2018 Jeep Wrangler: Video Review and Road Test
Remaking a legendary vehicle like the Jeep Wrangler is tricky business. But with the all-new 2018 Jeep Wrangler, the division has stayed true to the iconic styling and off-road abilities, while enhancing its everyday usability. Micah Muzio sizes up the 2018 Wrangler in this Video Review and Road Test.
When updating an automotive icon it's easy to mess up. The new vehicle cannot be the same but heaven help you if you make it too different. With the newest JL generation Wrangler has Jeep somehow managed to elevate the King without angering the villagers? Short answer, yes but the long answer is pretty interesting.
Don't let the evolutionary exterior design fool you. Within the first hundred feet it is clear something's changed. This Wrangler doesn't drive like a tent, it drives like an SUV. With the longer wheelbase, wider track, and a well sorted suspension, ride quality is actually quite good. Especially compared to Wranglers of the past. Another major leap forward is the steering. It's linear and responsive with what I would describe as ideal resistance. I mean yes, there's still a little bit of slack but the days of driving a Wrangler like a 1950's movie car are over.
Considering its on-road refinement you're probably wondering has the Wrangler devolved into an off-road poser. No, it has not. All the critical angles, approach, departure, ground-clearance have improved versus the JK Wrangler. For 4-wheeling action there's no bad Wrangler but true off-road connoisseurs will want the Rubicon with its robust Dana 44 axles, electronic locking front and rear differentials, electronic front sway bar disconnect, hardcore crawl ratio, 10.8 inches of ground clearance, heavy-gauge steel rock rails, and 33-inch tires. Though they are all-terrain tires so depending on your plans you might want to upgrade to mud and snow tires. The Rubicon also looks cooler with higher fenders, a vented hood, and red hooks; because you can't conquer mother nature without red hooks.
With good judgment and maybe some help the Wrangler Rubicon can scale serious terrain. Nonetheless most Wranglers will live their lives in Civilization. If you're the kind of person that likes to look rugged but not live rugged there are a number of details that make this the most civilized Wrangler yet. Unimpeded driver sight lines are made possible by larger windows and a lower belt line that also places the window sill at the right height to rest your arm. Soft door materials keep that arm comfortable as do equal height arm rests. The doors have detents to hold them open and the cup holders have an integrated phone slot.
Compared to Wranglers of yore, the JL's interior quality is a revelation. Even so there are plenty of brawny touches. Those are real bolts securing the HVAC controls, the silver trim is actually metal-plated, the controls are properly grippy and knurled, there are grab handles for the front passenger on the A-pillars and in the four door on the B-pillars as well. And if you're worried about having your stuff stolen both the glove compartments and the large center console are lockable...Tim.
Where passenger accommodations are concerned the Wrangler's cabin provides excellent headspace up front. Helping the driver dial in their preferred driving position is a steering wheel that tilts and telescopes along with 2-way driver seat lumbar support. Oh boy. In back you'll enjoy decent spaciousness, standard rear vents, and seat backs that are more reclined than the old Wrangler but that do not recline. Go 2-door and you'll lose one back seat and about two and a half inches of legroom. Out back is plenty of cargo space and the rear seats fold with no fuss for larger loads.
Okay, let's talk tops. There's a hardtop with removable roof panels, a hardtop with a full-length power retractable cloth roof that opens up to 60 miles per hour, and of course a standard classic soft top. With either of the hard tops installed unstrained conversation is no problem. The soft top is a little bit louder but not offensively so.
Of the three tops the soft-top is my favorite for two reasons. One, it affords the best view out and two, accessing that view is miraculously simple. Come with me won't you? The most significant change if you've ever had a Jeep previous to this one, a bunch of zippers, there are no more zippers. Literally it's just tabs and all the windows just slide right out. Let's go this way. Yeah, get out of here, you window. Let's pull the sides. Same deal, got these little spots right here. Just pull them up. Oh, I'm making this look harder than it is. This will get easier. This is like the first time I've actually taken it off. You know what? I am doing this the dumb way. There we go. See? It gets easier as you do it.
You go back up front here you have two releases. Flip them, flip them, throw this thing back and this enables what's called the Sun Rider position. Plenty of air but if you want to drop the whole mess there's a single latch right under here. Pull and then flop it on back. Sweet. Now the real trick how long will it take for you to put all this mess back together? Let's time it and go. Not bad for an amateur. Yeah, it's all there.
Drive topless and wind throughout the cabin is pleasantly breezy. And not unlike the Lamborghini Huracan Spyder, the windshield header is far forward, filling your gaze with beautiful blue skies. The Jeep Wrangler isn't just a great off-roader it's a great convertible. For maximum effect, remove a few bolts and you can ditch the doors. Note, there's a clever grab handle right here the makes these things easier to carry. Jeep has smartly made reinstallation a breeze by using different lengths door pins and stamping the Torx tool size right onto the hinge.
The doors also weigh less, as does the hood, windshield surround, and exterior tailgate skin thanks to our old friend aluminum. That plus expanded use of high-strength steel gives us a Wrangler chassis that's stiffer yet comparatively svelte. Blending lightweight materials, improved aerodynamics...no really...and new engines, the Wrangler is decently efficient. I'd love to tell you all about the efficiency of the 2-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder but those details weren't released before making this video. Head over to KBB.com if you're curious.
What I can tell you is that the 4-cylinder is fantastic. Nothing about its operation says small displacement turbo. It even pulls well at super low revs, which is really helpful if you're crawling over boulders. As a bonus, the turbocharger allows the 4-cylinder to produce the same power at altitude as it does at sea level. Teamed exclusively with a smooth and responsive 8-speed automatic transmission, the 4-cylinder is also equipped with eTorque, a system that saves fuel with the engine start/stop and regenerative braking abilities of a mild hybrid.
If you'd rather drive a V6 you're in luck. Displacing 3.6 liters, the standard V6 moves the Wrangler with gusto and noise. The 4-cylinder is actually the torque-ier engine but unlike the four the V6 comes with a standard 6-speed manual transmission, for those holdouts who still change gears themselves. Rounding out the engine lineup in 2019 is a 3.0-liter diesel, 8-speed automatic combo. Lastly, if you plan to tow the 4-door Wrangler can manage up to 3,500 pounds.
Slightly more than $28,000 including destination will buy you a base two-door Wrangler Sport with crank windows, manual locks, 4-wheel drive with a 2-speed transfer case, four airbags, push-button start, a washable interior with removable carpet and drain plugs, a backup camera, 8-speaker audio, and this neat information plaque on the swing gate, but not air-conditioning. Budget an extra $3,500 if you'd like four doors.
Exploring the option sheet and higher trims unlocks passive entry, leather or premium cloth seats, heated front seats, extra USB ports, rear parking sensors, LED head, fog and tail lights, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, a limited slip differential, integrated auxiliary switches, and SelecTrac full-time 4-wheel drive for the Sahara trim.
A 5-inch touch screen comes standard but the optional fourth-generation UConnect infotainment system is a worthwhile upgrade. Offering an appealing interface, pinch gesture controls, large 7- or 8.4-inch screens, and smartphone integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. One more cool element is the windshield. Remove four bolts and the windshield wipers and it flips right down. There is no better way to commune with nature then getting some of it your teeth. Theoretical Wrangler competitors might include the Chevy Colorado ZR2, the Toyota 4runner especially in TRD pro guise, Ford's mysterious future Bronco, and I don't know how about a Mazda Miata?
Honestly there's nothing quite like the Jeep Wrangler. It's an open-air American legend built to go where few dare. Buying into that dream always meant sacrificing livability but with the Wrangler JL it's no longer true. It's a blast to drive, no matter how you drive it. Remaking an icon is tricky business but Jeep absolutely nailed it. The latest Wrangler is universally better and yet, against the odds, its rugged spirit endures.