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2019 Jeep Wrangler: New Car Review

Replacing an automotive icon can be a tough task. Fix what needs fixing, enhance what needs enhancing, but don’t change so much that you alter what made it an icon in the first place. The 2019 Jeep Wrangler is a textbook example of how to do it right. Now in its second year since it was completely redesigned, the new Wrangler JL generation satisfies everything a Jeep lover loves, while making this hardcore off-roader more comfortable and livable for those with softer core requirements. 

Though the styling is instantly recognizable, the axles still solid and the multiple roof designs still removable, everything was meticulously reworked or reimagined to create a better Jeep Wrangler. Take the new Sunrider soft-top roof, for instance. Long a royal pain, not only is it easier to remove, but it provides many more options than just "raised" and "lowered" to manage airflow and sunshine for your preferred driving experience. And speaking of which, being behind the Wrangler’s wheel is made better entirely thanks to improved steering, a more civilized ride, a new fuel-efficient turbocharged engine option and a new 8-speed automatic transmission. And yes, you can still get a manual. See the 2019 Jeep Wrangler models near you 

Now, for good and bad, these updates haven’t turned the Wrangler into some cushy family crossover. It’s still louder, rougher and more cumbersome on-road with fewer airbags. It won’t be for everyone, but that’s OK. This icon doesn’t need to be.

What’s New for 2019?

After being completely redesigned last year, there are no changes to the new JL Wrangler. However, there is a new Advanced Safety Group that features adaptive cruise control and forward-collision warning.

What We Like

Go-anywhere off-road capabilities; distinctive style and driving experience; multiple engine choices; unique body style; clever convertible roof choices

What We Don’t

Still crude in comparison to crossovers and less rugged SUVs, with more noise and cumbersome handling; few airbags

How Much?

$24,000–$41,500

Fuel Economy

At the time of this writing, there are two engines available for the 2019 Wrangler. A third, fuel-sipping turbodiesel will eventually be available.

The standard engine is a 3.6-liter V6 good for 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Estimated fuel economy with the standard 6-speed manual transmission is 17 miles per gallon city, 23 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined. The optional 8-speed automatic gets a bit better at 18 mpg city/23 mpg hwy/20 mpg combined.

Optional on all Wrangler models is a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder good for 270 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. It comes only with the automatic and returns considerably better fuel economy: 23 mpg city/25 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined in the 2-door Wrangler and 22 mpg city/24 mpg hwy/22 mpg combined in the 4-door Wrangler. Now, it does require premium fuel, but it’ll still save you an estimated $200 per year in fuel, or $1,000 over the course of five years.

Standard Features & Options

The 2019 Jeep Wrangler is available in 2-door and 4-door configurations, both of which are offered in Sport, Sport S and Rubicon trim levels. The 4-door adds the more feature-rich and comfort-oriented Sahara trim level.

The Wrangler Sport trim comes standard with the 3.6-liter V6, 6-speed manual transmission, Command-Trac part-time 4WD, 17-inch steel wheels, all-season tires, skid plates, hill-start assist, fog lights, a backup camera, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, cruise control, a 5-in touchscreen, a USB port and an 8-speaker audio system. Air-conditioning is optional on the 2-door, but is included on the Wrangler 4-door.

The Sport S adds power locks, mirrors and windows, plus 17-in alloy wheels, keyless entry and a security alarm. It also opens the door to some options. These include the Convenience Group (remote ignition and a universal garage opener) and Technology Group (dual-zone automatic climate control, a 7-in Uconnect touchscreen interface, an instrument cluster display and satellite radio). A limited-slip rear differential is optional on both Sport and Sport S.

The Rubicon gains heavy-duty Dana 44 front/rear axles, front/rear electronic locking diffs, an electronic sway bar disconnect, upgraded Rock-Trac part-time 4WD, rock rails, all-terrain tires, special wheels and styling elements, automatic headlights, upgraded cloth upholstery, a 115-volt power outlet, a second USB port and the contents from the Convenience and Technology groups. Heavy-duty winch-capable bumpers are optional.

The 4-door-only Sahara reverts to the Sport’s mechanical equipment but includes the Rubicon’s comfort, convenience and technology items. It also has 18-in wheels, all-terrain tires, tubular side steps and its own distinctive styling elements.

Every Wrangler can be optioned with the turbocharged engine, an 8-speed automatic, a tow package and a black 3-piece modular hardtop. It can be body-colored in the Rubicon and Sahara. A premium soft-top is optional on every 4-door Wrangler and the 2-door Rubicon.

All but the Sport is eligible for the following packages. The Active Safety Group adds rear parking sensors, a blind spot monitoring system and LED taillights. The Advanced Safety Group adds those items, plus adaptive cruise control and forward-collision warning. The Cold Weather Group adds heated front seats and a heated steering wheel.

The Rubicon and Sahara can be equipped with the Infotainment Group that adds an 8.4-in Uconnect touchscreen, an auto-dimming mirror and a 9-speaker sound system (available separately). The LED Lighting Group adds LED headlights, foglights, parking lights and daytime running lights. Leather upholstery and a headliner for the hardtop are also optional.

Finally, a late addition to the 2018 Wrangler was the Moab Edition. It hadn’t been confirmed for 2019 at the time of this writing, but it is essentially a Sahara with Rubicon styling, wheel/tires and most of the above optional content.

Safety

Every Wrangler comes with only front and side-impact airbags. Like other convertibles, there are no curtain airbags. A rearview camera and stability control are also included. Forward-collision warning and blind spot monitoring are optional on all but the base Sport versions.

The new Wrangler has yet to be crash tested by a third party.

Behind the Wheel

The new JL Wrangler is far more civilized than the old JK. Steering response and feel in particular are greatly improved, although its solid front axle suspension still yields a weird sawing response atypical of just about everything else on the road. Some may find it charming, others may find it spooky. Ride quality and visibility are also much better than before, and in general, it’s so much easier to live with the Wrangler on the day-to-day basis or take it on a road trip. We also love the new soft-top roof design, which allows you to remove the rear panels for air flow but keep the top bit in place to prevent sunburns.

Inside, however, is where the Wrangler’s newfound civility will most be appreciated. Materials quality is much better, comfort has greatly been improved (especially for those in back), and feature content is through the roof, with most of the toys in Jeep’s playpen now available. The latest Uconnect touchscreens, some of the most user-friendly in the industry, are particularly welcome.

And yet, as much as this civility is appreciated, the new JL Wrangler is also a far more capable off-roader. It can go places you’d normally need a horse or helicopter to reach. Even a base Sport is a veritable mountain goat, but obviously, the Rubicon and its mechanical reinforcements are what you’ll really want for the toughest assignments. We’d also make sure to try both the standard V6 and the new 4-cylinder turbo upgrade — neither is a bad choice, but the turbo’s extra torque and substantially better fuel economy are hard to argue with.

Other Cars to Consider

There is nothing even remotely apples-to-apples with the Wrangler. Nevertheless, there are vehicles that offer comparable elements.

2019 Toyota 4Runner TRD Off-Road — This is probably your best alternative, especially if you’re seeking something for family service or need greater space. Quite different, but still an off-roading pro.

2018 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road — Yes, it’s a pickup and another Toyota, but this is what we meant by a lack of apples-to-apples choices. The toughest Tacomas are serious off-roading machines.

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 — Another off-roading truck, this is the pickup of choice at the price point for those seeking high-speed desert antics rather than slow, plodding rock-crawling adventures.

Any Jeep Trailhawk model — Be it Renegade, Compass, Cherokee or Grand Cherokee, any Jeep Trailhawk trim level (or anything with the Trail Rated badge, really) can go places that few other SUVs would dare. They may not be as cool as the Wrangler, but they are more comfortable and easier to live with.

Autotrader’s Advice

If you’re interested in the Rubicon, make sure to drive it in comparison to the Sahara or a well-optioned Sport S. If you don’t plan on doing serious off-roading, its more extreme mechanicals may make your daily drive more unpleasant than it needs to be. Find a Jeep Wrangler for sale

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