We get behind the wheel in the Arizona desert

The time has finally come; we’ve gotten a chance to spend quality time behind the wheel of the all-new 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL. Jeep flew us out to the deserts of Arizona for our first view of the Wrangler since it debuted the week prior at the 2017 L.A. Auto Show.

We’ve coved the new Wrangler to death with nearly a dozen articles focused on various aspects of the Jeep, and most recently, our driving impressions, pricing information, and fuel economy. We can say the new Wrangler is wholly improved and in no way less capable off-road. In fact, Jeep designers and engineers worked tirelessly to retain (and in many areas improve) the Wrangler’s capabilities. So without further ado, here’s our take on the 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL

Continue reading for more on the 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL.

Exterior

2018 Jeep Wrangler JL - First Look Exterior
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While we’ve got a full review of the 2018 Jeep Wrangler already online, here’s our thoughts now that we’ve seen it in person.

It’s clear Jeep designers sweated the details on the new Wrangler. It might look too similar to the outgoing Wrangler JK in photos, but in person, the new JL has a completely different persona. Every body panel is different and that is very apparent the second you get close.

The grille and optional LED headlights go a long way in making the Wrangler JL feel modern. The LED turn signals and daytime running lights in the front fenders also contribute. The longer, flatter hood brings better proportionality to the Wrangler Unlimited’s profile, while the newly lowered beltline and character line under the windows make it appear less top heavy.

2018 Jeep Wrangler JL - First Look Exterior
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Around back, the new taillights and bumper are quickly identifiable against the older Wrangler JK

Around back, the new taillights and bumper are quickly identifiable against the older Wrangler JK. The license plate was moved from the body to the bumper, as well, helping with aerodynamics. It also keeps the license plate from getting ripped off on the trail – a common occurrence with the JK. The tailgate’s hinges are now exposed rather than being covered in plastic and the spare tire is mounted lower for better visibility out of the rear window.

Other noticeable improvements are the new pull-style door handles. They are much easier to operate than the JK’s and even include passive entry. Push-button starting is standard across the board, too.

And speaking of aerodynamics, the Wrangler JL’s new shape is far better at managing air. Sport models have a new air dam that fits between the bumper and front fenders. Hard top models now have a mild spoiler lip above the rear window. The new windshield is slightly more raked but is still far more vertical than anything seen on a crossover or car. Only the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon can compete with the Wrangler’s tall windshield.

2018 Jeep Wrangler JL - First Look Exterior
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Exterior Dimensions

Wheelbase 2-door 96.8 (2,460)
4-door 118.4 (3,008)
Overhang Front: 29.2 (741.6)
Rear: 40.8 (1,036.3)
Track Front: 62.9 (1,598)
Rear: 62.9 (1,598)
Overall Length (includes spare tire) 166.8 (4,237) – 2-door
188.4 (4,785) – 4-door
Overall Width 73.8 (1,875)
Overall Height 73.6 (1,868.4)
Liftover Height 29.7 (756.4)
Cargo Width at Swing-Gate Opening 41.1 (1,052)
Cargo Height at Swing-Gate Opening 36 (942.3)
Load Floor Height 30 (762.1)

The Tops

The Wrangler JL has three tops to choose from. The soft top, the Freedom hard top, and the Powertop. There are actually two versions of the soft top: a vinyl top on the base model and a thicker, more insulated canvas top as an extra-cost option. The Freedom top is similar to the JK’s Freedom top, but Jeep eliminated the hand screws that took forever to undo. Now, only eight latches secure the two panels. The panels are now lighter, too, making removable and replacement super easy. The Powertop is available on the Sahara and Rubicon trims only and offers a one-touch power operate that opens the canvas panel. What remains is a massive sunroof from the A-pillars back past the C-pillars. What’s more, the side windows easily remove with two latches. The Powertop is the right choice for anyone not up for heavy lifting or getting wet when it starts raining.

Interior

2018 Jeep Wrangler JL - First Look Interior
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In person, the JL’s interior feels nothing like the hard-plastic mess seen in the JK.

We knew the Wrangler JL’s interior was miles better than the JK’s from the photos we’d seen, but that didn’t prepare us for reality. In person, the JL’s interior feels nothing like the hard-plastic mess seen in the JK. Everything is soft-touch or purposefully hard. If it looks like metal, it is. The screws on the dashboard are actually screws – even those around the HVAC system. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is a joy to hold and the gear shifters give a satisfying feedback. The seats are far more supportive and the driver seat now has an adjustable lumbar feature.

Still, the Wrangler isn’t too plush for its own good. The dash is still weather resistant and the carpet is still removable. Yep, the floor pan still has drain plugs and the seats are manually adjustable so there are no electric motors to fail. The seats in upper trims are heated, though, which is a big blessing on cold drives with the doors and top off.

Handy features in the interior include a bevy of USB and USB-C ports, a 110-volt household plug, longer and more padded armrests in the doors, more storage spots, a folding center armrest in four-door models, and a two-tier center console lid.

2018 Jeep Wrangler Interior
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The Wrangler comes with three Uconnect infotainment systems

The Wrangler comes with three Uconnect infotainment systems: Uconnect 3 with a 5.0-inch display, Uconnect 4 with a 7.0-inch display, and Uconnect 4 with an 8.4-inch display with navigation. The 8.4 system comes standard in the four-door Sahara and Rubicon models.

Rear seat comfort is upgraded, too. Along with that center folding armrest on four-door models, every Wrangler JL has rear HVAC vents. The four-door offers an inch more legroom than before and more supportive seats with a more reclined seatback. More USB ports and that 110-volt household plug reside at the back of the center console.

Unlimited models can be had with Jeep’s new TrailRail system – an integrated aluminum rail with adjustable hooks for securing cargo. Another rail is integrated onto the tailgate. And in an effort to maximize utility, the tailgate even has a flat spot above the latch for holding a drink.

2018 Jeep Wrangler JL - First Look Exterior
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Interior Dimensions

Seating Capacity (front/rear) 2/2 – 2-door, 2/3 – 4-door
SAE Total Interior Passenger Volume, (cu. ft. / cu. m) 103.7 (2.94)
Front: Headroom: 40.7 (1,036) hardtop / 42.6 (1,083) soft top
Legroom: 41.2 (1,038)
Shoulder Room: 55.7 (1,417)
Hip Room: 53.9 (1,370)
Seat Travel: 8.1 (206)
EPA Front Volume Index: 53.8 (1.52)
Rear: Headroom: 40.2 (1,023) hardtop, 41.7 (1,059) soft top
Legroom: 35.7 (904.2) – 2-door, 38.3 (974) – 4-door
Knee Clearance: 61.6 (1,565.9)
Shoulder Room: 57.7 (1,458) – 2-door, 55.7 (1,417) – 4-door
Hip Room: 45 (1,143) – 2-door, 56.7 (1,440) – 4-door
EPA Rear Seat Volume Index (cu. ft. / cu. m): 49.9 (1.40)
Liftover Height 29.7 (756.4)
Maximum Cargo Width at Liftgate Opening 47.9 (1,218.7)
Minimum Cargo Width at Liftgate Opening 41.1 (1,052)
Maximum Cargo Height at Liftgate Opening 36.0 (942.3)
Minimum Cargo Height at Liftgate Opening 35.7 (907.8)
Distance between Wheelhouse Interior Trim 45.0 (1143)
SAE Cargo Volume: Rear Seat Folded: 72.4 cu. ft. (2.05)
Rear Seat Upright: 31.7 cu. ft. (0.89)
Total Passenger plus Cargo Volume, (cu. ft. / cu. m): 150.4 cu. ft.

Drivetrain

2018 Jeep Wrangler
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The standard engine is the familiar but improved 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 with 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque

For 2018, the Wrangler finally has more than one engine to choose from. Jeeps of the past have had at least two available engines, so the JL harks back to those bygone days. The engine choices a bit more modern, however.

The standard engine is the familiar but improved 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 with 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. It’s improvement centers on the new automatic start/stop system it employs to save on fuel consumption. The V-6 is available with the new six-speed manual transmission and the new-to-the-Wrangler ZF eight-speed automatic transmission.

The optional engine is an all-new 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 270 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. it comes mated exclusively with the eight-speed automatic. Its impressive torque rating comes by way of a mild hybrid system. A belt-starter-generator uses electricity to help turn the engine’s crankshaft at lower revs. This helps with low-end torque and added smoothness when low-speed crawling. An automatic start/stop system is used here, too.

Three 4WD transfer cases are available: the standard Command-Trac for all but the Rubicon, the Rock-Trac that’s exclusive to the Rubicon, and the new Select-Trac transfer case with a full-time 4WD mode that’s an exclusive option on the Sahara. You can read all the details on these transfer case in our full review here.

2018 Jeep Wrangler JL - First Look Exterior
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Drivetrain Specifications

ENGINE 3.6-­LITER PENTASTAR V-­6 2.0-LITER TURBO I-4
Availability Standard — all models Available — all models
Type and Description 60-­degree, V-­type, liquid-­cooled I-4 16-valve with direct injection, turbo charging, with throttled, cooled EGR
Displacement (cu. in. / cc) 220 cu. in. (3604 cu. cm) 121 cu. in. (1995 cu. cm)
Bore x Stroke 3.78 x 3.27 (96 x 83) 3.31 x 3.54 (84 x 90)
Valve System Chain-­driven DOHC, 24 valves and hydraulic end-­pivot roller rockers Chain-driven DOHC, 16 valves
Fuel Injection Sequential, multiport, electronic, returnless Direct Injection
Construction Aluminum deep-­skirt block, aluminum alloy heads Aluminum block, aluminum alloy heads
Compression Ratio 10.2:1 10:01
Power 285 HP @ 6,400 RPM 270 HP @ 5,250 RPM
Torque 260 LB-FT @ 4,800 RPM 295 LB-FT @ 3,000 RPM
Max. Engine Speed (rpm) 6,600 rpm (electronically limited) 5,800 rpm (electronically limited)
Fuel Requirement Unleaded regular, 87 octane (R + M)/2 Minimum unleaded regular, 87 octane (R + M)/2, 91 octane or higher recommended for optimum fuel economy and performance
Fuel Tank Capacity (gallons) 22.5 18.5 (2-door), 21.5 (4-door)
Oil Capacity 6.0 quarts (5.7 liters) 5 quarts (4.7 liters)
Coolant Capacity 14 quarts (13.25 liters) 9.9 quarts (9.4 liters)
Emission Controls Dual three-­way catalytic converters, heated oxygen sensors and internal engine features GPEC4 engine-management system with close-coupled catalyst; and wide range O2 sensor
EPA Fuel Economy mpg (city/hwy/combined) 18/23/20 (automatic); 17/23/19 (manual) TBD — automatic (2-door); TBD — automatic (4-door)

Final Thoughts

2018 Jeep Wrangler JL - First Look Exterior
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Jeep has most definitely improved the Wrangler. From its appearance and interior refinement to its drivetrain and efficiency, everything is better than before. It takes sitting behind the wheel and getting up close to the new JL to really appreciate the changes. Thankfully, the new Wrangler JL’s improvements shouldn’t alienate Jeep’s loyal fan base of hard-core off-roaders. It might be more refined, but the Wrangler is still a Wrangler. Even better for Jeep’s pockets, the JL will be more appealing to the everyday customer whose only off-roading happens in the wet grass at the local soccer field complex.

Read here for our detailed driving impressions of both on-road and off-road conditions.

  • Leave it
    • * More expensive
    • * Turbodiesel & hybrid not available at launch
    • * Still compromized on pavement

References

Jeep Wrangler.

2018 Jeep Wrangler JL - First Look Exterior
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Driving the 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL

2018 Jeep Wrangler
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Read our full review on the 2018 Jeep Wrangler.

2017 Jeep Wrangler High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the JK-gen 2017 Jeep Wrangler

Watch the 2018 Jeep Wrangler's Powertop Top in Action
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Watch the 2018 Jeep Wrangler’s Powertop Top in Action

Watch the 2018 Jeep Wrangler's Freedom Top in Action
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Watch the 2018 Jeep Wrangler’s Freedom Top in Action

Watch the 2018 Jeep Wrangler's Soft Top & Windshield in Action
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Watch the 2018 Jeep Wrangler’s Soft Top & Windshield in Action

A Detailed Look At the 2018 Jeep Wrangler's Dashboard
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A Detailed Look At the 2018 Jeep Wrangler’s Dashboard

The 2018 Jeep Wrangler's Three Infotainment Systems Interior
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The 2018 Jeep Wrangler’s Three Infotainment Systems

The 2018 Jeep Wrangler Come With its Own Tool Kit
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The 2018 Jeep Wrangler Come With its Own Tool Kit

What Separates the Rubicon from the Wrangler's Other Trims
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What Separates the Rubicon from the Wrangler’s Other Trims

The 2018 Wrangler's Cargo Area is Ready For Anything
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The 2018 Wrangler’s Cargo Area is Ready For Anything

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