2018 Jeep Wrangler: First Drive Review

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceJeep Wrangler
The most iconic model in the Jeep lineup, the Wrangler has been redesigned for the first time in 10 years, still tracing its roots to the original World War II U.S. military vehicle that originated the Jeep name. As the next generation in a long legacy, the 2018 Wrangler stays true to its heritage in design and off-road capability while evolving with new fuel-efficient powertrains, improved on-road dynamics and advanced safety and technology.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceExterior Design
Although considerably larger than its precursors, the all-new 2018 Jeep Wrangler remains surprisingly true to the shape and overall design of the 1945 CJ-2A, the first civilian Jeep based on the military Willys-Overland MB. The 2018 Wrangler retains its 7-slot grille and round headlights, although the grille is taller and wider, with a keystone shape that is wider at the top and tapers in at the bottom. The headlights intrude slightly into the two outer slots of the grille — a subtle design cue from the CJ-2A, which required larger headlights than the MB, resulting in headlight intrusion.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceMore Aerodynamic
The redesigned grille sweeps back at the top, and the traditional clamshell hood is flatter and has been reshaped for improved aerodynamics. The windshield tips back slightly to improve aerodynamics as well, but it can still be folded flat to the hood, and now only requires the removal of four bolts for folding instead of 28 for the previous model. The 2018 Wrangler’s beltline has been lowered, and the side windows are larger for improved visibility. The rear window is also larger, and both the wiper and the center high-mounted stop light have been moved down. A rearview camera is incorporated into the center of the rear-mounted spare tire, and the traditional square taillights offer available LED lighting and contain modules for the blind-spot monitoring system.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceModel Lineup
The 2018 Wrangler is offered in four trim levels: Sport, Sport S, Sahara and Rubicon, with Sahara offered exclusively as a 4-door Unlimited and the other three available in both 2-door and 4-door Unlimited versions. For those looking for a blank canvas, the Wrangler Sport is a true base model with manual windows, manual door locks, manually-adjustable mirrors, no air conditioning and 17-inch steel wheels painted low-gloss black. The Sport S adds power windows, power door locks, power heated mirrors, deep-tinted rear window, deep-tinted rear quarter windows, air-conditioning, keyless entry and 17-inch aluminum wheels painted high-gloss silver. Command-Trac 4-wheel drive with a 2-speed transfer case is standard for Sport and Sport S. The 2018 Wrangler Sport 2-door starts at $26,995 with the Sport S at $30,195 and Rubicon at $36,995. The 4-door Wrangler Unlimited versions start with the Sport at $30,495 followed by the Sport S at $33,695, Sahara at $37,345 and Rubicon at $40,495. Prices above do not include a destination charge of $1,195. Price increases over the 2017 model vary depending on trim level, from $2,600 for the Unlimited Sport to $3,350 for the Rubicon 2-door, with the Sport 2-door at $3,000 and the Sahara at $3,100.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceWrangler Rubicon
The most capable off-road Wrangler, the rugged Rubicon features higher fenders to accommodate more suspension travel, 2-piece fender flares, a vented hood and standard 17-inch aluminum Rubicon polish/painted Low Gloss Black wheels, or optional 17-inch aluminum Rubicon textured Low Gloss Black wheels. Suspension articulation and total suspension travel are improved with electronic sway-bar disconnection and standard BFGoodrich K02 33-inch off-road tires. The Wrangler Rubicon includes the Rock-Trac 4×4 system with heavy-duty next-generation Dana 44 axles, a “4LO” ratio of 4:1 and standard Tru-Lok locking front and rear differentials. Off-road specs include an approach angle of 44 degrees; a breakover angle of 27.8 degrees; a departure angle of 37 degrees; and 10.9 inches of ground clearance. Rubicon can ford up to 30 inches of water. The available “Donut Door” offers a view through the door when off-roading, and a new half-door design will be available in 2019.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceWrangler Sahara
The most refined Wrangler ever offered, the 2018 Wrangler Sahara is equally capable off-road with a standard Command-Trac 4-wheel-drive system and — for the first time ever — an available Select-Trac transfer case with full-time 4-wheel drive. Sahara features standard Peak embossed cloth seats or optional leather seats in black or black and tan two-tone with Light Tungsten contrast stitching throughout the interior. Two-piece body-color fender flares with a black lower insert are standard on Sahara and available on Rubicon.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceUnder the Hood
Jeep’s Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 engine gets upgraded for the 2018 Wrangler, while a new 2.0-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder engine with eTorque technology and a 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 join the Wrangler lineup as options. The revised 3.6-liter is rated at 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque with Engine Start-Stop standard, mated with a new standard 6-speed manual transmission or an optional 8-speed automatic. In response to consumer demand for a diesel engine option, a 3.0-liter EcoDiesel engine will be available for 4-door Wrangler variants starting in 2019. The diesel is rated at 260 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque, combined with an 8-speed automatic designed to handle the additional grunt. Engine Start-Stop is standard, and new turbocharger technology improves low-end performance.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceeTorque Engine
The new 2.0-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder engine is rated at 270 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, mated with the 8-speed automatic transmission. Considered a mild-hybrid engine, the 2.0-liter eTorque features a 48-volt electrical system and can apply torque from the electric motor directly to the driveline. Hybrid functions include auto stop/start, electric power assist, extended fuel shut-off, transmission shift management, intelligent battery charging and regenerative braking. The engine and fuel flow may be turned off when the vehicle is stopped, but also when coasting or when the vehicle is decelerating. The Pentastar 3.6 will be available at launch in January 2018, with the 2.0-liter following later in 2018.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceInner Space
Inside, the new Wrangler seeks a perfect balance between rugged and refined while staying authentic to its past. Designers wanted the interior to harken back with heritage-inspired details such as the Willys Y-spoke motif steering wheel and center stack. The dash design emphasizes the width with painted panels in Satin Silver for Sport, Grillz silver on Sahara and Redicial Red for Rubicon. The instrument cluster includes either a 3.5-inch or an available 7.0-inch FTF information display. At the top of the center stack is a 5.0-inch touchscreen for Sport with available 7.0-inch or 8.4-inch touchscreen for the latest-generation Uconnect system. At the bottom four integrated auxiliary switches are included for accessories. New for 2018, all Wranglers feature body-colored sport bars, which are welded to the body with integrated grab handles. The rearview mirror is mounted to the sport bar so it stays in place with the windshield lowered.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceOpen-Top Options
The Sunrider folding soft-top is standard for all trim levels, and a new Premium Sunrider soft-top is optional for all 4-doors and the Rubicon 2-door which adds two additional bows to better support the fabric, reduce wind noise and improved ease of use. The rear window and rear side windows replace the zippers with a new retainer system that slides into a groove for easier removal and installation. The Freedom Top 3-piece removable hardtop is optional for all trim levels, with a body-color 3-piece hardtop available for Rubicon and Sahara. New for 2018 is the Sky One-Touch power-top optional for Sahara and Rubicon Unlimited with a power-retractable full-length canvas top and removable rear quarter windows.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceBody-On-Frame Design
The new Wrangler continues its traditional body-on-frame construction with an all-new frame design that utilizes high-strength steel to reduce weight by 100 pounds over the previous model. Total weight savings for the 2018 Wrangler is 200 pounds via aluminum and other weight-saving measures. Aluminum panels and components include doors, hood, fenders, hinges and windshield frame. The rear swing gate has an aluminum outer panel and magnesium inner section. Additional weight savings come from hollow track bars, hollow stabilizer bars, aluminum engine mounts, an aluminum steering gear and a larger, lighter master cylinder.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceSuspension
The 2018 Wrangler continues with its proven 5-link suspension front and rear. The roll center height has been raised and spring rates retuned for a better ride around town, while the shocks have been re-tuned to strike a better balance between on-road handling and off-road capability. Shock tuning, hard points and body-mount strategy have all been revised to improve on-road comfort, body-roll control and handling.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceMopar Performance Parts
Jeep knows that Wrangler owners enjoy customizing their vehicles, and Mopar will offer more than 200 Jeep Performance Parts and accessories at launch for the 2018 Jeep Wrangler. New Mopar products available for the new model include Jeep Performance Parts LED off-road lights, lifts kits, beadlock-capable wheels and rock rails. New first-ever Mopar accessories for the Wrangler will be offered, including a roof rack for mounting Mopar carriers, and a tailgate table compatible with the production Trail Rail storage system.

© FCA US LLCOn the Road
The 2018 Jeep Wrangler Sahara is certainly the most refined Wrangler yet — smooth and quiet on the highway, it’s on par with other SUVs for everyday use. The electro-hydraulic power steering and 18-inch all-season tires provide good steering response and the ride is well controlled with little body roll. The Pentastar 3.6-liter and 8-speed automatic provide good acceleration and on the street the Sahara can almost make you forget Wrangler’s off-road legacy. As expected, both Sport and Rubicon are not as smooth and quiet as the Sahara on the highway, due in part to all-terrain tires. But both versions are still the most evolved to date; easier to live with day-to-day, but closer to the original. The new 2.0-liter turbocharged eTorque engine is really interesting, with good power, lots of torque and really smooth start-stop function. Because it uses the electric motor to start from a stop, the restart is virtually seamless without the rough start and slight delay experienced with start-stop on other 4-cylinder engines.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceOff-Road
Even though the new Wrangler is more at home on the street, it will come as no surprise that where it really shines is once it leaves the pavement. We drove on dirt roads up into the mountains outside Tucson before tackling a very technical off-road course that included serious rock crawling. We put the Wrangler Rubicon in low range with the sway bar disconnected and both front and rear differentials locked and literally crawled up a wall of rocks with the BFGoodrich KO2 scratching and clawing for every inch. It was by far the most technical and intimidating off-road driving we have ever done, but with the Wrangler Rubicon as the proper tool and an expert spotter, the Jeep made it feel easy.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceRight for You?
The all-new Jeep Wrangler is an authentic vehicle, true to its heritage and fun to drive. It’s not for everyone and doesn’t try to be, but with continued on-road refinement it’s not the compromise that it used to be as an everyday vehicle. The wide variety of top options, including the new Sky One-Touch power top really make it a 4-season vehicle with exceptional winter capability and top-down fun for summer. The price has gone up, but there is no doubt that the new 2018 Wrangler is the most advanced and refined version yet, remaining true to the past and continuing to deliver legendary off-road capability. If you’re looking for a fun vehicle with a rich history and off-road capability, the new 2018 Wrangler may be right for you.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceRating: 9.0
Pros: New design remains true to its heritage; more refined on-road yet retains legendary off-road capability; new 2.0-liter eTorque mild hybrid engine.
Cons: Average price increase just right at $3,000; Off-road capability still a compromise on the street.
Bottom Line: Best example yet of Jeep’s iconic off-road vehicle.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

Luxury

2019 Roll-Royce Cullinan: First Drive Review

Rolls-Royce of SUVs When people refer t…

Read more

SUV

2020 Mercedes-Benz EQC: First Look

New EQ Brand Mercedes-Benz introduced t…

Read more

Enthusiast

200 MPH on the Highway . . . and No…

Speed Without Limits It doesn’t matter …

Read more