there’s light ahead for an new one. Fingers crossed we get it here.
One Jeep staffer at the Easter Jeep Safari said clues to the new Wrangler ute could be found in the Crew Chief concept that the brand unveiled at event in Moab, Utah. In this issue, we’ve got an exclusive drive of the wild Crew Chief from our guy in the US, Chris Collard. And if it’s any indication of the new model, then we’ve every reason to be excited.
The Crew Chief looks to me like a JK Unlimited with a Kaiser 715 front end and tray tacked on. So if this gives any clue to the JL model, it should retain that classic Jeep look. The rumour mill says the next Wrangler is set to lose weight with the use of aluminium components. These are expected to be bolt-on panels, not a full aluminium body. One theory suggests the use of aluminium suspension components, but we don’t see how that would be possible with the Jeep retaining its live axles, which are essential to the model’s excellent off-road ability. I can’t wait to find out for sure.