Jeep: The V8 Is Dead

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Car enthusiasts used to say, “There’s no replacement for displacement.” Need more power? Get a bigger engine! More cylinders, bigger cylinders, longer stroke — whatever it takes. Some of the wilder enthusiasts messed around with superchargers and turbochargers, but that stuff was expensive and sometimes flaky. However, the world has changed in the last few decades. Turbochargers became more reliable, and manufacturers figured out how to dial them in on smaller engines. This made enough power for the average driver’s happiness while getting better mileage when cruising.

Now, electrification is changing the game even more. The most efficient 3- and 4-cylinder engines get great gas mileage, but it’s even better with an electric motor backing it up. Eliminating idling, giving some extra power at acceleration, and regenerative braking all add up to better power and performance with better mileage with a small displacement engine. Add larger batteries, a charger, and a bigger electric motor, and you end up with a vehicle that doesn’t have to burn gas at all for most rides, only turning to combustion power on highway trips.

Jeep has obviously figured out that this formula works. When I reviewed the Wrangler 4xe last year, I was particularly impressed with the torque. On EV power only, it drove better than most older V6 Jeeps, but if I needed to pass someone or get on the freeway, I could stomp the pedal all the way to the floor. This turned on the 4-cylinder engine and added its horsepower on top of the electric motor’s torque. The result was a mix of torque and horsepower that exceeds a V8 Jeep, but then goes back to not using gas again within a few seconds after I backed out of the throttle.

With V8 power available, but without V8 gas mileage in the city, it’s a clear winner over the gas Jeeps. CleanTechnica readers know that already, and we’re all looking forward to BEV Jeeps, but in a recent Motor Authority interview with Jeep executives (hat tip to Motor1), they admitted as much themselves.

The verdict? V8 engines are dead in performance Jeeps. There will be no future Wrangler 392 models, and no other TrackHawk models unless the company decides on disconnecting it from V8s in the future. Why? Because they just don’t make as much sense as they used to.

The focus at Jeep right now is to expand 4xe options. The company recently launched a Cherokee 4xe option, and it is planning on doing the same with the Wagoneer before 2025. Wagoneers may come with an inline-6 engine paired with an EV system to give it a little more power for a heavier vehicle, but it would still be a PHEV.

Of course, Jeep has been experimenting with BEVs (it’s behind in the game, but not clinically stupid). Jeep is even looking into EVs with a manual transmission to give people that dose of nostalgia while being a lot easier to drive than a combustion manual (electric motors don’t stall). Want to just drive? Leave it in second gear and go. Want more control to get torque or lug on the highway? Do some shifting.

They’ve also got “underwater” EV ambitions, as we’ve seen in a Jeep video (and put in the featured image again). This isn’t possible with ICE, but could theoretically happen with an EV.

The future is getting brighter for Jeep, with the end of future V8 Jeeps being just another step on the road to electric.

Featured image: A screenshot from a Jeep video showing a future electric Jeep going underwater.

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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

Jennifer Sensiba has 1953 posts and counting. See all posts by Jennifer Sensiba