Whether it needs it or not, every decade or so the Jeep Wrangler receives a major redesign. Wrangler’s bloodline reaches back to the opening days of World War II, when it became the iconic, light 4-wheel-drive vehicle of U.S. forces. It was so popular among the soldiers, sailors and marines using it, a civilian Jeep (CJ) made its way to market after the war. Several changes of ownership and decades later, the line thrives as today’s Wrangler.
As it evolved, each new-generation Wrangler was more civilized and sophisticated than the last. Because the length of each generation’s life cycle is more like a truck than a car, Jeep product planners, engineers and designers have plenty of time to evaluate customer feedback, influencing the next generation.
Mark Allen is head of Jeep design and was one of the driving forces in addressing many of the issues raised by Wrangler owners since the current generation hit showrooms 11 years ago. We spent some extra time with Mark, during which he itemized several of those major fixes. Here are seven of them.
Yes, the doors are still removable, and now even have a grab-handle built into them to ease the task of carrying them once they are removed. Because for 2018 they are made of aluminum, they are lighter, as well. But, that’s not the big door news. What is big is that the old exterior push-button door release that was a popular complaint, particularly among female owners, has finally been replaced with a more convenient, modern pull handle. Designers added grab handles to the A-pillars for easier access, too.
Powerful and effective headlights have never been a recognized Wrangler trait. The 2018’s light array is a huge leap forward. Standard head lamps will be halogen. Sahara and Rubicon models offer the option of LED headlights. Daytime running lights provide a halo around the perimeter of the headlights.
Once upon a time, lowering the Wrangler’s soft top was an exercise in patience, stick-to-itiveness and pain management. Jeep made significant improvements to the soft top on both the 2-door and 4-door versions. Gone are the network of zippers prone to jamming. Employing canards rather than zippers, the window panels slide out with minimal effort and time. New clock springs aid in raising and lowering the top. An all-new one-touch power top is available on 4-door Sahara and Rubicon grades.
For most of its nearly 80-year history, no matter the model, this, the purest Jeep, offered just one engine. For the first time, the 2018 Jeep Wrangler will eventually offer four powertrain choices. At launch, either a 2-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged engine with a new 8-speed automatic transmission or a 3.6-liter engine with a standard 6-speed manual or the option of the 8-speed automatic transmission will provide Wrangler’s thrust. In 2019, Jeep will add a 3-liter EcoDiesel to the mix that will be available on the 4-door model. It will also use the 8-speed automatic transmission. By 2020, a plug-in hybrid will also be available.
To improve the driver’s field of vision, Jeep lowered the beltline, lowered the rear-mounted spare tire and increased the glass surfaces.
While the slide-rule types were increasing the rake of the windshield to improve aerodynamics, they also simplified the process of folding it down. Requiring the removal of 28 bolts, folding down the windshield on the current Wrangler is roughly a 90-minute ordeal. A folding windshield has always been part of this vehicle’s DNA, even if doing so was so complicated that most owners never attempted it. Relocating the washer nozzles and some other functions into a header bar stretching between the A-pillars, designers were able to reduce the number of bolts to four and the time needed to fold down the windshield to about three minutes.
Three significant improvements inside are worth noting. The new sculpted rear seat provides comfort and support. The steering wheel now tilts and telescopes. And, there are heating/cooling vents for the backseat.