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2018 Jeep Wrangler JL: Even more capable, and with engine choices

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by Patrick Rall
(expanded by
David Zatz)

The 2018 Jeep Wrangler "JL" is bigger inside and out, but weighs two hundred pounds less than the 2017; it has better aerodynamics, more power, better fuel economy, and an upgraded interior, in a package that checks all of the styling boxes. Despite being new from the ground up, the 2018 Wrangler JL will sell on showrooms next to a 2018 Wrangler JK, the previous generation.

With its traditional look, some might be surprised at the materials used to build the new Jeep. The doors, hinges, hood, fenders and windshield frame are made from high-strength aluminum, while the rear swing gate is made from magnesium (as predicted by some Allpar sources); the frame itself is high-strength-steel. Weight was also cut by using hollow track and stabilizer bars and aluminum steering gear.

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Thanks to the changes, buyers not only get lighter doors that are easier to take off; but the hinges are now marked with the Torx bit size needed to remove them. A new half-door will debut in 2019.

In passing, the new Wrangler might be mistaken for the current models, but the two-door is four inches longer, and the four door is 2.5 inches longer; both have a wider track, by one inch. 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, roof corners were rounded, and an integrated spoiler was added. The net result of these and other moves is a 9% gain in aerodynamic efficiency, and, thanks to larger windows, better outward visibility for trail or town.

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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.

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) - at speeds of up to 60 mph. Mike Manley also mentioned a spring-loaded manual roof option.

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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.

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-doorJL two-doorJK four-doorJL four-door
Running ground clearance10.2"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°

The basic architecture has not changed: a five-link coil suspension front and back, with a lateral control arm and four longitudinal control arms up front. Full width track bars control lateral axle movement, with minimal angle change. The roll center height is higher, and spring rates were returned for comfort. The rear suspension has two upper and two lower control arms, and a track bar; the rear shocks are splayed for consistent dampening.

If you do scrape the undercarriage, the Rubicon package comes with four standard underbody skid plates; the Rubicon goes one step further and adds tubular rock rails. 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, including a standard 3.5-inch driver's information screen in the gauge cluster; a seven-inch full-color screen is optional. Both provide trip information, turn by turn navigation, and such.

The Sport has Uconnect 3 with a 5-inch center screen, as well; while others come with either Uconnect 4 with a 7-inch screen, or Uconnect 4C with navigation and an 8.4 inch display. The larger screens both come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; the 4C includes Guardian Connect, with smartphone-based remote starting and climate control manipulation, as well as optional WiFi hot-spots (always handy in remote locations).

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Eight-speaker sound systems are standard, including speakers in the dash, front door, and sound bar; an optional Alpine system adds a ten-inch voice coil subwoofer, larger dash speakers, and system upgrades.

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.

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A new steering wheel was, according to some, designed to somewhat resemble old Jeep designs. It provides easy access to advanced functions.

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; a header bar now connects the A-pillars, staying in place when the windshield is folded, aiding rigidity (and allowing the rear view mirror to stay in place with teh windshield down).

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An optional Trail Rail cargo management system allows adds ways to organize and secure cargo.

Optionals include premium leather, push-button start, 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).

A standard six-speed manual transmission 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 spec sheet shows it as being available only in the Sport, but the photos show it in the Safari and Rubicon.

EPA MPGeTorqueV6 AutoV6 StickDiesel
CityAllpar guess: 221817Allpar guess: 21
HighwayAllpar guess: 252323expected: 30

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. This won't be available until 2019, but Jeep expects to wring 30 mpg (highway) out of it.

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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; on the lighter side, it includes regenerative braking.

PentastarDieselTurbo 2.0
285 hp 260 hp 270 hp
260 lb-ft442 lb-ft 295 lb-ft
Auto or Man AutoAuto

This system was designed to boost torque at the low end of the power band, when the vehicle is beginning to pull away (see a more complete description of the eTorque engine and its technology). 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.

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A plug-in hybrid version is still planned for 2020 - as shown on past FCA long-range product plans.

Finally, the redesigned 2018 Jeep Wrangler will come with one of two 4x4 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.

The axles on Sport and Safari are Dana 30 (front) and 35 (rear, with optional anti-spin), while the Rubicon uses Dana 44 axles. These are not, though, the same as the past axles with the same names: to quote one observer, "both the 35 and 44 are vastly improved axles using AdvanTEK architecture, and share little with the old axles."

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The Wrangler Rubicon comes with the NV241OR Rock-Trac 4x4 system with "Tru-Lock" Dana 44 front and rear axles, and a 4:1 four-low ratio (the axles have a 4.10 ratio).

The big news on the 4x4 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 4x4"); 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).

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

The suspension varies by model: Rubicons get a front sway-bar disconnect system and hydraulic rebound stop. Both Sahara and Rubicon have high-pressure monotube gas-charged shock absorbers, while the Sport has gas-charged twin tube shocks. All use multi-tuned valve (MTV) technology.

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For those who have to use their Wranglers in parking lots, rear cross path detection will be optional; blind spot detection will help on highways. The backup camera lens is in the middle of the spare tire mount. There are also optional LED headlights and fog lights, and four airbags are standard.

The 2018 Jeep Wrangler "JL" will begin reaching showrooms in January; all are being built in Toledo, Ohio. The Pentastar engine is built in Mexico, the diesel in Italy, and the turbo-four in both Michigan (Trenton) and Italy. The eight-speed automatic is the 850RE, regardless of engine, made by FCA in the United States.

See more specifications

Rubicon JK vs Rubicon JL: a major leap forward for bigger tires

by "Dr. Jeep"

You can get 35 inch tires on the old Wrangler JK with no lift, with a Mopar high clearance fender kit, but with a JL Rubicon you already have wheels with the correct offset and backspacing for 35-inch tires, so you don't need to buy new wheels - or the fender kit. The axle width on the JL is also set up for 35s, so you don't change the scrub radius - as you would with 35"-compatible wheels on the JK. The JL has strengthened Cs and thicker axle tubes that will probably hold up better with hard four-wheeling on 35-inch tires. Finally, the JL Rubicon has upgraded brakes - basically equivalent with the Mopar Big Brake Kit.

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There are many things that they thought of for 35s on the JL Rubicons, it really is a complete package for that tire size. They aren't kidding when they say 35s are package protected on the Rubicon - a better style of fitting 35s, versus lift. While lift provides improved clearance elsewhere, it also increases frontal area by quite a bit. Fitting 35s with a fender modification instead helps fuel economy (a bit).

This all has to be figured in on the price of the JL Rubicon; it will be quite a deal over the JK Rubicon, even with a price increase. For the JK to get to the same point with 35s, it needed: a brake upgrade kit (~$1,000), high clearance fenders (~$500 - $1,000), new wheels ($750 - $1,300), axle tube sleeve and C reinforcement ($300 + welding and assembly costs), and installation costs or time - and it still isn't on par with the axle width improvements and scrub radius of the JL Rubicon, without replacing the front axle entirely. It also keeps you covered under warranty on all those components.

The rumors: what did we get right (and wrong)?

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Eight-speed automatics, six-speeds
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Pentastar, turbo-four, VM diesel, 2.2 liter diesel for Europe
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240-280 hp for four-cylinder
?Allpar fuel-economy guesses: 2.0 turbo, 22/25; diesel, 21/30 (as of December 2)
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Updated Dana axles, confusingly keeping the same name
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Stronger "sport bar"
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Aerodynamics: new windshield angle, mirrors, etc
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Underbody aerodynamic covers
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LED headlights
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Small weight gain
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New design folding windshield
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Key-lock in passenger door
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"Bent" grille
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New fuel door
?Flip-up rear window
!Surprises: weight loss, skid plates on Sahara (opt), four-cylinder coupled to hybrid (rather than a later hybrid in addition to four-cylinder)
Other photos

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

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Flip-up rear window

A new patent application shows a unique full folding back glass design. The Jeep Wrangler is used for the illustrations. We don't know yet if this was used.

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).

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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.

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The drawing is from 2015... note the headlight and grille detail!

Other images...how did we do?

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See more specifications



The 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL: suspension aluminum vs steelopen or fixed roof pickup
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