Which is why I'm going to call your Wolverine reference a strawman.
Wolverine is a person. He looks the way he looks and changing that drastically just makes no sense. But TFs are known for changing their altmodes and changing appearance is kinda their schtick. Different altmodes for TFs are like different gear and uniforms for humans. And lord knows Wolverine has changed his uniform plenty over the years.
I disagree with your thesis that TFs are known for changing their alt modes. To the extent that we are talking. Remember you're talking along the lines of sleek motorcycle to tank or helicopter. I'd argue that that sort of change is actually pretty rare in Transformers. Far more common is say, becoming a different make of jet or a different model of car or truck. Where the general alt-mode family is kept and just the details are tweaked.
That, I would say, is equivalent of changing clothes. However, changing between a motorcycle and a submarine (to pic something at random) is not that usual or comon. That's the sort of change I see as counter to what I want to see when updating a character. Wolverine changes his uniform yes, but he's never changed into a six foot tall Andorian, cause that's the toy we have to work with repaintwise and he is a mutant they have secondary mutations and change (look at Beast).
Ok, yes that's a bit exagerative, but my point is that Human or Transformer there are some physical traits and parts of their nature that I think is important to maintaining the character. I'd actually argue this to be MORE important for someone like Afterburner who never got to get much characterization because being the "Technobot motorcycle" is actually a good portion of who he is for folks as a character. Lose that and you loose Afterburner IMO.
ZacWilliam, in the end of course it's personal taste and preference how much it matters to anyone. I'm not against alt mode changes ever absolutely in no circumstances can it ever work, but I know if I want a homage to an old guy, personally, capturing that old guys alt form at least passably is as important as the robot look.
I can see your point about drastic altmode changes but only for characters that, again, are defined by that altmode.
Well let me take your comments on Afterburner. You say he's defined by his altmode because he doesn't have much else. I say that makes him perfect for some reimagining seeing as all we really need to stick to with this guys is a group of smart dudes with techy bodies. We can give Afterburner just about any alt mode. I mean his name already makes no sense on a motorcycle so if he's lucky we can even help him out with that (and it occurs to me that all the Technobot limbs have flight mode style names but I digress). Characters with so little development open themselves up to far more change.
And I really wanna distance myself from comparing change in a TF to change in a human character as it really makes little to no sense.
Aside from Lightspeed, the Technobots traditionally didn't actually have anything to do with technology or even being smart (they're all 6 INTs, aside from Lightspeed at 8 and Scattershot at 7). The only place they've ever been science-y is IDW, which I assume happened because Furman doesn't tend to actually research the character quirks of who he writes. (I mean, I still love the guy, but he never once wrote Weirdwolf with his speech tic, and that's his entire character.) I just felt it prudent to bring that up.