The automotive world is focused on the three new pickup trucks unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this, but the real action is 2,000 miles away in sunny Southern California where The Drive happened upon a small convoy of two Jeep Wrangler pickup truck test mules making a lunch stop on Tuesday. In doing so, we managed to uncover a tantalizing detail: From all appearances, it looks like the pickup version will also sport a fold-down windshield.
The long-awaited truck's development has been surrounded by rumors and unconfirmed reports, from its potential use of the legendary Scrambler name to a possible convertible version. With Fiat-Chrysler clamping down on leaks, all we really have to go on are spy photos captured when the Wrangler pickup prototypes are sent out for some real-world testing—that is, until we managed to get up close and personal with one at a Burger King parking lot in Santa Monica, California.
After spotting the bedded Wranglers driving around on Tuesday, we watched as they pulled into the lot and the drivers got out to head inside. One of them unfolded a tarp and quickly covered the mule he was driving, while the other simply walked away. Thus, we're able to bring you this impromptu photo session at such a wonderful restaurant.
Its appearance is obvious, as it has been from the start: A four-door JL Wrangler with a bed. From the cab forward, it looks pretty much identical to the SUV, sporting the new fender-mounted turn signals and LED headlights. But most importantly, it also looks to have the same exact windshield design as the new model, meaning it should fold down. Much of the area below the glass was covered with padding, but an exposed corner revealed the telltale seam running horizontally below the glass. There are also two suspicious bulges near the edges under the camouflage, right where the hinges should be.
A Fiat-Chrysler spokesman declined to comment, citing the company's policy against discussing future product plans.
All that shared architecture means shared dimensions, so it's over five inches narrower than the Ram 1500 pickup. But out back underneath the pickup bed, a suspension setup that seems aimed at stabilizing loads takes inspiration from its corporate cousins.
A previous leak seemed to show the Wrangler pickup truck frame would be 205 inches, which would put its overall length in the ballpark of 215-220 inches. That's at least two feet longer than the four-door Wrangler SUV, and just a bit shy of a full-size pickup. In person, it does look a little long; the narrow width and large overhang behind the rear axle add to the effect. But it's by no means obscene.
The inside isn't very helpful; this is very much a test mule, with an interior cobbled together from the old JK Wrangler and a simple cloth bench in the second row. But it's always gratifying to see an old-school transfer case lever, and we hope Jeep is in the process of testing the four-wheel-drive system in more exotic locales. Expect the pickup's final interior to mimic the new Wrangler SUV.
Overall, it's clear that Fiat-Chrysler knows a Jeep Wrangler pickup needs to be more Wrangler than pickup to succeed, and the result is a truck that looks like it's preserved enough essential Jeep DNA to win over the faithful and new converts alike. As we took pictures, several people wandered up to ask what it was, and every one of them seemed delighted at the idea of a Wrangler pickup. We'll be watching to see if any more specific details leak out ahead of the truck's debut next year.