When it comes to being a symbol of American pride, engineering, and capability, the Jeep Wrangler stands out as a unique automobile that has always proven to be a sales success for FCA (in its various incarnations) over the past several decades. With the future steering towards murkier waters, FCA needed to make sure that the 2018 Jeep Wrangler could continue to appeal to its loyal fanbase, while also bringing much needed capital to FCA’s bottom line. On that front, it appears that Jeep has once again produced a solid winner.
The exterior styling of the 2018 Wrangler is a tasteful evolution of the basic formula that has made the Wrangler a success among younger buyers, though this evolution may not be very obvious at first glance. Indeed, it is still very reminiscent of the current generation “JK” platformed Wrangler which was first introduced in 2007. However, a closer look reveals several key changes that aim to bring more refinement and capability to the crown jewel of the Jeep brand.
The basic layout retains its rugged pedigree, but it also adapts to the modern world, thanks to features such as a spare tire mounted rear backup camera, as well as push button start, with the latter item making its appearance in the Wrangler for the first time ever. The quest for higher fuel economy has affected all vehicle segments, and even the Wrangler has had to make several changes to allow it to adapt to this ever stricter category. Unlike the old all steel JK model, the “JL” Wrangler incorporates aluminium into its construction, with the lightweight material making its appearance in some of the body panels to help improve its rather subpar fuel economy to an extent. Even the fold down windshield gets in the act, and what once took 90 minutes and 28 bolts to achieve, transforms into a simpler job that involves four bolts, and reduced setup time.
Along with its more upright grille, bigger tail lights, and fender mounted turn signals, the 2018 Wrangler sends a strong message to fans that it has not gone soft, and that it is still capable of going where many vehicle offerings wouldn’t even dare, including fording up to 30-inches of water.
The interior continues the evolutionary theme that is seen in the exterior, with the 2018 Wrangler featuring FCA’s latest iteration of its popular Uconnect infotainment system, as well as a smaller screen that is melded to its still distinctively analog instrument cluster. The dashboard is still tall and shallow, but round air vents are a nice improvement, and an increase in USB ports aim to make the Wrangler more adept at accepting mobile technology than ever before.
Three top options are avalible, and in addition to the hardtop, an easier to install soft top is also available, as well as an all new power operated top that can be considered a bigger version of Jeep’s MySky roof system. The trail ready cabin also offers occupants more passenger room especially in the Unlimited model, which is slightly wider than before, but has a reduced turning radius thanks to an all new electro-hydraulic steering system.
Higher grade materials are also on deck, and while the Wrangler will still play second fiddle to the Grand Cherokee in terms of amenities and comfort, the materials that are present are noticable improvements over the aging JK variant, and should help it become a slightly more livable companion out on long treks.
Performance for the 2018 Wrangler will initially come from two engines, with a slightly updated iteration of the familiar 3.6 liter Pentastar V6 resuming its volume oriented role. Good for 285 horsepower and a solid 260 lb-ft of torque, this latest version benefits from several tweaks that were designed to help boost fuel economy. An optional four cylinder also makes its appearance in the Wrangler after a 10 year absence, and allows the Wrangler to go hybrid–sort of. The turbocharged four banger produces 270 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, and is paired with a belt driven belt/generator system that draws electricity from a 48- volt system. This mild hybrid setup was designed to improve fuel economy, as well as engine performance in low engine rev situations.
However the real news will be the addition of two new engines to the Wrangler. A 3.0 liter turbodiesel capable of producing 260 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque is in the cards for 2019, as well as an all new PHEV model though Jeep did not elaborate on that model’s performance credentials.
The V6 can be equipped with either a six speed manual or an optional eight speed automatic that quietly retires the old six speed unit. The four cylinder is automatic only, but both models get standard all-wheel drive to help them be trail ready right out of the box.
Jeep has already started production of the 2018 Wrangler, and the first examples will trickle into showrooms early next year. Initally it will be sold alongside its predecessor before the JK platforms official retirement in 2018.