Exterior styling cues shift toward a more classic Jeep look.

Exterior styling cues shift toward a more classic Jeep look.

Photo by Kelly Bracken.

Jeep's fourth-generation 2018 Wrangler JL arrives as a significant update to its Wrangler JK that upgrades the off-road icon into a more connected, fuel efficient, and more configurable model that should be a high-priority target for rental fleets in Utah, Colorado, and other areas located near national parks.

The comprehensive update adds plenty of interior upgrades, new powertrains with a mild-hybrid system and future diesel engine, a redesigned transmission, and easier-to-configure soft top and fold-flat front windshield. The Wrangler JK lasted for 13 model years, and some of the upgrades — especially those involving the interior and connectivity — feel dramatic, while other could be described as polishing a gem stone.

We tested the 2018 Wrangler Unlimited Sahara — the four-door model. Two-door models, which account for about 20% of Wrangler sales, will drop the Limited badging.

Powertrains Expand, Diesel Engine Coming

The Wrangler carries over one of its engines, the 3.6-liter V-6 that makes 285 horsepower, and will adds a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder later in 2018 that makes 270 hp with eTorque mild hybrid technology. Jeep will add a turbo-diesel 3.0-liter V-6 in 2019.

Transmission choices include an Aisin AL6 six-speed manual transmission as standard equipment or the 850RE Torqueflite eight-speed automatic transmission that debuted in the 2018 Cherokee. We tested the eight-speed, which manages city driving effectively enough.

Fuel economy improves significantly, as the eight-speed gear box replaces a five-speed automatic. The new Wrangler gets an EPA-rated 18 mpg in city driving (up from 16 mpg), 23 mpg on the highway (up from 20 mpg), and 20 mpg combined (up from 18 mpg).

A part-time four-wheel-drive system is standard equipment on Sport, Sport S, and Sahara trim models with Dana front and rear axles. Sahara models offer an optional full-time all-wheel-drive system called Selec-Trac that allows drivers to select an automatic mode. The Wrangler offers a more robust Dana 44 rear axle as an option.

Interior upgrades add connectivity and comfort.

Interior upgrades add connectivity and comfort.

Photo by Kelly Bracken.

A More Connected Wrangler

The highlight of the update comes when you step inside the Wrangler, especially if you've recently driven a Wrangler JK model as we did almost a year ago. The hardcore Jeep enthusiasts may not need much more than the wind in their hair, but those looking for a bit of comfort should consider the optional 7-inch Uconnect touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. For even greater connectivity, the Electronic Infotainment System Group steps up to an 8.4-inch screen with navigation, an Alpine audio system, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, and and roadside assistance with 9-1-1 calling. Even the basic radio, a 5.0-inch color display, is an improvement.

We had trouble locating much more than a single USB charging port in the JK. USB ports are standard across all trim grades (including a USB-C in the front), as are Bluetooth phone connectivity and voice controls. The Sahara offers two 12-volt outlets, an AC outlet, two USB 3.0 ports, and one USB-C connection point.

Pricing starts at $25,440 for the two-door Wrangler and $37,345 for the Wrangler Unlimited. Our tested model would retail for $50,220.

2018 Jeep Wrangler JL Specs:

  • Engines: 3.6L V-6 (285 hp, 260 lb.-ft.) or 2.0L turbo inline-four (270 hp and 295 lb.-ft.)
  • Transmissions: 8-speed automatic or 6-speed manual
  • All-wheel drive: Standard part-time system, full-time Selec-Trac, or Rock-Trac (Rubicon)
  • Cargo space: 72.4 cu.-ft. and 31.7 cu.-ft. with second row seating

Originally posted on Automotive Fleet

About the author
Paul Clinton

Paul Clinton

Former Senior Web Editor

Paul Clinton covered an array of fleet and automotive topics for Automotive Fleet, Government Fleet, Mobile Electronics, Police Magazine, and other Bobit Business Media publications.

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