I attended the launch event of the new 2018 Jeep Wrangler late last year. As you might expect, we did some road driving but the real action took place on the off-road courses. What stood out for me then was how relatively comfortable the Wrangler was on the beaten path.
Many of these first drive happenings take place in areas where the climate is clement and where the roads are not comparable to a war zone, as they are in the greater Montreal Area. In Arizona, last December, I was once more made to understand that the Jeep Wrangler has no true equal when it comes to conquering the wild jungle. As the majority of Wranglers never venture that far into the unknown, I wanted to sample it in the old urban jungle.
All-new and true
The all-new Wrangler JL is tough to spot when it drives by that is unless you know what you’re looking for. The turn-signals built into the front fenders and completely clean front grille are some of the most obvious features. The slightly extended wheelbase is all but invisible but if you know the JL, the JK, the YJ, the CJ and so on and so forth, you’ll spot one easy.
The cabin is where the most attention was paid. Although the windshield’s rake is greater than the JK’s, it’s still far more upright than the Tower of Pisa. This “lean” seems to have allowed designers to conceive what may go down in history as the Wrangler’s first ever real dashboard.
Lovely and rugged cabin
Quite honestly, and being a Jeep Wrangler mindset, the interior is nearly luxurious. The multiple surfaces and pieces are well put together and surfaces are nice! The HVAC controls look solid and purposeful. The 7-inch cluster display and the 5-, 7- or 8.4-inch touchscreen show lovely graphics, are clear and extremely intuitive – this multimedia system is far more user-friendly and up to date than what you’ll find in more expensive vehicles. Do I need to add that this is the 4th generation Uconnect system? Still one of the greats.
The levels of available equipment can transform the Wrangler from rudimentary off-road tool to a near-luxury truck. There is a price to pay, however. For starters, a base 2-door Sport is not a $25,000 toy, or even a $30,000 runabout! Pricing starts at $36,090 and adding two extra doors move the price tag to $43,990 for an Unlimited Sport S!!
Lots of money, lots of improvements
As tested, with the 8-speed automatic transmission, polished wheels, cold weather and technology groups, the Wrangler retailed for $49,000. I still cringe slightly when I think that a somewhat “basic” 4-door Wrangler is nearly $50k!!
But, as they say, it’s a Jeep thing and I don’t understand. Be that as it may, for the first time, well second since attending the launch event, I’m beginning to get it. And this is a direct result of FCA’s considerable use of high-strength steel, aluminum and magnesium in the name of improving stiffness and adding lightness.
The resulting structure improvements are felt throughout the driving experience. My hood is known for a few things such as poutine, strip clubs and perpetually bad roads that are constantly under repair, or is that disrepair?
Best driving Wrangler ever
Anyhow, previous road tests with Wranglers never helped my understanding as to why anyone in their right mind would actively pay for such a terribly uncomfortable ride. Now however, the Wrangler behaves like a mildly sleep-deprived Logan and not the bar-brawl-take-no-prisoners Logan. Over rougher surfaces, the Jeep will still shake slightly but it’s tolerable. Heck, it’s a Jeep.
The 3.6-litre V6 is perfectly suited to this vehicle, more so than any other FCS product in which it serves. Its 285-horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque are willing and able and I’ve got nothing but praise for the 8-speed automatic transmission.
Now jungle is off limits
If you’re concerned that the Unlimited Sport S is not adequate for occasional off-roading, stop. It is still sports Dana axles, a 2-speed transfer case and Jeep’s Command Trac part time shift-on-the-fly 4×4 system. Ground clearance is just shy of 10 inches so swimming with hippos is not out of the question.
Even if approach and departure angles mean the Wrangler can climb a tree, it still handles a paved surface with an expertise once reserved for all other SUVs. This is what’s begun the mental switch for me. My Wrangler would absolutely get the dual tops for $2,395. It cuts down on wind noise, the sense that you’re not driving a tent and makes accessing the boot so much easier.
As for competition, nope…