The 2018 Jeep Wrangler manages to improve its abilities both on- and off-road without diluting its go-anywhere, do-anything appeal.
It can’t be easy to redesign an icon like the 2018 Jeep Wrangler. This off-roader’s timeless appeal lays as much in its look as it does in its capability and its inherent compromises. It’s beloved as much for what it is—a terrain-conquering machine—as it is for what it isn’t—a refined, luxurious ride.
This year, the 2018 Wrangler’s new for the first time in more than a decade (although the old body style, called Wrangler JK by enthusiasts, was also briefly offered for the 2018 model year). The new Wrangler is a far superior machine, better in every way and still every bit a Jeep. It earns a 6.0 out of 10 on our scale. We recognize that a great Wrangler is not that good on the road, and that its interior’s wash-out nature limits luxuries. It earns big points for its style, its personality, and, of course, its ability to go anywhere. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The Wrangler is offered in Sport, Sahara, and Rubicon trim levels for 2018, with numerous special editions likely to follow. All versions can be ordered in either classic two-door, short wheelbase or extended Wrangler Unlimited four-door configurations. A 3.6-liter V-6 engine is standard and can be paired to either a 6-speed manual or an 8-speed automatic. An optional 2.0-liter turbo-4 is offered only with the latter, but it features a mild-hybrid electrification system that turns off the engine while coasting to save fuel.
Underneath, the Wrangler rides on a separate ladder frame chassis with solid front and rear axles suspended by coil springs. Open, limited-slip, and electronic locking differentials are available depending on the trim level. All Wranglers are four-wheel drive and can be ordered with one of three transfer cases, including a new Selec-Trac system that can be left engaged on any kind of pavement to extend the Jeep’s appeal on snowy days.
Jeep tweaked the Wrangler’s body to make it more fuel-efficient without losing any of its off-road virtues. Its front grille is erect, but cants back slightly and its big headlights carve into the signature seven-slot arrangement. The windshield can still fold forward for low-speed off-roading (now by removing just a handful of bolts), but it slants at a more aggressive angle to improve airflow.
Both soft and hardtop setups are available, with an optional full-length, power-retractable cloth sunroof integrated into the hardtop—and that’s our pick. Wrangler Unlimiteds have more rear-seat space than before, while all models have a new dashboard that’s made of higher-grade materials and puts controls in more logical places. Outward visibility is better, but still not terrific for a high-riding vehicle.
Jeep finally brought the Wrangler’s tech story up-to-date. A standard 5.0-inch audio system can be upgraded to 7.0- and 8.4-inch touchscreens with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities.
One place where the Wrangler still lags is safety tech. Just four airbags are included and high-tech features extend only as far as lane-departure warnings and a rearview camera.
But you’re not reading this because you want the safest car on the road. In the Wrangler, it’s all about freedom—or at least the illusion of it while you’re sitting in traffic on the Beltway. The Wrangler delivers all that in spades, better than ever.