When an automaker sells a vehicle as legendary as the Jeep Wrangler, a redesign can pose a huge challenge. Enthusiasts expect improvements without sacrificing off-road capability and character. Environmentalists expect better fuel economy and lower emissions. Company shareholders expect maximum dividends. There are so many ways to mess things up.
And yet, at first glance during its world premiere at the Los Angeles Auto Show, FCA seems to have pulled it off.
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The 2018 Jeep Wrangler has been redesigned, but looks unmistakably similar. According to the manufacturer, it’s more capable than ever before, it will boast new technologies and its build quality will be improved inside and out. And it will now feature not one, but three powertrains.
First and foremost, a little clarification on the model year, because the current-generation Wrangler is also available as a 2018. To sort it out, FCA is calling the old model the Wrangler JK, while the new model is the JL. The iconic SUV will still be built in the company’s Toledo, Ohio plant, in which the automaker invested USD$700 million, creating 700 new jobs in the process.
The 3.6-litre V6 is back, which still produces 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. However, it gains automatic start/stop and is now matched to either a new six-speed manual transmission or an optional eight-speed automatic—the latter replacing the old five-speed autobox. The cable-operated manual gearbox features ratios optimised for better crawl performance, its shifter vibrates less and shift throws are 50 percent shorter than with the previous-generation transmission.
A four-cylinder engine will again be available in the Wrangler, but not as a base powerplant like before. This all-new turbocharged, 2.0-litre unit produces 270 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, and it mated exclusively to the eight-speed automatic.
The engine features what is called eTorque technology, or a mild hybrid system that includes automatic start/stop, electric power assist, extended fuel shut-off, transmission shift management, intelligent battery charging and regenerative braking. Fuel economy numbers aren’t yet available, but the Wrangler should be significantly more efficient with the 2.0-litre four.
Arriving for the 2019 model year—due to customer demand, says FCA—will be a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6. The EcoDiesel engine, which is also found in the Ram 1500 pickup and the Jeep Grand Cherokee, will produce 260 hp and 442 lb.-ft. of torque in the Wrangler JL. It too will receive automatic start/stop technology and will be managed by the eight-speed automatic transmission.
The 2018 Jeep Wrangler obviously keeps its body-on-frame platform, but FCA claims the revised suspension will provide better on-road comfort and driving dynamics without compromising off-road capability. To reduce weight, some aluminum will be used for the doors, the hood, the fender flares and the windshield frame, while magnesium will be used for the tailgate.
Inside, the Wrangler JL will feature a choice of three Uconnect infotainment systems, with five-, seven- and 8.4-inch touchscreens. According to FCA, these fourth-generation systems are faster and start up more quickly. The two uplevel systems also include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. Advanced safety features will include a rearview camera, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert.
As before, the Wrangler’s doors will be detachable and its windshield will still fold down, creating a completely open-air experience. The cockpit roll bars are colour keyed, welded to the body and include integrated grab handles. A soft top, a removable hard top and a new Sky One-Touch power retractable top is offered. And in 2019, a new half-door design will be introduced.
The two-door Wrangler and four-door Wrangler Unlimited will be available in Sport, Sport S, Sahara (Unlimited only) and Rubicon trim levels. Two 4x4 systems and—in the Sahara—a two-speed transfer case with full-time four-wheel drive will be available. The Selec-Trac transfer case is redesigned, as are the Dana front and rear axles. The Rubicon still gets the Rock-Trac 4x4 system and Tru-Loc lock differentials, while its suspension travel and articulation have been improved. The JL can ford water steams of up to 30 inches, and with the optional tow package, it can pull up to 3500 lbs (1588 kg).
The 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL will be on sale in January.