While Jeep has thoroughly previewed both the exterior and interior of the all-new generation of the ubiquitous SUV before the official presentation in front of the worldwide audience of the Los Angeles Auto Show, this is by far the most important home arrival for the venue.
Jeep has introduced the Wrangler at the Californian show, now offering all the juicy details – while promising “more of everything” for the latest iconic off-roader. “Redoing the Wrangler, it’s like Halley’s Comet,” comments Ralph Gilles, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Head of Design. “It only comes around once in a while.” And just like the celestial object comes the same every time it passes Earth, only with slight alterations – this is how the Wrangler arrives in front of the public. It’s just about the same package – in terms of design, but Jeep says they made no compromises with the JL-generation Wrangler, “In fact the only thing that isn’t more is weight,” adds Mike Manley, the Jeep boss. The hood, doors, and windshield frame are now aluminum, so the 2018 Jeep Wrangler saves around 200 pounds – 90 kilos – compared to the outgoing machine. There’s also a new frame – with increased use of high-strength steel for better rigidity. Aluminum is also used for the rear swing gate, along with magnesium. Steel is still in use for certain important elements – the rear fenders or the sport bars.
There are also practicality improvements – the old windshield needed 28 bolts to get undone, now the new one has just four bolts. Once folded, it can also be fully removed via another two bolts. In terms of design, new or updated elements include a keystone shape for the grille, new rounded headlights, a refreshed bumper with relocated daytime running lights and turn signal and also halo-ring running lights in the LED headlights – while the Jeep logo has been relocated on the front fender. Interior space is bigger now thanks to the front wheels moving forward by 1.5 inches to allow for the use of the new eight-speed automatic transmission, with the rear ones moved 1.0 inch in the two-door and 1.5 inches in the four-door Unlimited for additional legroom. The top has three options – a hardtop, the removable “Freedom Top” with simpler use, a modified convertible top – which can also be used in a cantilever-like configuration. And last, but not least, a new powered soft top – easy to use but non-removable.
Now for the mechanics. One thing that comes unchanged is the 3.6-liter V6, with start/stop now and six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic option – good for 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, the same as before. Fuel economy is better though – 17 miles per gallon city and 23 mpg highway with the manual, and 18/23 mpg with the automatic. The main introduction is the 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four, packing 268 hp and 295 lb-ft, linked to the automatic and in mild-hybrid configuration. It uses a belt starter-generator and a 48-volt battery; great for stop-start performance and low-speed acceleration – and arrives with no impact on off-road prowess or fording depth, 30 inches when traveling at 5 miles per hour. After the introduction, “at a future model year,” the Wrangler will also gain a 3.0-liter turbodiesel engine, including for the US market.
Off-road lovers have the same options – selectable transfer case with two- or four-wheel drive options, but also something new: “4Auto” automatic mode on the Sahara trim level. The Dana axles on all models (Dana 44 for the Rubicon) have also been updated. Wrangler chief engineer Brian Leyes adds the maximum crawl ratio has soared from 73:1 to 84:1, with the Rubicon naturally being the most focused version. It has an inch lift above the Sport and Sahara trims, with 33-inch off-road tires, electric lockers front and rear, and electronically disconnecting anti-roll bars. The well-known on-road handling issues might be fewer now with the longer wheelbase, suspension enhancements and the electrohydraulic power steering. The interior is the one key area that warrants the generational switch – with easier controls for the locking differentials and sway-bar disconnects; a new center console as well as a new instrument cluster with color display that also shows the transfer-case position. Real metal trim is also present, along with a “Redical” optional trim to match the Rubicon’s functional recovery hooks. New technology includes blind-spot monitoring, forward-collision warning with automatic braking, while towing capacities remain the same – 2,000 pounds for two-door and 3,500 pounds for the Unlimited.