I recently had a chance to drive the all-new 2018 Jeep Wrangler, which looks a lot like the all-new 2007 Jeep Wrangler, except it’s very different. To be clear, it’s not very different on the outside. I know you think it looks the same as the old one, and I think it looks the same, too. But it isn’t the same. It’s very different. It’s all-new. See the 2018 Jeep Wrangler models for sale near you
I got to experience this all-newness near Phoenix, Arizona, where Jeep flew me to drive the Wrangler for a few days — on-road and off — before it goes on sale to the public in a few weeks. I highly enjoyed my time in Arizona, in part because I rented a Chevy Corvette Z06 with the vanity license plate "THE Z06," and then I drove it on the incredibly straight, flat, sun-soaked highway that links Phoenix and Tucson, where I kept my speed completely within the limit.
Anyway, onto the Wrangler. Here’s what I think of the Wrangler: it is way better than the old one. When I say this, I don’t mean to suggest the old one is bad. I mean to suggest it is simply outdated, in the way cars get outdated, and the most outdated part is by far the driving experience. Whenever someone tells me they want a Wrangler, I always ask: Really? Are you SURE you want a Wrangler? In my experience, people like the looks of the Wrangler, and then they end up hating the fact that the convertible top flaps all the time and you can’t talk to your passengers at highway speeds.
Well, the new one is different. I drove both 2- and 4-door body styles, with every top available (there are three), and both on- and off-road, and I found that the new Wrangler is dramatically more civilized than the outgoing model. Yes, there’s still some wind rush when you get to about 50 or 60, and yes, the tires are still loud on the pavement if you get the Rubicon model. But generally speaking, the new Wrangler is a massive improvement over the old one in terms of driving experience.
And it isn’t just an improvement over the old Wrangler in terms of noise. The latest Wrangler simply feels more stable and more substantial than the outgoing model, giving you a more secure feeling at all speeds from behind the wheel. The steering is less vague, the handling is more predictable and the whole thing is just simply better. If you asked me to describe the new Wrangler in a word, I’d say, simply, "better."
That carries over to the powertrains. The Wrangler’s V6 is largely the same as the outgoing model’s, but there’s also a new 4-cylinder that offers big fuel economy gains with roughly the same power as the V6. I drove the 4-cylinder, and I was impressed; it feels about as fast, though it’s a little more peaky thanks to the turbocharger. Still, it seems like the 4-cylinder may top 20 miles per gallon in the city (Jeep didn’t have the final fuel economy figures for the 4-cylinder, as it won’t be coming out until mid-2018), which would be impressive for a Wrangler.
The technology is better, too. The Wrangler finally comes standard with side airbags, though some off-roaders may bemoan the feature as they could deploy in extreme trail-riding situations. There’s also the latest (excellent) version of Chrysler’s Uconnect, along with blind spot monitoring, rear parking sensors, a backup camera, and rear cross-traffic alert. It’s like the Wrangler has finally grown up. And yet, it hasn’t lost any of its off-road capabilities: I drove a Rubicon model on some rock trails that truly scared me, and it handled it with a lot less complaining than I did. Jeep has always gotten the Wrangler right in this area, and they’ve done so again for 2018.
There are some flaws — or, at least, "issues" — worth presenting. One is the fact that Jeep now seems totally focused on the 4-door model; there were very few 2-door Wrangler models even available to be driven at the launch, and if you’re a die-hard 2-door Wrangler fanatic, it really seems like Jeep might someday get out of that business entirely. They haven’t said they would (in fact, they say the opposite), but sales numbers don’t lie: more than 80 percent of new Wrangler models on Autotrader are 4-doors, and that number just keeps rising. Other issues were small: I don’t like the placement of the window switches, for instance, as they’re hard to reach when you’re rolling them up. And the blind spot monitoring system’s integration into the brake lights causes the brake lights to move outside the body, which could damage them (or rip them right off) if you’re doing some serious off-roading.
But the new Wrangler doesn’t suffer from many flaws. To the people who like the Wrangler, it has only gotten better. To the people who have always wanted a Wrangler, only to be put off by its poor driving dynamics — it’s now worthy of consideration. And to people who want to put down the windshield or fold down the top without the hassles of the old model, well, you can do that, too — just check out my video. The only major drawback to the new Wrangler is it just doesn’t look all that different from the old one. But did you really want to see radical changes to this iconic design? Find a 2018 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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