The 2018 Jeep Wrangler is a long-awaited redesign of the iconic, wildly popular off-roader. The 2018 Wrangler, code-named JL (and likely to be referred to as such by the brand’s devotees), will be available in four trims at launch—Sport, Sport S, Sahara, and Rubicon—and will arrive in dealers in January 2018.
Jeep designers didn’t get too dramatic with exterior changes—this is the brand’s de facto flagship, after all. There are round headlights, a seven-slot grille, and a strict, two-box profile. But smaller touches give this ultra-traditional design a more modern look. The headlights and taillights can be LEDs on Sahara and Rubicon trims, and in among the many nods to Jeep’s heritage, the headlights cut into the outer grille slats, just like on the Wrangler’s earliest, military predecessors. The windshield has a slightly more aggressive rake, as part of a bid to improve on the brick-like aerodynamics.
To save weight, Jeep used aluminum wherever logical, including the doors, hinges, hood, fender flares, and windshield frame. The tailgate is made from ultra-light magnesium, doing double duty to shed pounds and make access to the cargo area easier. Those doors are easier to remove, too, since Jeep stamped the correct Torx bit size onto the hinges and then added a dedicated grab handle on the inside.
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The Wrangler will again be available in short- and long-wheelbase models in either three- or five-door configurations. The Wrangler Unlimited, as Jeep calls the long-wheelbase version, features a larger back seat and is available in all four trim levels. The standard Wrangler, which has become less popular with buyers than the Unlimited, now skips the tony (at least by Jeep standards) Sahara trim level.
Thoughtful touches carry into the cabin, which finally feels like a product of the 21st century. For off-roading purists, the windshield is now easier to lower. What used to be an hour-long procedure that involved countless bolts is now a five minute procedure that requires removing just four bolts. Speaking of removable things, Jeep simplified the stowable soft-top with easy to remove rear windows and added a new Sky One-Touch top, which is essentially a powered fabric sunroof. Even the hardtop is easier to manage, with Jeep promising lighter front panels and better latches for those that need some sunshine.
The rest of the cabin is a marked improvement, too. Jeep plucked comfort features from its more mainstream models, making the 2018 Wrangler a much more livable vehicle—at least when optioned up. The base Wrangler S trims is still just that: bare bones, with roll-up windows and no air conditioning.
Jeep’s most modern UConnect infotainment system finally replaces the dated setup in the outgoing Wrangler. It’s available in 7.0- or 8.4-inch touchscreens, although a 5.0-inch display is standard in the base Wrangler Sport. A standard 3.5-inch or an available 7.0-inch display in the instrument cluster presents a clean, stylish location for the most important vehicle information, while available heated seats and a heated steering wheel easily extend open-roof season. Speaking of those seats, they now feature adjustable lumbar and bolstering, while vinyl door panels are softer and more pleasant than the old Wrangler.
More capable than ever
Under the hood, Jeep will expand the powertrain lineup from one to three engines—a 3.6-liter V-6 will serve as the base and will be the first available for purchase, retaining the outgoing model’s 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. It will be available with a standard 6-speed manual or an optional eight-speed automatic. Later, a 2.0-liter, turbocharged inline-4 will team with a 48-volt mild hybrid system to return 270 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque and presumably better fuel economy. A long-awaited 3.0-liter, turbodiesel V-6 will provide 260 hp and but stump-pulling 442 lb-ft of torque. Both the diesel and 2.0-liter will be available only with the 8-speed automatic.
Jeep has not yet announced fuel economy for the 2018 Wrangler.
We’ve not yet driven the 2018 Wrangler, but we will soon.
Even the most basic 2018 Wrangler model comes well equipped for dirty jobs. Unlike its rivals—and even the rest of the Jeep lineup—the Wrangler retains solid front and rear axles with coil springs. Four-wheel drive is standard, as are skid plates, tow hooks, and winch-ready steel bumpers. Most trims come standard with a part-time transfer case, while the Wrangler Sahara is newly available with a full-time unit that allows users to leave the vehicle in four-wheel drive on dry pavement.
The Wrangler Rubicon remains the unquestionable star when it comes to capability. Revised Dana 44 front and rear axles, an improved crawl ratio, electronic sway bar disconnect, electronic locking differentials, and standard 33-inch all-terrain tires guarantee the Wrangler Rubicon can manage virtually any mogul that challenges it. Curiously, this year’s Wrangler Rubicon now comes with all-terrain rather than dedicated maximum-terrain off-road tires.
Jeep hasn’t announced prices for the 2018 Wrangler, but will likely see at least a small increase over the cost of the last-generation Wrangler, which is still being sold for 2018 as the Wrangler JK.
Jeep will build the Wrangler in Toledo, Ohio.