The 2018 Jeep Wrangler unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show has been 11 years in the making.
As the company’s most iconic and important vehicle, Jeep knew it had to get it right. That meant maintaining the rugged capability prized by the model’s core group of hardcore off-roading owners while improving its refinement in order to appeal to the majority of customers who buy Wranglers as street cars these days.
To do that, Jeep stuck with a ladder frame construction and solid front and rear axles, but subtly improved the aerodynamics of its boxy body, now made from aluminum, and loaded it with plenty of performance, comfort and infotainment tech.
For the first time in a long time the Wrangler will be offered with a choice of engines, starting with a new 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder equipped with mild hybrid technology that allows for start-stop capability and electric assist under acceleration. The 270 hp engine is rated at 295 lb-feet of torque and comes with an 8-speed automatic transmission. This should be the most efficient powertrain, but its EPA rating has not been announced.
An updated version of the current Wrangler 3.6-liter V6 will be available with the automatic or a six-speed manual transmission, and is positioned as the top pick for off-roaders with 285 hp, 270 lb-ft of naturally-aspirated torque and 10 percent better fuel economy than the model it replaces at up to 20 mpg combined.
A diesel engine is also being added to the lineup for the first time. The 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 puts out 260 hp and 443 lb-ft and could end up be the towing and highway fuel economy champ, but it will only be offered in four-door models and not until the 2019 model year.
Yet another Wrangler first is the Sahara model’s optional Selec-Trac full-time all-wheel-drive system that was designed primarily for all-weather on-road safety, like the ones in use in Jeep’s more car-like SUVs. A traditional part-time Command-Trac 4x4 system can be had on other trims, while the extreme Rubicon gets a version called Rock-Track that’s equipped with tougher axles and a full set of locking differentials to make use of its long-travel suspension with detachable front sway bar, 10.9 inches of ground clearance and the ability to ford 30 inches of water.
You’ll still be able to do that with the doors removed, the windshield folded down and the top off. The last of those achieved in a number of ways. Along with a lighter hard top and easier to install, better-insulated fabric roof, a power sliding soft top marks another first for the Wrangler and will be optional on four-door Saharas and Rubicons later in the 2018 model year.
They’re all supported by a sturdy roof frame that provides superior rollover protection to past Wrangler designs. Additional safety tech includes a blind-spot monitoring system, backup camera, rear cross path alert, hill hold and decent controls, all-speed traction control, and both stability control and an electronic rollover mitigation system.
Fiat Chrysler’s UConnect infotainment system offers 4G Wi-Fi and both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration and can be augmented by a 7-inch screen in the instrument cluster that has several off-road functions, including pitch and roll displays. Eight- and nine-speaker audio systems feature a Sound Bar mounted to the roof beam behind the front seats.
Pricing for the 2018 Wrangler has not yet been announced, but it's scheduled to hit showrooms in January of next year.