Without a doubt, the Jeep brand has been a global success story for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. While the Wrangler is still very much the rugged, traditional standard-bearer for the brand, its singular purpose and construction limit its popularity among customers with little intention of going off-road.
Many Jeep customers are simply attracted to the brand for its rugged reputation and styling. Consumer tastes and regulatory realities are at a loggerheads in much of the world, with exhaust emissions and fuel consumption goals getting tougher every year.
To meet the two seemingly conflicting objectives of meeting consumer demand for SUVs while meeting ever-tighter environmental regulations, Jeep debuted the Yuntu concept at this year’s Shanghai Auto Show.
Solid details on the Yuntu are scarce, with Jeep only saying, “This new concept includes futuristic exterior design, flexible interior and a plug-in hybrid powertrain. SUVs are the fastest-growing segment in China and the Jeep Yuntu Concept showcases the potential for the Jeep brand to keep expanding in the country.”
The Jeep Yunto Concept made its debut Wednesday at the Shanghai auto show, and it appears to be a plug-in hybrid. The automaker has been tight-lipped about the concept's drivetrain, but the vehicle on display in China clearly shows "PHEV" badges on the front doors.
No surprise there, as the Chinese government is currently pushing alternative fuel vehicles in a bid to reduce fuel consumption and emissions while also tackling the country's air pollution problem. Jeep hasn't said if or when the Yunto will yield a production model, but if it does show up at Chinese dealers, the plug-in hybrid would be the first of its kind there for the brand. Yunto means "cloud" in Chinese.
While the concept retains many of the design cues that have made Jeep a global icon—including the vertical, seven-slat grille and wide footprint—there are plenty of elements that indicate this concept has more interest in the future than in the brand's past.
It’s believed the Yuntu is loosely based on the Cherokee and may use some of the drivetrain components out of the Pacifica Hybrid minivan.
The concept is a three-row crossover with an upright, yet modern, profile. The interior features natural-wood accent trim and contemporary, minimalist displays and controls.
We don’t altogether hate the looks or the idea of the Yuntu, although the Jeep traditionalists will likely howl at the idea of a plug-in Jeep. LED headlamps, an open, airy cabin, and an interior that seems heavily influenced by Scandinavian design all indicate the concept design is something new for Jeep. Motor 1 reports that a production version of the Yunto would likely only be for the Chinese market, though a Chrysler version might show up in the U.S. at some point down the line.
That would be a welcome addition to either brand's lineup, as the company's sole plug-in hybrid in the U.S. is the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan, now just entering the market.
A three-row Jeep plug-in hybrid would fit well with the company's current portfolio, offering customers the rugged aesthetic they've come to appreciate while improving fuel economy at the same time. Analysts have speculated that plug-in versions of both the Yunto and any Chrysler derivative would likely be powered by some version of the Pacifica Hybrid's driveline.
That marries the company's ubiquitous 3.6-liter V-6 to a pair of electric motors, powered by a 16-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack that sits in the well otherwise used for the minivan's trademark Stow'n'Go folding second-row seat.
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