When Jeep announced the all-new Wrangler, the company claimed to have focused on improving on-road refinement, safety, and fuel economy. As the current Wrangler is already superbly off-road capable, I was totally convinced this 2018 model was going to go soft.
It hasn’t. Jeep seems to have pulled off the impossible, improving on the Wrangler in every way.
How’s it going to be better off-road? Well, the most capable version, the Rubicon, gets 33-inch tires as standard, and has room for owners to fit ones up to 35 inches in diameter. It gets a new six-speed manual and eight-speed automatic, both with exceptionally low gearing in four-low, has electronically locking differentials front and rear, and even gets an electronic sway bar disconnect, capable of improving axle articulation over tricky obstacles.
Those are all really great upgrades, and Jeep could have still impressed by stopping there. But it went further. Would you believe that this more-efficient, more modern Wrangler actually has steeper approach, departure, and breakover angles? Those are what dictate how steep or tall of an obstacle the Jeep can drive onto, off of, or over, and they’re the best of any road-legal vehicle on the market.
On-road, the Wrangler will also benefit from that new transmission, which will work in concert with new and revised powertrains to boost both performance and fuel economy. No MPG numbers have been released yet, but by cutting weight, improving aerodynamics, and adding the new motors, they should improve significantly. (A plug-in hybrid version will be available in 2020.)
Versions other than the top-tier Rubicon also benefit from the inclusion of full-time four-wheel drive—a Wrangler first. That will improve the Wrangler’s safety in inclement weather.
The base engine will be the same 3.6-liter V6 from the outgoing model. It’s a minivan motor, sure, but it also get the job done, with respectable performance and economy at a very low price. From there, you’ll be able to spend up to a more advanced, more efficient 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. That should pull a little harder, weigh a little less, and retain its performance at altitude—a problem the current Wrangler struggles with. But it’s the 3.0-liter turbodiesel, and its 442 pound-feet of torque, that has us salivating, even if it is only available with the new auto box.
Jeep also says the Wrangler should be quieter and more refined inside. Ride quality is said to be much improved, as are noise levels.
Both two- and four-door models will be available with soft or hard tops. And now those soft tops will be zipper free, for easier use and improved longevity.
But it’s the most irrelevant improvement that's most telling about the care put into the 2018 model. Unexpectedly, and in defiance of all common sense, Jeep has chosen to retain the previous model’s folding windshield, with some important upgrades. In the current Wrangler, folding said windshield is a laborious process that involves removing multiple parts and impairs the vehicle’s safety in a rollover. In the new Wrangler, however, Jeep's added an additional cross bar to the roll cage at the top of the windshield. That enables you to drop the glass by removing just four bolts and it retains the rearview mirror when you do.
Jeep didn’t have to do stuff like that to keep selling the Wrangler. That they did is just awesome.