2018 Jeep Wrangler review — The lighter, bigger new JL generation Jeep Wrangler has taken off-roading to extremes. Then again, it’s also taken you out of the equation… Motormouth tested the GCC-spec car in the mountains of Austria and it’s coming to the UAE soon
There are so many Jeeps here — there are Jeeps on the floor, Jeeps on the roof, there is a little Jeep on the windscreen, Jeeps on the wheels, a Jeep on the gear shifter, Jeeps in the headlamps…
Jeep really, really wants you to think of it as a fun company. For the launch of the new JL generation Wrangler they flew us to Austria (along with a bunch of cars) to try GCC-spec models with Dubai plates. There we glamped, sipped on craft coffee, and counted our eggs.
Because they are so adventurous and mischievous and not at all like other boring car manufacturers and their corporate lackeys, the Jeep people have hidden dozens of easter eggs for you to find around the new Wrangler. There are Jeeps on the beaches, on the landing grounds, in the fields and streets, and in the hills.
Of course it being Austria and all, the Yanks couldn’t help but bring up the War. We get it Jeep, you have heritage… Seventy years of heritage in fact, and I can only think of one other brand that’s able to pull off the same look every decade.
Jeep doesn’t need change, which must be both relieving and daunting to any designer. So while it looks the same the new JL is actually completely different, every body panel brand new to keep it unmistakably Wrangler, yet make it bigger and lighter this time around.
Weighing 90kg less than the outgoing JK Wrangler, the new JL uses aluminium liberally to achieve the kerb figure target, without resorting to drastic actions like Chevrolet. When reviving the Blazer’s good name for 2019, Chevy tossed that off-roading heritage away in a cardboard box down a Detroit alleyway and just stuck a Blazer badge on a meek front-wheel drive crossover.
With 33-inch tyres available from the factory, the Wrangler doesn’t have meek in its vocabulary. All it can say is, ‘Arrrgh!’, while it’s busy flattening mud mounds into submission. On the latest beefy Dana axles and packing electric front- and rear-axle lockers, limited-slip differential and a front sway bar with an automatic disconnect switch, this is the most capable off-road vehicle on the market, so Jeep hasn’t succumbed to any premium delusions yet, like some rivals.
It still looks like it’s made more out of plastic rather than aluminium, and the road noise, tyre roar and wind noise are as bad as you’d expect. The roof rattle, I guess that’s new for 2018… You see, the roof comes off very easily, and the bolts and bits and bobs fit into little compartments specially designed for them so you don’t lose anything. The JL offers so many different options that you can end up with a five-seater model with a fully removable roof, removable doors, and folding windscreen — it’s unique in the market, and not fully legal everywhere, and it’s surely the best way to head for a trail.
Once you’re off the road, the new eight-speed automatic transmission needs one gear to do it all with an updated 3.6-litre V6 making 285 horsepower and 347Nm of torque. On an optional 8.4-inch screen you can see a range of off-roading data showing you angles and torque transfer on the fly, and it’s quite interesting to watch particularly because you don’t have to pay any attention to the trail — the Jeep just minds things for you.
You could say the Americans have developed the new JL generation Wrangler to nearly semi-autonomous levels of capability, since the driver is merely necessary to put the gear shifter into neutral and select four-low. Without a six-speed manual transmission even offered in our market, I didn’t expect forest paths too difficult to hike up to be so trivial in the Wrangler. With those virtues the JL has no rival, not at AED130,000.
That makes our market one of the cheapest places in the world to buy the new Wrangler (AED130,000 is about $35,000), and only regular dune-bashers need to commit to the Wrangler Rubicon with even tougher axles and tyres than the Wrangler Sahara.
Seeing as it’s nowhere as nice to drive on the road as a regular crossover, the biggest thing the Wrangler has going for it is that it’s in a class of one. The Defender is gone, and it was even worse to drive when it was around, plus a Jaguar Land Rover source told Motormouth earlier this year at the Geneva motor show that the next Defender is going a bit upmarket and all lifestyley… For a similar experience to the Wrangler, you need a G-Class or a Series 76 Land Cruiser, vehicles at least twice as expensive as the Jeep. On the other end of the scale there is the new upcoming Suzuki Jimny that’s half the price and half the size, so there simply isn’t anyone else for the Wrangler to play with. Except other Wranglers.
Since it’s bigger, the extra length has been put right where the rear passengers’ legs go, which is extremely useful because people can now actually sit in the back, and your cargo options are huge and practical too with a handy false floor for loose stuff. Right from launch (the JL Wrangler is already available in Jeep showrooms) you can also accessories the car through the thick Mopar catalogue (more than 180 parts), so the aftermarket gets left out.
The good stuff includes a winch-ready bumper from the factory, a 2.0-inch lift kit, off-road wheels and tyres, a bunch of moulded guards, and even a snorkel, all with a warranty. Since Jeep isn’t stupid and the reality is only a minority of buyers go off-road (while the majority they call ‘dreamers’ who need the capability without any of the action), you can also accessorise your JL Wrangler and turn it into an ‘Urban’ version with a bunch of chrome.
If you are willing to compromise so much comfort for a day dream, we can’t be friends, but Jeep doesn’t mind. For the rest of you who actually take their Wranglers as far from an urban parking lot as possible, you’re going to love the JL to bits.
2018 Jeep Wrangler
3.6-litre V6 | eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive | 285 horsepower and 347Nm of torque | zero to 100km/h is not available (feels brisk enough), top speed is 177km/h | from AED130,000
Pre production cars tested
Squeaks and rattles are to be expected from what were, to be fair, pre-production models……..