Offers more refinement with no compromise in off-road capability
More technology and greater safety
Tops are easier to use
New engine choices
On sale January 2018
Jeep tends to go about a decade, and sometimes more, between introducing new generations of the Wrangler -- an eon when it comes to generational cycles, really -- so when they do, it’s newsworthy. Add to that the fact that the Wrangler is as iconic a vehicle as they come, and it becomes a huge deal. The latest iteration seeks to meet the rigors of the legendary off-road capability that won it its legions of fans, while putting on a sheen of refinement to assuage city slickers who like the idea of owning a Wrangler but not all of the rough edges that come with driving one day in and day out.
Underpinning all of the new gewgaws is a new steel frame with five cross-members that can handle some pretty gnarly trails. It’s complemented by a new suspension so that it’s as enjoyable to drive on-road as it is off the beaten path. Initially, the Wrangler will only come in four-door Unlimited model, but later in the year, we’ll see the two-door version.
Unless you’re a diehard Wrangler fan, or you have sharp eagle eye for details, you won’t notice much of a difference between the current Wrangler and the new one. The basic shape and key design features remain, such as the seven-slot grille and round headlamps. The minor differences can be seen in some of the front lighting elements and angled fender vents. You will probably notice that it’s longer than before, as the Wrangler Unlimited stretches by about 3.5 inches. No, it’s not very different, but Jeep aficionados would not have it any other way.
Like every Wrangler, the JL comes standard with a soft top, only now, it’s much simpler to remove and install. Those who seek a more primal experience can take off the doors with the standard removal kit, as well as the fold down or do away altogether the windshield with the mere removal of four screws.
Speaking of roofs, you can get a Freedom Top hardtop with removable panels over the driver and front passenger, saving many a couple from arguments about sun exposure. You can get it in body color for the Sahara and Rubicon models.
New for the year, you can get a power operated roof called the Sky One-Touch, a canvas that runs on tracks and opens up the cabin and lets the outside in, or closes it when the weather turns inclement.
The new Wrangler Unlimited comes in Sport, Sport S, Sahara, and Rubicon trim levels. In the S, you’ll find cloth upholstery and such features as a reversing camera, push button start, and improved interior bits, materials and a more sophisticated design compared to the current version.
Depending on the model, you can get trim color for the dash that matches the exterior. As before, the interior and all of its electronics are still waterproof, and the floor has a drain plug, so you can simply hose off the remains of that muddy adventure.
You can get civilized features such as heated front seats and steering wheel. Step up to the Sahara model to get leather upholstery and the aforementioned Sky One-Touch power-operated canvas top. Audio upgrades are available, as are a host of Mopar accessories.
Under the Hood
Initially, the new Wrangler will only be offered with the 285 horsepower 3.6-liter V6 that propels the current Wrangler. You can get a six-speed manual gearbox, or an optional eight-speed automatic transmission.
Later in 2018, Jeep will start offering a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 268 horsepower; it’s partly motivated by a mild hybrid system with a battery powered by regenerative braking. It minimizes the effects of the dreaded turbo lag, and of course, it helps with fuel efficiency. Jeep even talked about a turbodiesel it will offer for the Wrangler in 2019.
Staying true to its rough-and-tumble roots, every Wrangler comes with 4-wheel drive; the base S trim level has a ground clearance of 9.7 inches and skid plates to protect the fuel tank and transfer case. It also comes with trailer sway control, hill start assist, and front and rear tow hooks in case you get yourself stuck in a rut.
Depending on the severity of the road that you intend to travel, you can get more sophisticated systems and specialized equipment. The most rugged Rubicon trim level gets you 33-inch tires, 10.8-inches of ground clearance, a front anti-roll bar that disconnects for greater wheel articulation, all adding up for a truck with the ability to tackle boulders and streams with depths of up to 30 inches in places like the Moab, or, like its namesake, the Rubicon Trail.
Occupant safety has not been a particular forte of a vehicle that lets you ride with no doors, but the new Wrangler addresses some safety concerns by installing standard side-impact airbags, strengthening the affixed B-pillars and roof structure for improved crash test performance.
Available active safety technology includes a blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert and a rear view camera with dynamic grid lines.
Jeep offers three different UConnect infotainment systems, depending on which trim level you get. There’s a basic 5-inch screen version, a 7-inch, or an 8.4-inch version. The latter two will give you Apple CarPlay and Android Autos smartphone projection, while the largest one comes with a navigation system. Fans of rock crawls will appreciate the Off-Road Pages feature that allows you to keep notes of off-roading statistics from your adventures.