The Jeep has been traversing adventuresome trails since 1941. The all-new 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL Sport, among other models, continue that tradition by serving up increased legendary 4×4 prowess along with a more modern and sophisticated design that doesn’t forsake the brand’s original appeal and DNA. However, that appeal comes at a steeper cost. Compared the outgoing generation of the Wrangler, FCA hiked the price of the new one by at least $2,000. That means from this point forward, getting into a new Wrangler will cost from around $30,000 and up.
There will ultimately be four powertrains for the Wrangler. At launch, a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 will be available with a new six-speed manual gearbox or an eight-speed automatic. A 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder will be available later in 2018. That engine comes with an all-new eTorque system that improves fuel economy. The 2.0-liter comes mated to the eight-speed automatic. A 3.0-liter EcoDiesel engine will be available on Wrangler 4-door models starting in 2019. In 2020, Jeep promises a plug-in hybrid version of the Wrangler. and finally, as standard fare, Engine Stop-Start (ESS) comes standard with Pentastar and EcoDiesel V6 models with automatic transmissions.
FCA is selling the new Wrangler in four trim levels. There’s the 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL Sport and Sport S – the latter of which adds alloy wheels and options packages not available on the base Sport. The Sahara serves as the mid-range model, then there’s the flagship Rubicon. All trim-levels are available as two or four-door models, with the exception of the Sahara. There are now four different tops available for a variety of open-air driving experiences, including for the first time, a power-operated top. However, only the hard top is available from the factory on the Sport model I tested.
Transfer Cases and Axles
Three variants of transfer cases will find their way into specific trim level Wranglers: the NV241 COMMAND-TRAC part-time system will see duty in both the Sport and Sahara models. Another part-time system, NV241 ROCK-TRAC will serve as the standard unit for Rubicon and diesel models. Finally, MP3022 Selec-Trac, a full-time system, will come standard on manual Rubicons. It will be available as an option on automatic Saharas and Rubicons.
Up front, axles will consist of an open Dana 30 or a Tru-Lok electronic locking Dana 44 on Rubicons. Sports and Saharas come with open differentials around back as well. However, you can spec an available Trac-Lok anti-spin differential. Rubicons come with a Tru-Lok electronic locking differential in back. Sport and Sahara trim levels come standard with a 3.45 axle ratio. Rubicons have the option of a 3.73 or 4.10 axle ratio. Top-spec Rubicons also have electronic disconnecting sway bars.
COMFORT AND CONVENIENCE
On the road, I drove the Jeep Wrangler JL Sport, powered by the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 with an 8-speed automatic overdrive transmission. FCA sets the base price at $30,495 with a manual transmission. With the automatic, however, the as tested price rises to $32,690, including destination charges. Option prices aren’t available at time of writing, but options included a Trailer Tow package and Heavy Duty Electrical Group. You can also get a Trac-Lok Anti-spin Differential Rear Axle, all-weather floor mats, and Deep Tint sunscreen windows. There’s the 3-piece freedom hard-top, however soft tops are not available on the Sport from the factory.
Technology features in the 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL Sport are fairly spartan. For that base price, you get FCA’s Uconnect 3 with a 5.0-inch screen. It does support hands-free media and communication, but does not support Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. To get those features, you have to upgrade to at least the Sport S, where it’s available as an option. If you buy a two-door Sport, you don’t get air conditioning as standard – it’s a $1,295 option.
Standard safety features on the 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL Sport are Electronic Roll Mitigation, stability control, and Hill Start Assist. You also get tire pressure monitoring, traction control, trailer sway damping and four airbags (two front and two side). The ParkView rear backup camera also comes as standard.
I ran the off-road and rock crawling in a much more expensive 4-door Rubicon with the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and 8-speed transmission. If you’re looking for more features and off-road ability, you’re looking at spending at least $40,495. The model I tested came to $42,690 with the automatic and destination charges, but no additional options.
The entire stable of the latest Jeep Wrangler is not just better looking, with an updated styling treatment that doesn’t abandon traditional heritage cues. All models have also vastly improved both on and off-road. No more dodging and darting on washboard surfaces, and there’s increased stability over challenging, twisty back roads.
Acceleration is quick and responsive and handling characteristics overall are much more satisfying with both the 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder and 3.6-liter V6. Seats on the 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL Sport are firm, yet comfortable.
As for severe rock crawling, the new Wranglers are probably the closest you can get to approximating the ability of a Mountain Goat. Furthermore, the easier removal of the doors and top along with folding the windshield flat makes for an entirely different perspective with enhanced terrain visibility. The only down side for some who favor folding down the windshield will be the fact that the A-pillar remains in place. That being said, opening it up does offer better visibility in some tricky off-road conditions. Professional spotters also helped alleviate one’s apprehension in stickier scenarios with their expert guidance.
Whenever asked what the best vehicle is for serious and abusive off-roading, my answer is always the Jeep Wrangler. After all, you wouldn’t want to scratch your Range Rover would you? The Rubicon is the obvious best choice, but it’s also much more expensive. The 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL Sport is the cheapest way into the Wrangler club, but prepare to go without a lot of modern features that come standard on more expensive models. Good luck finding one, though. Dealerships may be unlikely to stock base level Sport models due to their spartan nature and razor-thin profit margins.
All that’s left to do is choose the model that best suits you, decide on the number of doors and propulsion, and select a color and wheel style. Oh, there’s also a myriad of accessories to dress up your Wrangler, while enhancing the functionality and versatility. If you have the cash, the sky’s the limit.
Bottom line, the Jeep Wrangler, in any guise, just keeps getting better and better. To see what the best of the new Wranglers can do, check out the video below of the Rubicon tackling an off-road course. Subscribe to The Fast Lane Car and TFLnow on YouTube for more videos of the Wrangler and your favorite new models!
SPECIFICATIONS: 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL Sport Unlimited
|On Sale:||Early 2018|
|Price as Tested:||$32,690|
|Engine:||3.6-liter Pentastar V6 w/ multi-port fuel injection|
|Drivetrain (Layout):||Front-engine, four-wheel drive|
|Horsepower:||285 hp @ 6,400 RPM|
|Torque:||260 lb-ft @ 4,800 RPM|
|Transmission:||Eight-speed automatic (optional)|
|Suspension:||Front: Solid axle, link coil, leading arms, track bar, coil springs and stabilizer bar w/ twin-tube shock absorbers
Rear: Solid axle, link coil, leading arms, track bar, coil springs and stabilizer w/ twin-tube shock absorbers
|Brakes:||Power-assisted four-wheel discs (vented front) w/ ABS, traction control w/ rough road detection, brake-lock differential system, brake-throttle override and brake/park interlock|
|Tires:||Bridgestone Dueler A/T RHS P245/75 R17 112T w/ black steel wheels|
|Fuel capacity:||21.5 gallons|
|Fuel economy (EPA):||18 City/23 Highway MPG|
|Length:||188.4 inches (includes spare tire)|
|Approach Angle:||41.5 degrees|
|Breakover Angle:||20.3 degrees|
|Departure Angle:||36.1 degrees|
|Maximum Fording Depth:||30 inches|
|Turning Circle:||40.8 feet|
|Curb Weight:||4,200 pounds|
|Towing Capacity:||3,500 pounds|