Jeep Wrangler Debate: Should You Wait for the JL or Buy the JK?

2016 Jeep Wrangler muddy
Our 2016 long-term Wrangler playing in the mud. [photo: TLFcar]
A new Jeep Wrangler doesn’t come along often. Since its introduction in 1987 Jeep has only brought out three models of the icon. The current version (known by insiders as the JK) has been around for 10 years. FCA plans to produce the model alongside the soon-to-arrive JL. Why? We don’t really know much except the current Wrangler still sells well. But while much of the new Wrangler is still a mystery, we have picked up some predictions of what the next-gen model (the JL) will include. So for Jeep enthusiasts the obvious question arises: Should you wait for the new model JL or purchase the current JK?


It is believed the new Wrangler will stick with several old items of tech including solid axles and a traditional body-on-frame architecture. While a positive for those looking for off-road capability, it will likely mean a sacrifice on-road when compared to an independent suspension setup as seen on the Toyota 4Runner. Another challenge associated with a traditional frame is weight, something FCA will likely address in future models. CEO Sergio Marchionne said the new model will use aluminum but will not rely completely on the material stating “I think we can do almost as well without doing it all-aluminum.”

Powering the two and four door models of the new Wrangler are several possible engines including a 4-cylinder turbo and diesel. All current JK’s are powered by the 3.6L Pentastar V6, an engine used across many FCA makes and models. Developing 285 hp and 260 lb-ft. of torque the Wrangler JK is no slouch.

The TFL team drove a 2015 Wrangler Unlimited to the highest point in all 50 states, and we were pleasantly surprised with the big V6. While not direct injected or turbo charged, the engine provided decent power in the highest altitudes (even off-road). One complaint we had with the platform is towing. When properly equipped, the JK has a max towing capacity of 3,500 pounds. But our Jeep struggled up steep grades when pulling our small 1,300 pound camping trailer under enough stress to cause the check engine light to pop on.

The MMUSA TFL 2015 long-term Jeep. [photo: TFLcar]

New Interiors & More Refinement

During our 38,000 mile road-trip we experienced every inch of the Wrangler interior and a complaint faced by many would-be owners: a lack of refinement. While several trims are available ranging from the bare-bones Sport to top-of-the-line Rubicon Recon, no amount of leather and touchscreen entertainment systems can mask physics. The Wrangler is an upright, largely un-aerodynamic vehicle rolling on chunky off-road tires. Prototype models have been spotted featuring what appears to be a more raked windshield which suggests an overall focus on aerodynamics. Speaking of windshields, it is rumored that the new JL will do-away with a Jeep signature, the fold down windscreen. Although a very in-depth procedure on the JK, many enthusiasts will likely miss the option if it is eliminated.

Current JK’s are decent places to spend time and are greatly improved with the addition of the optional 3-piece freedom top hardtop. Both roof and doors are completely removable, something that should be around on the new one as well.

Photos captured by JL Wrangler Forums show what could be a new interior. New materials, higher quality instrumentation and new switches grace a still largely upright dashboard. New safety and technology features will likely find their way into the new Jeep as well, something greatly missed on the current model. Base 2-door 2017 Wranglers come standard with just two airbags and lackluster safety ratings. With Jeeps now a staple on the school runs, safety will likely be a priority going forward.

Spy shot of the upcoming Wrangler JL’s interior. [photo: JL Wrangler Forum]

So, Worth Wait for or Worth Buying Now?

Wranglers are expensive regardless of trim. Starting at $23,995, a fully loaded Unlimited can crest $50,000. Surprisingly, given their age and cost, the Wrangler is still a huge seller for FCA. According to GOOD CAR BAD CAR, Last year Jeep sold over 191,000 units in the U.S. alone with over 60,000 2017 model year Wranglers already on the road to date. It is unlikely Jeep will lower the price for the new JL, and the JK presents an appealing option for those looking to enter the world of Jeeps.

Some aftermarket mods include bumpers and a winch. [photo: TFL]
Our long-term experiences with two Wrangler JK’s has been positive. Early 2007 and 2008 model Wranglers faced reliability problems, many of which have been sorted over the decade. There is something to be said about purchasing a model late in its life cycle, and our two Jeeps have been well sorted.

Ultimately we have little information as to when the JL will be released or hit dealerships. The JK has proven to be a very versatile platform (if not fuel efficient) that is both capable off-road and (relatively) comfortable on-road.

I can’t wait for the opportunity to experience the new Jeep, but the current JK is still a great option and a true Jeep if you must have one today! Check out our video below where we bust some common Wrangler myths.