The Jeep Wrangler is as much a lifestyle as it is an off-road vehicle, and the JK Wrangler helped intensify that lifestyle from 2007 through 2018. Carrying the torch for off-road enthusiasts, the 2018 Jeep Wrangler marks yet another chapter in this SUV’s storied history that originates with the jeeps that helped lead the Allies to victory in World War II.
As far back as the Jeep’s roots are, the Wrangler name has only been around since 1987. The first “Wrangler” was the YJ, which existed from 1987 to 1995, and it was an evolution of the CJ-7. In 1997, the TJ was yet another evolution of CJ. In fact, it wasn’t until the JK debuted in 2007 that Jeep had its first truly all-new Wrangler.
In similar fashion as the YJ and TJ, the new JL Wrangler started with an already-solid base (the JK) and made numerous improvements for comfort and off-road performance. We’ve already tested the four-door Wrangler Unlimited Sport, but for this test drive review, we got to sample the two-door 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL in its ultimate Rubicon trim level.
2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Exterior
Jeep didn’t completely rewrite the styling of the Wrangler with the JL’s design, but there are enough changes to notice the differences from every angle. For starters, the boxy design is now a little more aero friendly with the a more rounded version of Jeep’s signature seven-slot grille, the windshield is raked back a bit more (which should also limit stone chips) and the hardtop has a small spoiler at the trailing edge. Other aspects like the available full LED exterior lighting (a $895 option) show that Jeep was looking to incorporate popular aftermarket features from the JK into the JL’s design.
Two of the most important design changes for the JL, though, are the two-piece hood latches and the fender vents located just behind the front wheel openings. The Rubicon gets exclusive fenders that sit taller and wider than lower trim levels, and create enough space for 35-inch tires from the factory. As we found out with some intense off-roading, the channel created between the raised fenders and the body tends to pack in mud, which we imagine could potentially lead to paint or body damage if not cleaned properly.
This tester was equipped with the $1,095 Freedom Top, which has also been improved for 2018. The front panels are lighter and can now be kept safe in a handy storage bag, but the best part is the optional $495 headliner that results in a quieter cabin experience.
2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Interior
Like the exterior, all of the changes made to the 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL were relatively minor but immensely improved the overall experience. Like the top, the doors are easier to remove, and they also offer check straps to prevent the doors from swinging open wildly. The new roll cage now makes it even easier to drop the windshield, and the rearview mirror stays in place, too. Unfortunately, the roll bar no longer comes with padding, so rear-seat passengers of this two-door, four-passenger JL bumped their heads a couple times while driving over some rough terrain.
To make off-roading even easier, the Wrangler still has drain plugs to let out any standing water that gets inside, and even the stylish $130 all-weather floor mats had drains! Also, the $795 package for a trailer hitch and auxiliary switches included four switches on the center stack with easy-to-hookup posts under the hood in the power distribution center. On the opposite end of things, the JL Wrangler also gets more high-tech adding Chrysler’s 8.4-inch Uconnect infotainment system (a $1,295 option).
2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Powertrain
When all is said and done, the 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL will offer three engine options: the base 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and, starting with the 2019 model year, the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6. We tested the carryover base engine with its 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, and while a new eight-speed automatic is offered, this tester had the tried-and-true six-speed manual gearbox. With this setup, the 2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon has EPA-rated fuel economy estimates of 17 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway**.
Since the Jeep Wrangler started becoming a mainstream SUV in the late 1990s, Jeep has had the unenviable task of maintaining the Wrangler’s proven off-road prowess while making it a little more user friendly on the road. And the JL Wrangler is the best example of this exhibiting a smoother, quieter ride (with the top on, of course) without losing any off-road capabilities. In fact, the JL Wrangler gets even better off road with room for bigger wheels and tires, and this Rubicon offers up 10.8 inches of ground clearance and locking front and rear with 4.10 gears. The JL Wrangler still has a 2,000-pound towing capacity.
2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Safety
The 2018 Jeep Wrangler has not yet been tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but it does promise improved safety from previous generations thanks to the fully integrated roll cage. With backup cameras now standard on all passenger vehicles under 10,000 pounds, Jeep had to get creative with its placement of the Wrangler’s camera, which is positioned in the middle of the spare tire.
2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Overall
Hands down, the 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL is the best Wrangler yet, with a perfect mix of on-road manners, modern technology and, of course, incredible off-road abilities. With all of the advancements, pricing has gone up considerably from the JK (which was available for the 2018 model year at $23,995*) as the JL has a starting price of $27,495*. The Rubicon is still the top trim level, and this two-door tester came loaded with options and an as-tested price of $47,665. At that price, the Wrangler Rubicon is in the same neighborhood as a base Raptor, Tacoma TRD Pro and Chevrolet Colorado ZR2.
Make sure to visit your local AutoNation Jeep dealership and test drive the Jeep today!
*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.
**Based on 2018 EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.middle of the spare tire