Cars.com reviewer Aaron Bragman has been leading much of our coverage on the redesigned 2018 Jeep Wrangler, which makes sense: He owns a Wrangler of the previous generation (called the JK) and is eminently qualified to comment on the changes to this vehicle. He even recently highlighted 10 changes that will get previous Jeep owners excited.
But I felt a bit left out. I don’t own an old Wrangler. I’ve driven them before — including two models out of the JK generation — and while they were fun to run around in for a few weeks, I didn’t think I could own one.
I grew fond of saying that the Wrangler was good at everything except for being a car. It’s safety features left a lot to be desired, fuel economy was terrible and the cabin was raucous at highway speeds. However, after driving the updated 2018 Jeep Wrangler, which kicks off the JL generation, its day-to-day livability has increased significantly to the point where I could finally see myself driving one every day.
Here are 5 things that should have non-Jeep enthusiasts just as excited as the enthusiasts about the 2018 Wrangler JL:
1. Easy Access to Sunlight
The previous tops on Wranglers were an exercise in frustration, but the new model does an excellent job of putting those exercises to rest. There are three available tops now: a manual soft top, a hardtop and a power soft top. The manual soft top used to require unzipping a bunch of panels that invariably refused to go back on correctly once you took them off. Now, the top is on a track and you just flip it back to take the roof off, while the other panels are on channels and simply slide in and out.
For the hardtop, the panels are now lighter and the front portion is latched in — no more awkwardly sized hand bolts that were a pain to store. Of particular note is the new powered soft top, which rolls back the cloth top at the push of a button. The rear panels and windows remain removable, as well, for those who want to really feel like the Wrangler’s cabin has been left wide open.
2. Improved Technology
Technology was a big weakness of the previous-generation Wrangler. The screen looked like something out of a mid-2000s sedan, and it lacked even basic features like a backup camera. Jeep took this seriously in developing the new Wrangler, and it shows: Technology is now an asset, not a liability.
Sahara and Rubicon models now come with a standard 8.4-inch touchscreen that is high-resolution and features greater connectivity with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration. A backup camera also is standard now.
One other area of notable improvement: charge ports. The Wrangler now offers up to four USB-A (the USB port everyone is used to), as well as three USB-C changing ports, which offer better future-proofing. Even though the USB-C ports are located next to USB-A ports, Jeep representatives told me you can charge through both at the same time, which gives some models capability to charge seven devices at once — not even counting the two 12-volt charging ports.
3. Places to Store the Bolts
Part of the fun of owning a Wrangler is taking things off of it, whether that be the doors or the roof, or even lowering the front windshield. The trunk area now has a place to store those bolts after they’re removed, under the cargo floor — so you don’t end up just tossing them into the glove box or center console. It’s a simple and very welcome solution.
4. Powertrain Diversity
The 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 is a carryover from the previous generation. That used to be the only engine option, but the 2018 Jeep Wrangler adds two more: a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder gas engine and a turbocharged 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6. The two gas engines are available now, with the diesel set to arrive for the 2019 model year. We don’t have official gas-mileage figures yet, but both optional engines should improve fuel economy, which remains pretty abysmal on the Wrangler (that’s what happens when a vehicle is shaped like a brick).
The turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder gas engine is still up to the task off-road, and provides plenty of punch on-road. It is, however, only available with the eight-speed automatic transmission, which is standard on V-6 models now, as well. Those wanting the six-speed manual will have to stick with the V-6.
5. Still Incredible Off-Road
All these updates and tweaks left the Wrangler’s core intact: It is still a transcendent off-road machine. I took the Sahara four-door out on the off-road course behind a Cherokee Trailhawk, a fairly capable vehicle in its own right. There were multiple times where the Cherokee ended up on two or three wheels while running over large ruts on the trail, but the Wrangler just simply walked through the same portions of trail with all four tires on the ground, and without breaking a sweat. The amount of articulation and control you get out of a Wrangler is pretty astounding.
This is what makes the 2018 Wrangler such a success in our eyes. It kept the things that you want from previous Wranglers, like the unique styling and the off-road capability, while removing many of the pain points that used to come along with Wrangler ownership. This, along with the thorough modernizing of the technology and cabin, helps to establish the 2018 Wrangler as more than just a one-trick pony.
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