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All-New 2018 Jeep Wrangler Test Drive Review

They say legends never die. However, legends do age. For more than a decade, the JK version of the Jeep Wrangler has been a legendary off-roader, going over the roughest terrain on the planet. We’ve been lucky enough to drive JKs up vertigo-inducing steep grades, through mud, and over the chaotic rock formations that wind across ranch land. The JK Wrangler is still an incredibly capable vehicle, but the rampant demand for SUVs means the Wrangler needs to adapt and offer more up-to-date styling, technology, and powertrain options.

We’re happy to report that the Wrangler has done just that. Jeep gave us the chance to learn that first-hand by flying us out to Arizona, where we tested the all-new, totally reengineered, and completely redesigned 2018 Wrangler on- and, of course, off-road.

2018 Jeep Wrangler Exterior

The new JL version of the Wrangler features more evolutionary than revolutionary styling. It bears a resemblance to the model it replaces, but looks more muscular and aggressive. If you look closely, you’ll see some interesting touches. For instance, notice the way the round headlights (which can be halogen or LED, depending on how you order your Wrangler) curve into the first and seventh slots of the signature Jeep grille. That’s a heritage-inspired touch from the Jeep CJ-5. It leans back as it approaches the hood to be more aerodynamic. In fact, Mark Allen and his design team at Jeep have incorporated a number of tricks to make sure the new Wrangler produces nine percent less drag than its predecessor, such as a reclined windshield and tapered back end.

Jeep combined that better airflow with less weight. The Wrangler’s doors, hinges, hood, fenders, and windshield frame are now made out of lightweight aluminum. Jeep stated that changes such as those reduced the two-door Wrangler’s weight by roughly 140 pounds and made the Unlimited more than 200 pounds lighter than it used to be.

Allen and his crew also gave the Wrangler more wheelbase. The two-door model has 1.4 more inches of it (96.8 total); the four-door Unlimited has an additional 2.4 inches (118.4 total) to give people in the second row more legroom. Two-door Rubicons have 44 degrees of approach angle, 27.8 degrees of breakover angle, 37 degrees of departure angle, and 10.9 inches of ground clearance. It’s basically the same case for the four-door Rubicon – except for breakover angle, which is 22.6 degrees.

Seeing out of the Wrangler is easier thanks to more greenhouse glass. To get even more of an eyeful of your surroundings, you can remove the doors and lay the windshield down. The hinges – which now allow the doors to stay open and still – are stamped with the Torx bit tool size you’ll need to take the doors off. To lower the windshield, just remove the wipers and pull out four bolts. A backup camera is a welcome – and stress-reducing – addition to the Wrangler’s design. The same goes for its new keyless entry and start system.

The Wrangler is available with a multitude of top options, from the Sunrider soft top to a black hard top to a body-color hardtop to a button-activated Sky One-Touch power top. Wheel sizes range from 17 to 18 inches. The Rubicon’s wheels are surrounded by 33-inch BF Goodrich KO2 All-Terrain tires.

2018 Jeep Wrangler Interior

The smaller Wrangler can be ordered as a Sport, Sport S, and Rubicon model. Its larger Unlimited sibling is available in the same trim lines, as well as Sahara. No matter which model you choose, the inside of the new Wrangler is an attractive blend of the past and present.

There are numerous homages to Jeeps of yesteryear, such as the line of round elements on the dashboard and the stamped metal plaque with Wrangler stats inside the swing gate.

Sport models feature Black McKinley or Heritage Tan embossed fabric inspired by mountainous terrain. According to FCA, “The premium interior found in Wrangler Sahara models features [embossed fabric and] Black McKinley leather, wrapped Monaco vinyl and topstitched with Light Tungsten accent stitching, and Platinum Chrome bezels. The unique Grillz paint on the mid-bolster sets the tone for the two-tone Heritage Tan and Black McKinley leather interior with Light Tungsten stitching.” Rubicon cabins are decorated with cloth or leather seats with embossed “Rubicon” logos, Platinum Chrome bezels, and “Redical Red” accents.

Five-, seven-, and 8.4-inch center screens and the available fourth-generation Uconnect system bring the Wrangler into the 21st century. The larger displays feature pinch, tap, and swipe capability; clearer resolution; Apple CarPlay; and Android Auto. Using the convenient and well-designed Uconnect setup in the Wrangler was so easy that it barely required thinking.

2018 Jeep Wrangler Performance

The new Wrangler is available with three different engines. The entry-level power plant is the 285-horsepower/260-lb-ft 3.6-liter Pentastar V6. A new 2.0-liter I4 with a twin-scroll turbocharger and 48-volt eTorque hybrid technology is the midrange offering. It pumps out 270 horsepower and 295 lb-ft. According to FCA, eTorque includes “auto stop/start, electric power assist, extended fuel shut-off, transmission shift management, intelligent battery charging and regenerative braking. Both the engine and fuel flow may be turned off during stops, coasting or when the engine is decelerating.” Both gas engines help the Wrangler pull 2,000 pounds and the Wrangler Unlimited tow 3,500 pounds. The flagship engine is an enhanced 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 with 260 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque, but it won’t be out until 2019.

A six-speed manual is still an option for Pentastar-powered Wranglers. An eight-speed automatic replaces the JK’s old five-speed unit. The EPA crunched the numbers and calculated that the gas V6 is capable of 17 city, 23 highway, and 19 combined mpg with the manual gearbox and 18 city, 23 highway, and 20 combined mpg with the automatic.**

This writer found the 2.0 to be peppy and responsive. The JL’s lighter weight meant the Pentastar had less metal to get down the road than it did in the past – and I could feel it. More importantly, I was able to sense how much better the JL’s retuned shocks made it ride on the road.

A variety of four-wheel drive systems and transfer cases enable the Wrangler to get over rough land. Wrangler Sport and Sahara models use the part-time NV241 Command-Trac 4X4 system. The full-time MP3022 Selec-Trac four-wheel drive system is optional on the Sahara. The Rubicon comes standard with the part-time NV241OR Rock-Trac setup, an electronic sway bar disconnect up front, Dana 44s, and Tru-Lok electronic locking differentials.

I used an automatic JLU Rubi to get up the complex course Jeep set up at Saguaro Ranch in Marana, Arizona. Its 77.2:1 crawl ratio (manual Rubicons have an 84.2:1 ratio) and perfectly tuned 4LO throttle gave me the ability to climb over large chunks of stone and make it up to the land’s windy peaks. The JLU’s skid plates kept the rocks from opening up my test vehicle’s oil pan.

2018 Jeep Wrangler Safety

The new Wrangler is available with more than 75 safety features. Aside from four standard airbags, some of those include Blind-spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Path detection, that much-needed backup camera we mentioned earlier, and electronic stability control with roll mitigation.

2018 Jeep Wrangler Overall

Legends never die. With its new looks, improved technology, and more modern powertrain options, the JL Wrangler will make sure Jeep’s most recognizable SUV will live on for years to come.

2018 Wrangler prices start at $26,995 for the Sport and $36,995 for the Rubicon. Jeep has priced the Unlimited Sport from $30,495, the Unlimited Sahara from $37,345, and the Unlimited Rubicon from $40,495.* The all-new Wrangler will arrive in showrooms in early 2018. You can buy your very own piece of the Wrangler legend at an AutoNation Jeep dealership.

*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.

**Based on 2017 EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.

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