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2018 Jeep Wrangler JL: Many improvements, same look

by Patrick Rall on

The 2018 Jeep Wrangler was improved in pretty much every way, all while maintaining the classic look expected of the most recognized Jeep.

2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon JL

This Wrangler is bigger inside and out, but it has better aerodynamics, more power, better fuel economy, and more interior technology in a package that checks all of the styling boxes. By the way, you read that right – this all-new Wrangler arrives as a 2018 model year vehicle, even though there is already an older-style  2018 Jeep Wrangler coded “JK” on showroom floors.

The Exterior

Due to the many spy shots of the new Wrangler over the past few months, there are few surprises in the exterior design, but some might be surprised at the materials used to build the new Jeep. The doors, hinges, hood, fenders and windshield frame are all made from high-strength aluminum, while the rear swing gate is made from magnesium (as predicted by some Allpar sources).

Jeep Wrangler JL - LED lights

When coupled with the new high-strength-steel frame, the new Wrangler is roughly 200 pounds lighter than the outgoing models – even though it is wider and longer.

In passing, the new Wrangler might be mistaken for the current models, but the 2018 Jeep is four inches longer (in two-door form, 2.5 inches in four-door form) and has a one inch wider track. The new Wrangler also has larger windows all around, a declined windshield angle, and a front end design that harkens back to the CJ. The new grille has an indented portion on the outside of the familiar seven-slot grille; and, to improve aerodynamics, the keystone-shaped grille was “swept back” a bit.

The new Wrangler windshield design still folds down, now by removing only four bolts — 24 fewer than the old design. Once the front glass is flipped down, owners can take it out entirely by removing two more bolts.

folded windshield

As expected, the 2018 Jeep Wrangler has a variety of roof options, including a manual soft top, a removable hard top, and the new Sky One-Touch powertop, which allows the driver to fold the roof back with the push of a button (coming Q2 of 2018, and predicted by oh2o and others over a year ago).

The new power top is the easiest to operate when owners want open-air freedom, but the other tops are also easier to use with the new design. The hard top has new removable panels for a variety of configurations, while being easier to remove as a whole; and the Sunrider soft top also has a variety of open-air layouts. Best of all, the zippers are gone, as the new Jeep tops snap and slide into place for easier operation in all sorts of conditions.

topless Wrangler Rubicon

Finally, the new 2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon has a handful of unique exterior features, including the biggest wheels ever fitted by the factory – measuring 33 inches all around — with package-specific wheel flares and bumpers.

Rubicon (JL=2018+) JK 2-door JL two-door JK four-door JL four-door
Running ground clearance 10.2” 10.8” 10.2” 10.8”
Approach angle (degrees) 44.6° 44.0° 44.4° 43.9°
Departure angle (degrees) 40.6° 37° 40.7° 37°
Breakover angle (degrees) 25.5° 27.8° 20.9° 22.6°

If you do scrape the undercarriage, the Rubicon package comes with four standard underbody skid plates that project all of the key drivetrain components. Sitting in inch higher than the current Rubicon, this new model has 10.9 inches of ground clearance, and can cross 30 inches of water. The Rubicon also comes with a unique vented hood, and if buyers find that the stock 33-inch tires aren’t big enough, it comes ready to accept a two-inch lift and 35-inch tires.

The Interior

The 2018 Jeep Wrangler’s larger cabin opens up an extra 1.5 inches of rear legroom, but that’s actually the least noticeable change with the new model. That is because the new Wrangler is chock full of new technology, with a standard 3.5-inch driver’s information screen in the gauge cluster and a 7-inch infotainment screen atop the center stack, standard on the redesigned dash of most models (Wrangler Sport comes with a 5-inch infotainment screen).

Wrangler JL dashboard

As we learned with the first image of the new interior, the HVAC vents have been moved and some new switches have been added along the bottom of the center stack, including four auxiliary switches for the owner’s aftermarket gear. These are a welcome addition for the vast majority of Jeep owners, who customize their vehicles; all wiring and fusing is already built in, making add-ons easier.

2018 Wrangler - Jeep auxiliary switches

The structural sport bar is painted in body color on all models, with grab handles and padding to protect passengers from hitting their heads on any bare metal. Insiders have pointed to the revised bar as being a key part of the Wrangler’s upgraded safety, and it may even contribute to the weight loss.

Optionals include premium leather, upgraded electronics with a 7-inch driver screen and an 8.4-inch infotainment screen, push-button start, premium sound, heated seats, heated steering wheel, and passive keyless entry.

The Drivetrain

The 2018 Jeep Wrangler JK has just one engine; the Wrangler JL will have three, with two transmissions.

The 3.6 liter Pentastar V6 now has Stop/Start and an 8-speed automatic transmission to boost fuel economy to 18 mpg city, 23 highway (automatic).

Sport buyers get a standard six-speed manual transmission which delivers more of that old Jeep experience (17 mpg city, 23 highway). The new manual transmission has a wider range, with a much lower first gear and a higher top gear, for faster launches and slightly better highway economy.

The next engine in the new Wrangler lineup is the 3.0 liter EcoDiesel. Also sold in the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500, this diesel V6 delivers 260 hp and a healthy 442 lb-ft of torque via a standard 8-speed automatic transmission. This engine also has Start/Stop tech, and should provide a good balance of power and efficiency. It likely won’t be available for the first month or two of production.

Most surprisingly (to those who haven’t followed Allpar in the past year), the 2018 Jeep Wrangler will be available with the new 2.0 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder with a standard mild hybrid system —  called eTorque (unlike the Brazilian “E.TorQ”). The added weight of the hybrid system makes this version 55 pounds heavier than the Pentastar Wranglers, but still lighter than the 2017s. It takes regular, but Jeep recommends 91 octane premium fuel.

Pentastar Diesel Turbo 2.0
285 hp  260 hp  270 hp
260 lb-ft 442 lb-ft  295 lb-ft
Auto or Man  Auto Auto

This system works with the stop/start, electric power assist, extended fuel shut-off, and transmission to raise fuel economy. It functions the most at the low end of the power band, when the vehicle is starting up and beginning to pull away. This engine is also bundled solely with the automatic transmission. It seems likely that when official EPA numbers are announced, this could be the most fuel-friendly new Wrangler; though the VM diesel will be a tough challenger. (Allpar insiders claim that the four-cylinder will have more torque than the gasoline V6.)

Finally, the redesigned 2018 Jeep Wrangler will come with one of two 4×4 systems. The Command-Trac system, used in all but the Rubicon, uses a carryover NV241 two-speed transfer case with a 2.72 low-range gear, next-generation front and rear Dana axles, and a 3.45 rear axle ratio. (Front axles are Dana 30, rear axles are Dana 35 with optional anti-spin.)

The Wrangler Rubicon comes with the NV241OR Rock-Trac 4×4 system with “Tru-Lock” Dana 44 front and rear axles, and a 4:1 four-low ratio.

The Dana 44 axles have been modernized, but the essentials of the NV241 and NV241OR systems are well proven in off-road performance.

The big news on the 4×4 front is the use of the MP3022 transfer case, which was also used on the Jeep Liberty and other vehicles, and is similar to the NV247 from the Grand Cherokee WJ. This option allows the Sahara or Rubicon to automatically switch between rear wheel drive and four wheel drive (“full time 4×4”); it, too, has a low range (4:1). Axle ratios are 3.45:1 on Sahara and Rubicon automatic; Rubicons with manual transmissions get a 4.10   axle ratio (also optional on Rubicon automatics).

center consoles

With towing packages, the two-door can tow 2,000 pounds with the gasoline engines; the four-door can tow 3,500 pounds.

Built in Toledo, Ohio, the 2018 Jeep Wrangler “JL”  will begin reaching showrooms in January.

More photos and informationFull specifications

Patrick Rall was raised a Mopar boy, spending years racing a Dodge Mirada while working his way through college. After spending a few years post-college in the tax accounting field, Patrick made the jump to the world of journalism and his work has been published in magazines and websites around the world.

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