The Jeep Wrangler is one of the most iconic SUVs available, so when Jeep took the wraps off the 2018 Jeep Wrangler (JL), the world took notice. Now we finally got our chance to drive the all-new 2018 Wrangler and we can report that so much has changed, but at the same time it stays true to its iconic roots.
While some SUVs have gotten softer over the past few years to appeal to crossover hungry buyers, the Jeep Wrangler is just as rugged as its always been, but for the latest generation, a lot has changed to make it more livable. But before we get to the long list of upgrades and changes, we can tell you what hasn’t changed. The shape is similar, you can still take the doors off, its solid axles are ready for whatever you throw at it and you can still fold down the windshield. The 2018 Wrangler will easily satisfy diehard Wrangler fans, but it’s also a little more refined and easier to live with everyday.
The wheelbase is longer, its powertrain is more fuel efficient, the doors are lighter and you can fold down the windshield easier and faster. Both the two and four-door Wrangler models have grown a bit. The Wrangler two-door is 2.8 inches longer and its wheelbase has been stretched 1.4 inches. The Wrangler four-door is 3.8 inches longer and the extra 2.4 inches between the wheels adds more legroom for rear passengers. It’s also marginally wider and its track has been widened by 2.5 inches. While most buyers probably won’t be able to see the extra length, the biggest difference is a longer hood, which was needed to make room for the new eight-speed automatic transmission.
While the outside looks like what you’d expect from a Wrangler, with styling cues borrowed from the CJ-5, the interior has been completely modernized. The dashboard is all new and features the latest version of Chrysler’s Uconnect infotainment system. The new large touchscreen, push button start and digital screen in front of the driver immediately make the 2018 Wrangler feel more up to date. Jeep was quick to point out that even though there’s a lot more technology inside, it can still withstand a rainstorm.
You can also get heated seats if you opt for the optional leather wrapped seats and there’s a new power top version that provides another option if you don’t want the hardtop or traditional soft top version.
Under the hood the powertrains have also been modernized. The 3.6L V6 returns and generates 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft. of torque. The V6 is mated to either a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic transmission. If you want something more modern, choose the turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder with its eTorque mild-hybrid system. The four-cylinder is only available with the automatic. Next year, the 2019 Jeep Wrangler will be available with a 3.0L EcoDiesel.
Even with the more modern interior and updated powertrains, the Jeep Wrangler can still tackle whatever you throw at it. If you choose the Wrangler Rubicon, it now rides on 33-inch wheels, the largest ever fitted on a Wrangler, although you can bolt on 35-inch wheels if you choose. After spending an afternoon driving several Wrangler models off-road in California’s Santa Monica Mountains we can attest to the fact that the Wrangler is just as tough as its ever been. An an electronic disconnect front sway bar, locking front and rear differentials and several skid plates are ready for the unpaved path.
Before you scoff at the new four-cylinder, you need to know that its more than adequate for the job. There’s no turbo lag and its more than capable of getting the Wrangler over that hill in front of you. On road, the four-cylinder is refined and quiet. The improved efficiency thanks the mild-hybrid system is also an added benefit. It’s worth noting that the mild-hybrid system is just the first electrified Wrangler, since a plug-in hybrid version will eventually be added.
The 3.6L V6 is also a fun and adds some zip to the Wrangler. It also has a nice exhaust note. Mated to the six-speed manual, the 3.6L V6 is sportier than past Wrangler models.
While the powertrain improvements, 200-lb weight reduction and more modern interior are welcome upgrades, it’s all about how much more livable the 2018 Wrangler is. In the past, Wrangler buyers have always had to make a compromise with a cramped interior, outdated electronics and a poor on road driving experience. The 2018 Wrangler is now more than ever, a Wrangler that you could commute to work in. The soft top has been redesigned, to make the interior quieter and it’s also easier to fold down. No more zippers. If you decide to put the top down, you can now have a full conversation with your friends.
So there you have it, the 2018 Jeep Wrangler still appeals to diehard Wrangler fans, but it will now also appeal to more buyers, since its now more livable than ever.
Pricing for the 2018 Wrangler starts at $26,995, but it gets pretty close to $50k if you opt for the top spec Wrangler Rubicon.