I’ve driven many new Jeep Wranglers over the last two decades. I love them every time but I never get upset when I return it a week later. The sole exception may have a green manual 2-door 2005 Unlimited but even then, I could not suffer through another week of shakes, noises, rattles and general torture and discomfort. Clearly then, I’m not a dye-in-the-wool Wrangler guy.
I’ve participated in a number of off-road driving events with many car manufacturers in the past, including Land Rover and Jeep. Of them all, this introduction to the new 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL was the most hair-raising of them all. The rock-climbing exercises brought my jaw inches from the ground. Yes, and without a doubt, the new Wrangler is the most capable off-roader straight out the box ever. But you and I expected that.
Refined for more love
What I certainly did not expect despite reading some of the material before the drive event is that the new Jeep JL is one I would enjoy hanging on for an extra week. FCA’s done a commendable job transforming the Wrangler into a daily vehicle that will not require barf-bags, ear-plugs or an appointment with a chiropractor. Truly, the words refinement and Wrangler have never been uttered in the same sentence, until now.
Let’s begin with the building blocks. The new Wrangler is now served up with loads of high-strength steel, aluminum and magnesium, all in the name of lightening the load by 200 lbs. (90kg) and improving stiffness and NVH. I know, I can’t believe the words I’m writing either. If you are concerned that the new Wrangler no longer is true or authentic, fear not for it is. Ease your mind, and continue reading on.
The suspension’s been retuned for better on-road comfort, the wheelbase is slightly longer, but fear not, this Jeep will still forage (up to 76cm), climb rocks, mountains better than all others anywhere near, or above its price point. This Jeep Wrangler sports a list of standard and available off-road goodies that makes grown men and woman who love to get down and dirty salivate.
Still boss off the beaten path
Beyond the ground clearance, greater approach and departure angles and a tighter turning radius are two available 4×4 systems that crush it, period. The Command-Trac setup and its 2.72:1 low range and neutral gear are great for good times with buddies. The Rock-Trac and 4:1 low-gear ratio, Tru-Lok electronic locking differentials and electronic front sway-bar disconnect will leave your buddies stranded at the bottom of the hill unless they bring their own Rubicon. Did I mention it was still the king of off-roaders?
For those seeking the Wrangler experience without the Wrangler experience, the Sahara gets Jeep’s Select-Trac full-time AWD with locking 4-HI and 4-LOW. Its street-biased Bridgestone tires also improve steering response which is leagues ahead of where it was thanks to its standard for all new electro-hydraulic steering.
So, one of the many stories surrounding the new Jeep Wrangler is how cultured it has become. Despite this, the Wrangler endures the sacred beast it is, true to its heritage. In other words, it is refined, yet authentic.
The cabin is on the receiving end of a massive upgrade but much like the driving experience, the Wrangler’s interior quarters remain authentic. In fact, Jeep designers went so far as to be inspired by design elements founds in the old Jeeps and incorporated them into the new truck. The end result is a unique-to-Jeep instrument panel that houses various screen sizes, numerous storage areas loaded with a plethora of techno must-haves.
The instrument cluster features 3.5” or 7” configurable screens, matched by 5” (Gen3 Uconnect) or 7” and 8.4” screens with the latest Gen4 Uconnect on the center stack. The materials, including stitched leather available are Grand Cherokee worthy. The new more supportive seats are appreciated however the absence of adjustable lumbar support on the passenger side (standard for the driver) forced me to wiggle in my seat for a better position.
Go for boost!
The driver evidently has all the fun. New with the 2018 JL Wrangler is the Alfa Romeo Giulia derived 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder. This one punches out 270 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque on tap at very low rpm. If you were planning on the 285 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque 3.6-litre V6 with the 8-speed automatic (6-speed manual available), I strongly recommend spending an extra $995 for the boosted 4-pot. It will be better on fuel and is far more responsive.
If you’re in no rush to purchase a 2018 Wrangler (starting price is $33,945) or are concerned about the 2.0-litre’s reliability, I’ve got another reason for you to wait. For the 2019 model year, FCA will throw in an optional 260 horsepower and 442 lb.-ft. of torque 3.0-litre turbocharged EcoDiesel V6. I know I want it.
From a certain distance, the JL generation Wrangler looks unchanged from the previous JK. It is true that they are similar but this is again in keeping with keeping it authentic. The round headlights are back but HIDs are now available. There are functional vents here and there and you’d never guess it but the 2018 Jeep Wrangler is about 10% more aerodynamic than the JK. Jeep designers did an incredible job of updating the Wrangler all the while remaining true to the icon that it is.
The final piece of news related to the new Wrangler pertains to the various available tops. There’s an all-new Sky One-Touch powertop, two different hardtops and the classic soft top. All of these are now easier to operate and can be handled by a single person. The levers are simple and panels can be removed or installed in mere seconds.
Most well-rounded Wrangler ever
There has never been a better, more complete Jeep Wrangler. The new JL can do it all, from the daily commute in certain comfort, hauls loads of gear thanks to its larger cabin and can still conquer the great outdoors.
For the unconditional fan, the price hike is no big deal so I’ll leave it at that. The volume Sahara Unlimited starts at $45,745 and if you want one now, they’ll be in showrooms in a few weeks.