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Here’s the Easiest Way to Tell Apart the New Jeep Wrangler and the Old One

It’s pretty obvious to anyone, including Jeep fans, that the 2018 Jeep Wrangler looks a lot like the 2017 Jeep Wrangler. This is normally not unusual — vehicles don’t typically change much from year to year — except that the 2018 Jeep Wrangler is a totally new vehicle compared to the 2017 model. New tech, new stuff underneath, new powertrains, new interior, new features … same basic styling.

The styling is so similar, in fact, that I’ve had several people text or tweet me pictures of a Wrangler telling me they liked how the new 2018 model looked, only to be disappointed when I told them that, actually, they were looking at a 2017 Wrangler. I can’t ever recall a "redesigned" car looking so similar to its predecessor.

And so, I’ve decided to help out those of you interested in telling apart the new Wrangler from the old one, with one handy hint that allows you to distinguish between the two models in a split second. And that would be: the grille.

If you aren’t into Jeeps, you probably think the grille from the 2017 Wrangler and the grille from the 2018 Wrangler looks largely identical — same basic shame, same number of vertical slats, same circular headlights. But that isn’t true. There’s one big difference between the two grilles, and that’s the headlights. If you look at an outgoing Wrangler, the "JK" model, you’ll see that the headlights and grille are totally separate from one another. In the new Wrangler, the JL, the headlights actually intrude into the grille slats on the edge — and they do so fairly noticeably, with the curve of the headlight easily making its way into the normally straight line of the grille.

As a result, if you see a shiny-looking Wrangler and you’re unsure whether it’s a new 2018 model or an outgoing 2017 version, just look at it from the front. One glance at the headlights, and you’ll know for sure. Find a Jeep Wrangler for sale

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. Other quick ways to tell are the headlights, bumper, fender flares, and one least likely to get changed quickly the front door windows have a different curve in the bottom right hand corner. 

  2. This reminds me of a clip of old Top Gear where Jeremy is driving around the track and reviewing the new Porsche 911.  He goes on and on for a couple minutes and then you seem him spot something off to the side and goes, “Hold on.  Oh wait, that’s the new 911.” and you see him stop next to another 911 and switch cars.  I think of that every time one of these types of cars are introduced and you can’t tell that they did anything at all.

  3. The backup camera is also a good way to tell them apart. New Wranglers have a factory camera sticking out of the centre of the spare tire. Old Wranglers either don’t have it or would have an aftermarket solution that’s probably someplace else. 

  4. Honestly I dont see much difference between all models of Jeep Wrangler that have ever existed, especially in design – it have not changed for years and years. Maybe driveability is better now, but I have never droven this car so I have nothing to say…or wait, I have something to add – before buying a used car, always ask your seller to provide you FAXVIN reports, and if he refuses to do it, then dont buy such car!

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Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a multitude of magazine publications and websites, including here at Autotrader — where he launched the Oversteer enthusiast blog — along with Jalopnik, GQ, and The Week. His YouTube channel has hundreds of published videos and has racked up hundreds of millions of views. Today, Doug lives in San Diego, California, with his 1997 Land Rover Defender 90 NAS, 2005 Ford GT, and 2012 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG Wagon.

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