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2018 Jeep Wrangler: New Car Review

Whether it needs it or not, every decade or so Jeep redesigns the Wrangler. It’s that time again, and the new 2018 Jeep Wrangler benefits from sweeping improvements from one end to the other, and from the inside out. According to those deeply involved in the project, two primary goals propelled them: Maintain more than 70 years of tradition, and fix what needed fixing. In our opinion, they stuck the landing.

Styling changes are nuanced rather than in your face, but improvements are many and touch nearly every point on the Wrangler compass. Some big improvements were inspired by Jeep internals who had been chomping at the bit to address some pet peeve like the overly complicated process for folding down the windshield. Others came from Wrangler owners vocal about short comings, such as rear-seat comfort, skimpy rear visibility and the lack of heat vents for backseat passengers.

At the end of the day, the reimagined Jeep Wrangler is the most fuel-efficient, user friendly, comfortable and capable Wrangler yet. Still, there is no mistaking it for anything but a Wrangler.

What’s New for 2018?

The Wrangler is totally redesigned.

What We Like

Traditional styling; multiple engine choices; new 6-speed manual transmission; more comfortable back seat; easier-to-drop top

What We Don’t

Must wait until 2019 for the diesel; launched with same model year designation as current Wrangler

How Much?

$28,190-$41,690

Fuel Economy

Eventually Jeep will offer three (actually four because a hybrid version is on tap for 2020) powertrains for the Wrangler. Returning is a slightly improved version of the current 285-horsepower 3.6-liter V6. V6 buyers who don’t opt for the available new-to-the-Wrangler 8-speed automatic transmission will swap the cogs with an all-new 6-speed manual transmission. Government-estimated fuel economy is 17 miles per gallon in the city and 23 mpg on the highway.

Wrangler purists may do some pearl clutching over the introduction of the all-new 270-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder Jeep is serving up as an option to the V6. There is no reason for alarm. We’ve driven it, and it does what it needs to do on and off road. Hey, and this is the first Wrangler to deliver an estimated 25 mpg hwy! Even more impressive (for a Wrangler) is its 23 mpg city numbers.

Coming for 2019 will be a diesel variant.

Standard Features & Options

Jeep will continue to offer the Wrangler in 2-door and 4-door configurations. Although Jeep has marketed the 4-door for the past decade as the Wrangler Unlimited, you won’t find the Unlimited name in any official 2018 marketing material. The 2018 Jeep Wrangler will simply be referred to as a 2-door or a 4-door. Some options listed are standalone, and others are included in packages. The 2.0-liter turbo and 8-speed automatic transmission, as well as a tow package and modular hardtop are optional across the Wrangler lineup.

The Wrangler 2-door Sport ($28,190) comes standard with the 3.6-liter V6, 6-speed manual transmission, Command-Trac part-time 4WD, 16-inch steel wheels, halogen headlights, fog lights, skid plates, rear-seat heat vents, LED interior accent lighting, push-button start, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, cruise control, an 8-speaker audio system with a USB port, a rearview camera and hill-start assist. Among the options are a limited-slip rear differential, tinted rear windows, LED headlights and fog lamps, air conditioning, remote keyless entry, Uconnect with navigation and hill-descent control.

The Wrangler 2-door Sport S ($31,390) builds on the Sport content with tinted rear windows, power windows, heated outboard mirrors and door locks, 17-in aluminum wheels, air conditioning and remote keyless entry. Options include automatic climate control, remote start, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, nine Alpine speakers, Uconnect with a 5-in touchscreen, Uconnect with an 8.4-in touchscreen and nav system, blind spot monitoring, rear park assist and hill-descent control.

The Wrangler 2-door Rubicon ($38,190) picks up where the Sport S leaves off, adding heavy-duty Dana 44 front/rear axles, front/rear electronic locking diffs, an electronic sway bar disconnect, Rock-Trac part-time 4WD, a body-color grille, auto headlights, rock rails, 17-in Rubicon wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 115-volt power outlet, Uconnect with an 8.4-in touchscreen and nav system and an anti-theft alarm. Available options: LED reflector headlights and fog lamps, blind spot monitoring, a premium soft top, low-gloss black wheels, remote start, leather seats, a heated steering wheel, nine Alpine speakers, satellite radio capability, hands-free calling, rear park assist and hill-descent control.

The Wrangler 4-door Sport ($31,690) comes out of the box with all the standard content of the 2-door Sport plus air conditioning and an anti-theft alarm. Options are the same as the 2-door plus the premium soft top.

The Wrangler 4-door Sport S ( $34,890) has the same standard features and options as the 2-door plus standard anti-theft alarm.

The Wrangler 4-door Sahara ($38,540) includes all the standard Sport S goodies plus auto headlights, side steps, 18-in high-gloss aluminum wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control and Uconnect with an 8.4-in touchscreen and nav system. Most of its options are the same as the Sport S, but add full-time 4WD, a power-retractable top, leather seats and satellite radio capability.

The Wrangler 4-door Rubicon ($41,690) offers the same standard and optional gear as the 2-door version.

Safety

Neither the government nor the IIHS has crash-tested the redesigned Wrangler. Every Wrangler comes with dual front and side-impact airbags, a rearview camera and electronic roll mitigation. Blind spot monitoring and rear park assist are optional on all but the base Sport versions.

Behind the Wheel

Each generation of the Wrangler is more civilized than the last. No one will mistake the new Wrangler’s ride for that of a family sedan as it rolls down the highway, but it doesn’t shake your fillings loose either. Thanks to larger windows and a rear spare tire that’s lowered below the window line, visibility, and particularly rear visibility, is improved. Off road, the Wrangler hasn’t lost any of its edge with its redesign. It will still go places that give bighorn sheep pause. There are certainly better vehicles for running family errands or heading to a black-tie fundraiser, but the Wrangler has no peer in making the most of an outdoor lifestyle or heading off the pavement.

Other Cars to Consider

The Wrangler is really in a class all its own. Ford is going to revive its Bronco, but it’s too soon to tell if it will rise to the Wrangler’s level of off-road competence. In the used-car market, there are some fairly recent models dedicated to going off pavement. The Toyota FJ Cruiser, Land Rover Defender and Nissan Xterra come to mind. As for new vehicles …

2018 Toyota 4Runner TRD Off-Road — When appropriately equipped, the 4Runner can go places most fear to tread, and it can transport five comfortably.

2018 Toyota Land Cruiser — Yep, another Toyota; but this one, with a much higher price tag, has a rich heritage of successfully arriving at those hard-to-get places.

Autotrader’s Advice

The 2018 Jeep Wrangler is the best version of the Wangler yet, and well worth the sticker price — if you can swing it.

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