Wrangler J8: the new AR "Twenty One"?

(To Gianluca Celentano)

It was already in the air in 2018 when we too had ventured the prediction of a new AR after the guessed choice made by the Carabinieri for the control of the beaches (v.articolo). Today it is a reality that over the years will lead to the replacement of the current AR 90 Land Rover reconnaissance vehicles with versatile 4x4s from Fiat but with an American pedigree.

If for collectors or artisans it can translate into an attractive opportunity for ex-military used off-road vehicles - in this case with many kilometers given the vehicle's use segment - it will be our soldiers who will breathe a sigh of relief especially for the characteristics of the vehicle. Wrangler J8 which we remember being the evolution of the historical Willys in use in the US Army.

In fact, the Land Rover - however an undisputed off-road vehicle - had begun to suffer from important mechanical problems, offering poor internal usability and being unsuitable for urban use, especially on wet paving. Negatives that the drivers let out through gritted teeth preferring for example the good VM90 for the tasks of safe roads. A context where we have never shied away from reporting problems or suggestions, giving space to their grievances.

Let's turn the spotlight on the J8

We were able to have a technical preview on the future Wrangler J8 which won the tender announced by our Army. At the head of this guessed choice, it must be emphasized, there is the IV Logistics Department of the Army Staff and in particular the head of the Mobility Systems office, the with the. Fausto Antonio Ricchetti an engineer, but above all a technician placed in a crucial role of the armed force.

The entry of the Jeep brand into the Army dates back to the introduction of the SUV Renegade with the innovative gray livery, assembled on the common chassis of the 500X produced in Melfi. After years of post-Campagnola silence and for some the questionable choice of an English icon, the Land Rover, Italy has returned to hold the dominance of the light military automotive with FCA, even if for the J8 it is more correct to speak of a "American" success.

A complex production round for the new AR: it is not built in Italy. But then who does it ...?

AADS Automotive GROUP

It is a hub for the construction of special and operational vehicles that operates in Gibraltar for government and military organizations around the world as well as for the United States Department of Defense.

The UNILIMITED platforms arrive in Gibraltar from the Toledo plant, in North Ohio USA - that is the unlimited resistance on which the Rubicon civilian -, on which the J8s will be set up for the armies of different nations as well as for Italy.

The civil production of the Wrangler now in its fourth series, it is divided into versions Sport, Sahara e Rubicon and on the latter, the most performing, even the most extreme for the civil market, the Recon. The acronym J8, essentially, means destination for military use.

But let's stop for a moment! Someone will be wondering if the Wrangler in blue livery of the Carabinieri have passed through Gibraltar? It seems that this is not the case.

For that supply, FCA used the civilian “Sahara” version and took action en casa to the application of the characteristics of the institution.

A few weeks ago, AADS entered into a contract with the Italian Ministry of Defense for the supply of 210 Jeep Light Military 4x4 vehicles for the Army. Deliveries, according to the note, will take place in the next fifteen months but a probable second batch of 210 other off-road vehicles will follow. The contract includes 6 years of technical assistance and training for military personnel.

In Cairo, Egypt, at the Chrysler LLC Arab American Vehicles and in Nazareth, Israel, near Automotive Industries Ltd Wrangler he had already taken on his military guise J8 with a derivative version named Storm e Storm 3 Type R, a 4x4 in some ways more Spartan or more similar to the historic one Willys. Only in 2019, production moved to Gibraltar, a strategic territory overseas British.

AR J8, what is it about?

There are two choices for the J8 destined for Italy, one "Light ", or a custom military civilian, and one Standard, ie more combat, but at AADS the variants are greater. The Standard in fact they are divided into six types: an LPV, Light Patrol Vehicle, a Command, a Troop (tarpaulin), a Utility, an Armored (armored) and an ambulance version. Undoubtedly "multitasking" variants compared to what we were used to seeing by observing the historical ARs.

All versions actually fall under the term "Standard" and it cannot be excluded that the term "Light" has been attributed here by us for the version Utility o Command.

Colonel Ricchetti explained to us the main characteristics that differentiate military production from civilian production.

The Jeep Wrangler in acquisition derive from series production and have been identified in the pure off-road segment. The starting point is that of a vehicle at the top of its category: high-performance 3.0 cc six-cylinder V engine, "Unlimited" version.

The structure will be Hard Top 5 doors, automatic transmission, four-wheel drive, low range and possibility of locking the differentials. The vehicle will be equipped both in the "light" version, strictly commercial derivation, and in the "standard" version, with purely military accessories such as, il winch, tow bar, preparation for housing military radios and antennas as well as Auxiliary Power Unit for operation a engine off, webasto, removable grids to protect the glass surfaces, foldable windshield frame, storage for long guns, anchor kit for strategic transport.

The new AR will adopt a turbodiesel (under international agreements within NATO) six-cylinder Powertrain produced in Cento, with a power range that will reach 260 horsepower. It must be said, according to the AADS note, that the official engines would expand, excluding a turbo petrol, even to a 2.2 cc Multijet (the same as the Alfa Romeo Giulia) with 200 horsepower, perhaps more commensurate with the military version "Light".

The structural and component changes for this J8 (suspensions, DANA44 axles, chassis, brakes) are important to increase its strength and resistance to twisting, increasing the load possibilities, which will go from 1340 kg for civilian to over 3000 kg for military. Well, a lot of stuff really. However, these measures will not eliminate some refinements that the 4x4 has included in the course of its history. It will be equipped with the same instrumentation as for the civil series and will include: radio system equipped with Bluetooth hands-free, satellite navigation system with map update for 12 years, ABS, ESP, electronic traction control, front and side Air Bags, tire pressure monitoring. (TPMS), fog lights and rear fog lights in compliance with current legislation, side steps, rear parking sensors, power steering and steering column adjustable in height and depth, automatic climate control / air conditioning, central locking (also with remote control), cruise control, electronic control of the descent (HDC) and hill start (HAC) and inclinometer. Too many refinements for a military vehicle? If the introduction of so many sophisticated comforts will make some Off-road purists turn up their noses, it is good to remember that the car has no limits at least as far as there is grip for a rota

A 4x4 at the border between war- and utility: distribution e iI explain

It would be nice, to keep the tradition, to call it again with the year of the debut, that is AR Twenty One or AR 21, what do you think?

The AADS production, as we have seen, includes equipment that places the Wrangler as a potential vehicle for use outside the area (task performed by the VM90P and VTLM LINCE) in particular the version with armor BRV 2009 VR7 or with turret for the Browning M2 7,62.

The col. Ricchetti explains to us that the'goal of the armed force is The renewal of the reconnaissance vehicle fleet, today cowing to the LAND ROVER Defender 90, therefore the number of vehicles cannot be less than the current AR90. The first 210 vehicles, to be acquired in the two-year period 2021-22, are mainly intended for the groups used in the Strade Sicure operation throughout the national territory. Subsequent distributions will be geared towards the remaining Army units. Then the employment will come true mainly on the national territory for Command and Control activities, tactical activities of reconnaissance and control of the territory, as well as for specific tasks in circumstances of public calamity and in cases of extraordinary need and urgency. It is also envisaged for use in low and very low intensity Operational Theaters where the use of protected vehicles is not envisaged. The car will therefore be acquired not in an armored version.

We add for completeness, that currently there is no news of the interest of the Navy and Air Force for the J8, but one wonders if the Army and its use without discounts will be the test bed of the new AR.

J8 Light Patrol Vehicle, automatic only

This is the definition that AADS associates with the more rustic customization of the J8, which will be fitted with All Terrain 245/75 R17 tires of the M + S 4-season type as original equipment, on steel rims of easy maintenance and chaining.

In order to reduce costs and maximize the line, also in logistical terms and to have an easy supply of spare parts, continues the colonel, the choice fell on a vehicle, which although equipped to contain military accessories, can count on a range of similar spare parts. to the civil series.

All vehicles will have Command - Trac 8-speed automatic transmission, a traditional hydraulic with converter override clutch, but will not have the standard stabilizer bar release on Rubicon.

More and more rare the "pure" in a mondo of SUV, like may?

I admit I am a bit biased towards this pure 4x4 that I would have preferred with the manual gearbox although it still embodies the traditional qualities of the racing off-road vehicle, but artfully associated with all the comforts of a modern road SUV.

Today, 4x4 purists (not practitioners) are a very small pool, but Jeep has an ace up its sleeve, models. In fact, the Jeep brand, with a skilful product change policy in line with market demand, has skilfully transformed into an SUV Great Cherokee introducing Compass e Renegade as an option and offer of sport and utility vehicleWrangler therefore it is destined, for the moment, to remain a pure icon, if only for its line and history. So no distortion but be careful in the wet! Indeed understeer and oversteer are not isolated and the system Command-Trac in normal conditions (2H) it provides traction only on the rear. However, it is possible to position the transfer box / reducer joystick in the 4H auto position, at least on the Rubicon, to transmit torque to the front axle if the rear loses grip.

On the road it has a top speed of 170 km / h, but it is useless to hide that it becomes unstable, better to limit it to 120/130 km / h. Excellent very reduced steering (about 4 total revolutions) and smooth but a little slow automatic transmission.

4,80 meters long (over 5 per Utility and ambulance) offers 5 seats but in the luggage compartment it cannot be excluded that two benches can be set up which would increase the number of seats in the longer Utility.

Many as well as the Wrangler over time, they have distorted the essence at the base of an off-road vehicle (for example the elimination of rigid bridges) to get closer to automotive characteristics and improving road performance. In the USA this type of vehicle is used, beyond the fans ofoff road hard, on ranches or dirt roads, to a lesser extent on highways, where they go for the most Compass e Renegade.

Years ago, I had the opportunity to try in Spain an absolutely unprepared version (2.5 petrol), climbing mule tracks and stony ground with the use of reductions. Trying to make use of the four-wheel drive as little as possible to understand limits and reactions: the only problem I had, occurred after a light drizzle during a corner start, where the Wrangler he was leaving without warning in oversteer.

I could say that the Wrangler knows no limits inoff road, but they will soon be i feedback of our military to leave the most appropriate judgment. Evaluations which we will not fail to give voice.

Photo: AADS / Arma dei Carabinieri