The veil came off the 2018 Jeep Wrangler at the Los Angeles Auto Show, a vehicle that continues the brand’s lineage of off-road performance. The Wrangler 2-door is available in three different trims: Sport, Sport S, and Rubicon. The 4-door variant is available in those three as well, but adds a Sahara grade.
“Jeep has always represented the ultimate in capability and open-air freedom, and our all-new 2018 Wrangler protects that important legacy and takes it into the future,” explained Mike Manley, Head of Jeep Brand – FCA Global.
Manley summed up the new Jeep by saying it’s instantly recognizable but still holds true to its roots. The new Wrangler endured some of the most rigorous testing ever done by FCA, logging nearly 4 million miles in extreme weather conditions from Arizona to Alaska for months on end. Global testing consisted of locations in China, Brazil, India, Australasia, and Italy. It’s arguably the most well-equipped Wrangler in history – here is a detailed look at this machine from top to bottom.
With Jeeps the discussion starts where the pavement ends. The 2018 Wrangler is no exception, with dynamic 4×4 systems for all types of terrain. The Selec-Trac full-time, two-speed transfer case (a Wrangler first) seamlessly sends power to the front and rear wheels with no driver input. The Command-Trac 4×4 system features a two-speed transfer case with a 2.72:1 low-range gear ratio, and next-generation solid Dana front and rear axles with a 3.45 ratio. By comparison, Wrangler Rubicons get a Rock-Trac 4×4 system with heavy duty, next-generation Dana 44 front and rear axles, and a “4LO” ratio of 4:1. A 4.10 front and rear axle ratio is standard along with Tru-Lok locking differentials.
Both Command-Trac and Rock-Trac systems offer full-time torque management for additional grip and traction. An available Trac-Lok limited-slip rear differential is available for those routinely driving through sand, gravel, mud, snow or ice. Articulation and suspension travel improve with an electronic sway-bar disconnect.
Crawl ratio on the Wrangler Rubicon with the standard six-speed manual improves to 84.2:1. By comparison, Wrangler Rubicon models with the new eight-speed automatic have a 77.2:1 crawl ratio; Rubicons get 33-inch tires standard. Overall, the approach angle is 44 degrees, breakover angle is 27.8 degrees, departure angle is 37 degrees, and the ground clearance is 10.9 inches with up to 30 inches of water fording capability.
The 2018 Jeep Wrangler will offer three different powertrains, including an upgraded version of FCA’s evergreen 3.6-liter Pentastar V6. The engine creates 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft. of torque with an Engine Stop-Start function. The 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 and an entirely new 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder are also available – and here is where it gets really interesting with regard to engine specifications.
Although it won’t be available until 2020, Jeep Wrangler 4-door buyers can opt for the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel with new turbocharging technology. The engine adds low-friction pistons to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions. Combustion optimization is aided by new injector nozzles, piston bowl, and glow plugs with integrated combustion pressure sensors. The 3.0-liter EcoDiesel, paired with the eight-speed automatic transmission, makes 260 horsepower and 442 lb-ft. of torque.
The new 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder with eTorque technology makes 270 horsepower and 295 lb-ft. of torque. This plant is also mated to the new eight-speed automatic. The eTorque system is worth noting in that it functions like a hybrid. The technology employs auto stop/start, electric power assist, extended fuel shut-off, transmission shift management, intelligent battery charging, and regenerative braking to improve efficiency and performance.
Digging deeper, Jeep’s turbo plant is characterized by a twin-scroll, low-inertia turbocharger with an electronically actuated waste gate. The turbo is integrated with the cylinder head to improve longevity while a dedicated cooling circuit cuts the temperature of the intake air, throttle body, and the turbocharger itself. Direct injection enters the mix for additional performance, and a beefed-up fuel pump supplies the engine’s 2,900-psi high-pressure common-rail injection system. This makes for better fuel atomization and more precise fuel delivery when compared to port fuel-injection. Other technological high points on the engine come in the way of a dual overhead cam design with dual independent camshaft timing, and a cooled exhaust gas recirculation (C-EGR) system.
The aforementioned six-speed manual transmission is standard on all Jeep Wrangler models equipped with the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6. New gear ratios (4.41 ratio spread) improve crawl performance while a revised gear layout and cable-operated design reduce noise, vibration, and harshness. Jeep says the manual has a more comfortable shifting position and 50 percent shorter throws than the outgoing Wrangler for quicker acceleration and smoother shifts.
The eight-speed automatic was developed with all types of driving in mind. Jeep says it’s available on all Wrangler models and provides efficient, linear power delivery on the highway and over the trails. The auto box features a 4.7:1 first gear ratio and a 4.1:1 final drive ratio to balance acceleration and efficiency. There are two overdrive ratios and specific design characteristics within the transmission to again reduce noise, vibration, and harshness.
The engines and transmissions available for the new Wrangler go for a balance of performance and efficiency. Jeep’s body-on-frame approach is also striving for balance, providing enough rugged capability for the trails while keeping in mind things like ride, fuel economy, occupant safety, and comfort. Weight reduction was priority: high-strength aluminum closures, including the doors, door hinges, hood, fender flares, windshield frame, and a magnesium swing gate are found on the new Wrangler. Further weight savings comes from the hollow track and stabilizer bars, aluminum engine mounts and steering gear, and a revised master cylinder.
The five-link coil suspension returns, a configuration Jeep says is long proven. The front suspension consists of a lateral control arm, four longitudinal control arms, and full-width, forged steel track bars. The combination controls the axle’s lateral movement while keeping the angle changes to a minimum during off-road use. The raised roll center height and revised spring rates make for a better ride Jeep says. Out back, the five-link rear suspension contains two upper and two lower forged steel control arms and a track bar for lateral axle control. The control arms are located outside the frame rails; the rear shocks are splayed (angled inboard at the top) to provide consistent damping.
Finally, four different skid plates and bars are strategically positioned underneath to protect the fuel tank, transfer case, and the automatic transmission’s oil pan. Rubicon models even have heavy gauge tubular steel rock rails for added protection. Pretty nifty!
Exterior & Interior Design
The new Wrangler follows the traditional Jeep design cues, especially when considering the vehicle’s overall aesthetic theme. It does, however, have a wider stance, lowered beltline, and larger windows for better outward visibility. The seven-slot grille returns (each slot represents one of the seven continents to show Jeep’s universal capability) but was modified to resemble the classic CJ with the outer slats intersecting the headlights.
The grille was positioned for better aerodynamic performance as was the windshield. A unique four bolt design at the top of the windshield’s frame allows it to fold down easily; a new header bar now connects the A-pillars and stays put even with the windshield down. This means the rearview mirror can remain in place with the windshield folded. Dozens of different door, top, and windshield combinations are available; a new half-door design will arrive in 2019. Jeep says the Sky One-Touch powertop feature, available in the second quarter of 2018, allows occupants to “retract the full-length open canvas roof with a push of a button.”
Designers wanted the interior to feel versatile, stylish, and intuitive with higher quality yet softer touch materials throughout. The center stack leans more vintage but compliments the redesigned center console where the gear shifter, transfer case, and parking brake reside. The essential controls, including the climate and volume settings, charging and connectivity ports, and push-button start are all within reach. There are plenty of storage pockets for personal items as well.
Owners can choose between cloth or leather-contoured seats with accent stitching, adjustable bolsters, and lumbar support. The seats, along with the steering wheel, can be heated if buyers so choose. The door trim panels are softer to the touch and the arm rests are even a little longer. The latest generation of FCA’s Uconnect system is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible, with a number of other entertainment and navigation features. The new Uconnect platform promises enhanced processing power, faster startup times, and sharper graphics.
Pricing & Availability
The 2018 Jeep Wrangler is expected in January with pricing information forthcoming. Jeeps have been assembled in Toledo, Ohio for over 75 years, beginning with the Willys-Overland military models. The Jeep Wrangler was added to the Toledo portfolio in 1992, with more than 2 million Wranglers having rolled off the line since then.
Carl Anthony studies mechanical engineering at Wayne State University, serves on the Board of Directors for the Ally Jolie Baldwin Foundation, and is a loyal Detroit Lions fan. Before going back to school, he simultaneously held product development and experiential marketing roles in the automotive industry.