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2018 Jeep Wrangler JL: Still steel, still capable after all these years

wrangler rubicon

Yes, this is the 2018 Wrangler JL — probably the first production car that Chrysler, DaimlerChrysler, or Fiat Chrysler has ever launched at the SEMA aftermarket show. Full details will follow on November 29.

Updated October 31, 2017

The 2018 Jeep Wrangler “JL,” which start production in November 2017, will be followed by a related pickup truck, the Scrambler; it will add the long-awaited diesel engine option for North Americans, along with the first of the Hurricane four-cylinder turbo engines (optional).


We have confirmed eight-speed automatics and six-speed manuals, with gasoline V6 and turbo four engines as well as 3-liter VM diesels for North America — Europeans will still get the four-cylinder diesels. Gasoline Jeeps will get the second-generation eight-speed made by Chrysler (850RE), while diesels will get the ZF-built 8HP75.

overhead view

Rumors of a 368 horsepower rating on the Hurricane were probably based on a mistake; our sources claim around 240 to 280 horsepower.

inside the 2018 Jeep Wrangler

Jeep reportedly tried an independent suspension for Wrangler, but stuck with floating solid axles. That keeps the SUVs easy to modify, cuts the cost, and makes it easier to keep the ground clearance high.

Dana has confirmed that the Wrangler will use their latest AdvanTEK axles, an evolution of the Dana 44, made in Toledo. Allpar members have been saying that an update of the Dana 44 would be in the Wrangler since 2014 or 2015.

2018 wrangler jl

Rumor had the Wrangler switching to an aluminum tub, but in May 2015, Sergio Marchionne said, “I think we can do almost as well without doing it all-aluminum,” indicating that steel had already won the day. We expect a hydroformed steel frame to cut weight and keep strength.

Jeep Wrangler JL body-in-white profile

Cars without tops need heavy bolstering; engineers have, as we predicted back in 2014, replaced the “safety bar” with stronger tubes over the top, cutting the need for lower-body reinforcement. That also means Jeep can eventually run a fixed-roof version, if they see a need — say, to compete against the 4Runner and Bronco.

2019 Wrangler JL engine bay

Aerodynamic improvements will, as we wrote two years ago, be brought about mostly by changes in the windshield angle, mirrors, and underbody covers. Front turn signals are still on the fenders, but are now LED strips. (We wrote in 2014 that “tail-lights are likely to change to the Renegade style, and headlights, while sticking to round shapes, should gain an LED option.”) Weight remains the biggest factor in city mileage; most observers expect the Wrangler to gain a little weight, but not as much as it could.

JL front

Mopar had 200 parts and accessories ready at launch, from offroad lights to cargo racks.

Diesel engines, pickup trucks, and other changes

Jeep is going to issue a U.S. diesel version of the Wrangler, to boost fuel efficiency while pleasing off-roaders, thanks to better right-off-idle torque (again, as we predicted two or more years ago). It’s likely that the company will attempt to do a light-hybrid version a year or two after the main launch, and that a stop-start will be standard or optional, perhaps left off the Rubicon.

front opening

The standard American engine will be a V6 (upgraded with more efficiency), and the upcoming Hurricane Four. Europe will continue to get a four-cylinder diesel — but a different one, this time, a 2.2 FPT unit.

wrangler engine spy shot

A limited production pickup version (Scrambler) is almost certain, showing up around 2019-2020. A fixed steel roof is not beyond the boundaries of reason, especially if production capacity exceeds demand in the new plant.

2019 Jeep Wrangler JL

New axles

Allpar sources generally agree that there will be a new Dana axle, with a larger bolt pattern (going from 10 to 12); the Dana 44 bolt pattern did not change even when they increased the ring gear size and pinion for the current JK. The 44 has been used for many years, and advances in the state of the art may have led to a major upgrade for economy and off-road performance alike.

body - tail end

Learning from JL closeups

When KGP Photography caught the 2019 Jeep Wrangler JL cruising around Michigan, devoid of its usual puffy cladding, we were finally able to see some key details that clarified how engineers worked around the need for lighter weight, aerodynamics, and rollover safety, without sacrificing traditional Jeep features (like the rarely used, but unique, fold-down windshield).

Roof hinges

It’s hard to be certain, but it appears that Allpar sources who guessed the windshield would have a sub-frame may have been right. The windshield can clearly fold down — otherwise why have hinges? — but the A-pillar probably can’t, since that would reduce its strength.

Here we can see that the mirror is attached to the door, not the A-pillar. Chances are, there is an “easy unplug” feature for the cable that powers the mirror and power locks, as in the JK, so the door can be removed. This also gives a good look at what seems to be a modern “pull to open” handle, along with a retro-appearance chromed lock.

2019 Jeep Wrangler JL

The Wrangler will be almost unique in keeping its passenger-side physical (keyed) door lock.

passenger side

There are now two-part fender flares; on this model, at least, only the top part is painted.  The license plate has been moved to the bumper, making it less likely to be torn off. The rear wiper has been moved to the bottom of the back glass for greater visibility; we still have rumors that the glass will flip up.

The bumpers appear to be single pieces of molded plastic, and the tow hooks don’t stick out, both possibly concessions to European “pedestrian safety” laws. Steel bumpers may still be optional or part of special packages. Front radar may be hidden by the bulges.

We can also see that the parking lights will be LEDs, with apparently separate sidelights in the same module. The LED headlights look similar, but not identical, to those of the late JK.  The area under the bumper is likely a cleverly integrated air dam to raise highway mileage and reduce noise. The grille itself is shaped as Allpar sources predicted two years back. Front fender vents are there to release air for greater aero slip.

Gas cap

Look forward to a new fuel door (also concealing the DEF filler on diesels), pull-to-open rear gate, and the usual “add-on-like” tail-light assemblies. It appears as though they may flash amber for turn signals, but they could just as easily flash red — or be programmed for red in the US and Canada, and amber elsewhere. The reverse camera seems to be mounted in the middle of the spare tire, a slick feat of hide-the-technology.

rear of 2019 Jeep Wrangler JL

The Wrangler two-door

2018 Jeep Wrangler JL

This time, we have a close-up of the LED headlights, which seem to be a newer, different version of the ones on the current JK Wrangler. You can also get a closer look at the new fender-mounted sidelight/turn signal. (It seems to be far enough from the headlight so that the headlights can stay on while the signals are blinking.)

LED headlights

Door hinges are clear on these photos, and you can see why they were disguised before. Also, unlike the JL four-door we saw earlier, there is no old-fashioned, chrome, set-in-the-door passenger-side  lock, but there might be a passenger side lock built into the handle.  The driver’s side door also lacks the separate chrome lock — once ubiquitous on cars and now quite rare — but has a door handle which seems to include a physical lock.

You can see closeups of the hood, wipers, and windshield hinges here. The windshield has a much less steep angle than before.

The full profile shows a vehicle quite similar to today’s JK, and gives a nice view of the soft top. Chances are there will be something to cover up the underside on production vehicles.

JL wrangler spy shot

Another spy shot, this time showing the rear, including the spare wheel hinges, and the brake lights in full bloom. Reverse lights are in the middle of the square brake light/turn signal boxes. Chances are American versions will have red rear turn signal lights; export models will have amber lights.

JL frame closeup

A detail of the underside; there will probably be something covering that on production models.  

Flip-up rear window

A new patent application shows a unique full folding back glass design. The Jeep Wrangler is used for the illustrations.

The current Wrangler has a tailgate/spare tire that swing sideways, then the backglass can open upwards. The patent application is different in that the backglass folds all of the way up to the roof, with clips built into the roof so it can be pinned down and left all the way open. There are clips inside, to hold the struts after they are disconnected from the backglass (so it can reach the roof).

Driving with rear glass open could cause exhaust fumes in the cabin, and can also draw in mud when used off-road. Still, there are people who would like to be able to keep the backglass of their Jeep Wrangler open while driving with the top on, so the next generation Wrangler may include this as an optional package. It could also just be a patent to cover research and development on something that will never get used.

fender cavity

How to build it?


Steel or aluminum?

New suspension

Unit-body, frame...?
2018 Jeep Wrangler
Open or fixed top?
Weight and strength
2018 Wrangler engines
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Original Jeep
Allpar Jeep Home

We wrote back in 2015 that the Wrangler would become “more aerodynamic, with a slightly larger slant to the windshield. Removable doors are likely to remain; the grille is to get a bend near the top. (See the Jeep Shortcut concept below for a preview of how these changes may look.)”

shortcut concept

drawings of the 2018 Jeep Wrangler grille

Other images...how did we do?

2018 jeep wrangler

2018 Jeep Wrangler hardtop

IRS 2017 Jeep Wrangler

roof - Wrangler JL

2018 camo


Related Jeep Wrangler pages

Inside the Wrangler



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