The Jeep Wrangler has endured on the road and on the trail, decades after it was conceived as a military all-purpose vehicle. It’s spawned its own cult, and still mints money for its parent company.
It’s still faintly terrible to drive on public roads, but get some dirt in its squirmy tire treads, and all is forgiven.
Sold in Sport, Sport S, Sahara, and Rubicon editions, the 2018 Jeep Wrangler earns a 4.8 out of 10 on our ratings scale. It does one thing extremely well—off-road driving—but falls down in almost every other category we measure. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
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Aerodynamic as a barn door, the Wrangler silhouette is shorthand for off-roading. It’s still recognizable as the same World War II-vintage shape, though it’s become faintly progressive with LED lighting and other minor details. The core still is intact, from the fold-down windshield to exterior hinges for the removable doors. The convertible SUV has a modern and useful interior by Jeep standards, but it lacks even the niceties you’d find in a new Jeep Compass.
The Wrangler’s V-6 prioritizes torque at the low end, and supplements 285 horsepower with a healthy dab of grit. It’s sent through a 5-speed automatic that’s better than it sounds or a 6-speed manual. It manages respectable fuel economy, but the Wrangler’s heel is its nervous stance and wandering steering that keep us from daily-driving one.
Off-road, it’s an entirely different story. There’s nothing quite competitive with the Wrangler, from its skid-plated underbody to its extreme approach and departure angles, its choice of axle ratios, its wide palette of tires and top designs, all of which compile into an unparalleled off-road ride. Electronic controls crop up where they make sense, in the form of hill-start assist and sway-bar disconnect. It’s an extraordinary vehicle for those extraordinary circumstances. No wonder it has its own cult.
It has to be a cult, because no other logic explains the folks who daily-drive the Wrangler with its noisy cabin, cramped rear seats (on two-doors), and its jiggly and unrefined on-road ride. (Unlimiteds are better, but it’s relative.) Or the poor souls who tackle its soft top on a regular basis; give us the relatively simple Freedom Top and its removable hard panels.
Crash-test scores are miserable, and base two-door Wranglers omit air conditioning and power equipment, even for a mid-$20,000 price. Jeep wraps more expensive Wranglers with leather, fits them with touchscreen satellite radios and Bluetooth and navigation. In Wrangler Rubicon territory, the Jeep’s sticker pushes past the $45,000 mark.
You’d think there’s opportunity for the best scratch-and-dent sale on earth with the Wrangler, and there is. It’s called Craigslist.
As Google spinoff Waymo continues its march toward fully self-driving cars, it has reached a significant milepost: four million self-driven miles. On public roads.
While that number is impressive—it would take one person three centuries of driving over 13,000 miles annually to match—the distance covered doesn’t tell the whole story of its relevance. With the company set to launch a self-driving taxi service in Phoenix next year, using members of the public as beta testers, engineers are releasing some aspects of the data, presumably to ease public concerns about the new technologies in use.
For every mile logged, and in particular every situation each vehicle encounters, Waymo takes the data it gleans and plugs it into an artificial simulator, where it is run over and over again, to the tune of 2.5 billion artificial miles just in the past year. For particularly confounding situational puzzles, the data is translated back to the real world, but in Waymo’s private, fake city environment.
In other words, each problem area for self-driving cars is multiplied endlessly until Waymo’s artificial intelligence algorithms have enough data to figure out how to navigate around it, whether that’s a left turn lane or an unusually large pothole.
Ultimately, that extra data means accelerated development times, since the cars are able to log more miles as they improve. According to Waymo’s data, it took 18 months to drive the first million miles, three times as long as it took for the final million.
That data gets translated into verification tests in real world environments—in 23 cities across the U.S.—but Waymo still has one major hurdle to clear: the blustery conditions of a Midwest winter. It takes on that challenge starting this winter in Michigan.
The 2019 Infiniti QX50 discards its predecessor’s awkward lines in favor of a new, more comfort-oriented positioning with a cutting-edge, turbocharged engine. It seats five passengers and squares off against the BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class, and Volvo XC60.
The 2018 QX50 discards the last model’s V-6 in favor of a new 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 268 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. But this engine stands out with a world-first technology for a production vehicle—a variable compression ratio. Called the VC-Turbo, this engine can adjust its compression ratio—the ratio of fuel to air in the engine—on the fly, bouncing between a high-performance 8:1 and a more efficient 14:1. According to Infiniti, the technology gives its newest engine gas-powered performance with diesel- or hybrid-like fuel economy.
Infiniti has only released combined fuel economy figures: an EPA-estimated 27 mpg for front-wheel drive and 26 mpg for all-wheel drive. The VC-Turbo works alongside a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).
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ProPilot Assist, Infiniti parent company Nissan’s suite of active safety and semi-autonomous driving systems, will be available in the QX50. Blending adaptive cruise control, forward collision warnings with front and rear automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, lane-departure warnings with active lane control, and Infiniti’s drive-by-wire Direct Adaptive Steering system, QX50 should make highway driving a cinch, reducing driver fatigue and increasing on-road safety.
The new engine rides atop an all-new Infiniti-specific platform that is said to provide a quieter driving experience with smarter packaging to provide more interior space. That means more room for passengers and cargo.
The QX50 offers a sliding second-row bench seat that provides up to 38.3 inches of legroom, a three-inch improvement over the 2017 first-generation model. Cargo volume expands from last year’s 18.6 cubic feet with the second row up to a minimum of 31.1 cubes for the new model—total cargo volume with the second row folded is an impressive 64.4 cubic feet. And yet, the QX50 isn’t much larger. At 74.9 inches wide and 66.1 inches tall, its 3.9 inches wider and 2.6 inches taller than last year’s model, but importantly, at 184.8 inches long, it’s a two full inches shorter than the awkward last generation.
The QX50’s shapely body attaches the brand’s latest design touches into a cohesive, stylish package. All the disparate elements from the past several years—the double-arch grille, the oddly styled C-pillar, and the unique hood shape—are cleaned up or toned down in just the right way.
But that’s nothing compared to how it looks in the cabin. It’s a lovely place, available with fine leather, soft synthetic suede, and touches of open-pore wood that make it feel much more premium than its predecessor. Quilted leather is available, and it’s probably the best execution of the style in the segment.
But one small detail will let the new cabin down. The center console, which features the new shift-by-wire gear selector, is hard, untextured black plastic. It feels slapped on, like the designers expelled maximum effort on the rest of the cabin’s surfaces and then ran out of gas when it came time to do the center console. We’re also not crazy about Infiniti’s double-stacked infotainment system, which features a pair of displays in place of more traditional controls.
Prices for the 2018 Infiniti QX50 will be announced closer to its on-sale date early next year.