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Nine Things to Know About the 2018 Jeep Wrangler – The Short List

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Some things you just don’t mess with, like America’s Bill of Rights or the secret recipe for Coca-Cola.

You also don’t screw with the Jeep Wrangler. Make any compromises and the off-road faithful will come out in hordes, armed with weaponized rock rails and flaming assist straps.

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For 2018 this legendary mud-slinger is brand new, totally redesigned from winch mount to swing-gate. Improved and refined in nearly every way, here are nine of the most important things to know about the heavily updated Wrangler.


9. It Still Looks Like a Wrangler

Aside from offering beastly capability this Jeep must look the part. It’s got to be boxy, have a seven-slot grill and ride taller than a Clydesdale horse. Anything less is sacrilegious. And as one can plainly see, the 2018 edition looks exactly as it should, though there are a few notable changes.

For instance, this new model’s windshield is more aggressively raked for better aerodynamics; it also folds down more easily than before. LED head- and fog-lamps are optional and there’s a backup camera integrated into the rear-mounted spare tire, another bit of important Jeep DNA.


8. Weight Loss

Moving on to point No. 8, while no lightweight, the new Wrangler has supposedly lost up to 200 pounds (91 kg), though the Unlimited Rubicon model still clocks in at around 4,500 (2,041 kg).

Cutting fat, the engine mounts, steering gear, doors, hinges, hood, fenders and even windshield frame are all made of aluminum, while the rear swing-gate is magnesium. Additionally, the track and stabilizer bars are hollow and brake master cylinder lighter.


7. NEW ENGINE OPTIONS!

Unlike last year’s model, today’s Jeep Wrangler can be had with several new powerplants. As before, a trusty 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 is still offered. Newly refined, it’s rated at 285 horses and 260 torques.

But brand-new for 2018 is a 2.0-liter turbo-four, one that’s good for 270 ponies and 295 foot-pounds. It’s also augmented by FCA’s new eTorque system that adds lots of mild-hybrid functionality like electric power assist, transmission shift management and even regenerative braking.

A 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 is also scheduled to join the lineup in 2019, an option that’s sure to whip the Wrangler faithful into a meringue-like froth.

As for gearboxes, a familiar eight-speed automatic is offered with each engine, though that Pentastar unit can also be paired with a six-speed manual, the D478, which is built by Aisin.


6. Nicest Wrangler Interior Ever

Engineers made myriad changes to this venerable nameplate, but designers also had a field day. JLs have the nicest interior in Wrangler history.

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For starters, it’s got a push-button start, something that was exclusive to the luxury-car segment just a few years ago. Our Rubicon test model also featured a hand-wrapped instrument panel with fancy stitching. Additionally, there were nicely textured soft plastics on the door panels.

As for comfort, the front seats are cut for bulkier clientele than this scribe and are pretty flat. Rear-seat legroom could also be better for lankier passengers. Head-space is generous.


5. Tech This Out!

Point No. 5 is technology. The new Jeep Wrangler offers all kinds of nifty niceties for 2018. Three versions of FCA’s Uconnect are available, including one with an 8.4-inch screen and navigation. As it has been since day one, this is still one of the easiest to use and most responsive systems of its kind on the market.

Most versions also support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while four USB ports ensure everyone’s devices are fully charged.

Easing the driver’s burden are available features like blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, a backup camera with dynamic gridlines and more. Clearly, this Jeep is no longer just a rough-and-tumble mud buggy but a vehicle that would be easy enough to live with every day.


4. It’s Still a BEAST Off Road

Every version of the Wrangler is Trail Rated, whether it’s a base two-door Sport model or a loaded Unlimited Rubicon. This vehicle is purpose built for off-roading and the 2018 model is still a BEAST. From the driver’s seat it feels like NOTHING can stop it, not water or mud, rocks or ruts, hills or gullies.

Providing this off-road self-confidence is a fully boxed frame with Dana 44 live axles front and rear. Suspension articulation has also been improved for 2018 thanks, in part, to a disconnecting stabilizer bar. Rubicon models also come with locking differentials for added traction.

Approach, departure and breakover angles are all industry leading… at least according to Jeep. Ground clearance also clocks in at nearly 11 inches, while it can safely drive through 30 inches of water.

Our Unlimited Rubicon tester was also equipped with 17-inch aluminum wheels wrapped in nasty 33-inch tires. Tubular steel rock rails protected the body from damage, while a phalanx of underbody skid plates shielded delicate mechanical components.

If you want to drag a trailer, every version of the new Wrangler is rated to tow up to 3,500 pounds.


3. Surprising Refinement

Even though this vehicle can climb like a mountain goat, its on-road civility is damn impressive. Without a doubt, it’s the most refined Wrangler ever, smoother, quieter and more comfortable. Hell, even the manual shifter has been improved. It’s now cable-operated, with throws that have been reduced by 50 percent… 50 PERCENT!

Despite its civility, you’ll NEVER confuse this vehicle’s manners with those of, say, a Mazda CX-5. You’re always aware that the body is supported on a pair of iron logs.

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While it’s not harsh, the Wrangler’s ride is pretty bouncy. It also tends to wander quite a bit, so it’s best to keep two hands on the wheel. Amazingly, body roll is well controlled, despite this being a VERY tall vehicle.

The JL may feel nothing like a car-based utility but its refinement is pretty remarkable considering how capable it is off-road.


2. There’s Plenty of Power

Next up is performance. The 2018 Wrangler isn’t the fastest thing on four wheels, but it’s got plenty of pep. This 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 and manual gearbox are a pleasant pair. This engine is incredibly smooth and quiet, though it does need to rev quite a bit before the JL moves with any haste.

The clutch is fairly light and take-up point broad, though it engages pretty close to the floor, which feels unusual, though this isn’t a complaint. Most clutches tend to hook up higher in the pedal’s range of travel.

Minimizing fuel consumption, stop-start technology kills combustion when the vehicle isn’t moving. It, too, is an exemplar of smoothness.


1. Tons of Testing?

Finally, we come to quality. According to FCA, the JL has undergone about 4 million miles of testing in places ranging from Arizona and Alaska to Italy and even India. Making it one of their most rigorously evaluated vehicles ever, but apparently that wasn’t enough.

The first model I was loaned crapped out entirely, which left me and a cameraman stranded on the shoulder of a busy highway for four hours until the fleet-management company brought a replacement. Its engine simply cut out while cruising along at 65 miles an hour, which was incredibly dangerous, doubly so considering it was still dark outside, foggy and that the hazard lights weren’t working.

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Essentially, the electrical system completely shutdown. In an attempt to rectify the issue, I even disconnected the battery, but to no avail. The engine wouldn’t start – it wouldn’t even crank over – the brake lights were inoperable and the interior was flashing like Times Square on New Year’s eve. Totally FUBAR.

A Jeep spokesman later explained that Wrangler No. 1 was about the 500th example off the line, meaning it was a super-early build. He also said that water had interfered with some of the vehicle’s electronics, which caused the seeming demonic possession. Hopefully they’ve added some additional weatherproofing to prevent this from happening to anyone else.

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