All-new 2018 Jeep® Wrangler Rubicon
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LOS ANGELES — The next-generation Jeep Wrangler, a model intrinsically tied to the history and future success of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, will be make its highly anticipated debut later Wednesday at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
How significant is a new Wrangler?
“It’s like Halley’s Comet,” said Ralph Gilles, head of global design for Fiat Chrysler. “It comes around once in a long time. It’s been a decade since we really touched that vehicle.”
The new Wrangler, which will be built exclusively in Toledo and go on sale in January, is both familiar and progressive.
As Fiat Chrysler has shown in early photographs, the shape and concept remains the same. It’s still an off-road ready four-by-four that prioritizes capability over just about anything else.
But there’s a lot of added technology packed into the vehicle.
The Wrangler gets a pair of new transmissions, three engine options — including a diesel — that will help improve its fuel economy and drivability. There are also a number of first-time features including a power retractable top, a backup camera, and a full-time all-wheel-drive system.
Jeep officials say many of the updates and changes came about because of conversations with its customers.
“As part of the process of developing the Wrangler, we’ve obviously had a lot of input, not just from our own community, but also owners around the world,” Jeep brand head Mike Manley said at a preview event for journalists earlier this month.
What’s new on the outside?
1945 Jeep® CJ-2A and all-new 2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
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At first glance, not much — and given that Jeep sells close to 200,000 Wranglers a year, that’s not surprising.
The new Wrangler, known internally and by enthusiasts by its JL model designation, keeps the slab-sided design it’s had since its inception, the round headlamps, the square taillights, and the option for topless open air-driving.
There are some subtle styling changes, though.
Mr. Gilles and his team added a new crease in the bodywork just below the side windows and integrated the turn signals and daytime running lights into the front fenders. They also cut in a functional vent behind the front fender. Officials say that feature is meant to eliminate hood flutter that at times could plague the current Wrangler.
Designers addressed aerodynamics where they could, including a more steeply raked windshield. And the Wrangler also makes use of lighter-weight materials, particularly aluminum. While the body remains steel, the doors, hood, front quarter panels, windshield surround, and rear cargo door are all stamped from aluminum.
What engines does it get?
The 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine — the only engine available in the current Wrangler — carriers over as the base powerplant, making 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque.
There’s also an optional 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that Fiat Chrysler says will make 270 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque.
A version of the company’s 3-liter EcoDiesel is also coming, though it won’t be available until the 2019 model year. FCA hasn’t yet provided power figures for the diesel.
All of the engines are available an eight-speed automatic transmission, replacing the current model’s five-speed automatic. A new manual six-speed gearbox is optional on the V-6. The four-cylinder and upcoming diesel are automatic only.
The V-6 and diesel will get engine start-stop technology that cuts the motor when the vehicle is stopped and restarts it when the driver releases the brake.
Highway fuel economy improves by about 15 percent with the V-6, though FCA hasn’t yet released figures figures for the diesel or four-cylinder.
A look inside the 2018 Jeep® Wrangler Rubicon.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Enlarge
What’s new inside?
The interior of the Wrangler is completely redesigned. Officials say they looked to the Wrangler’s history for inspiration, which led to a more symmetrical straight-across dash reminiscent of the layout in the early CJ models.
Mark Allen, the head of Jeep design, said the team had two main objectives for the new vehicle.
“One was the look of the vehicle, it was my intent to get a lot of heritage into the vehicle, and the other was just to downright improve every bit of the experience.”
Base Sport models — which still come with manual crank windows and locks and without air conditioning — get a 5-inch touchscreen radio. There’s also a 7-inch and available 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen. It’s the first time the larger 8.4-inch touchscreen has been offered in the Wrangler.
The Wrangler also for the first time gets an optional leather-wrapped dash with contrast stitching.
Beyond looks, Mr. Allen said one of the key areas in which his team tried to improve the Wrangler was visibility.
To that end, all of the glass is larger, including the windshield. They also moved the motor for the rear window wiper from up near the roof to behind the spare tire, which itself was lowered.
A backup camera, neatly integrated into the spare tire mount, is standard across the lineup.
What about the open-air experience?
One feature that dealers are excited about is the power retractable canvas roof, available on the four-door Unlimited model.
Buyers of the Sahara and Rubicon trims have the option of a body-color hardtop, while black hardtops are available across the line. There are also a pair of folding soft-top options.
As with previous Wranglers, the doors are removable. Officials say they’ve added a notch under the armrests which make the doors easier to handle when they’re off the vehicle.
The folding windshield also returns — a somewhat surprising element for how little it was used on the current Wrangler.
“Manufacturing hated it for painting ... engineering said we’d never do it again, and nobody was asking for it,” Mr. Allen said. “But it’s a piece of history, it’s important to me. It’s the most unique automotive experience you can get where you fold the windshield down.”
In the current Wrangler, a whopping 28 bolts have to be removed to fold down the windshield. By making the windshield and surround a separate part from the structural body, Jeep was able to cut that down to four bolts.
How do its off-road credentials stack up?
One of the key selling points for the Wrangler is its ability to go off-road — even among those buyers no more likely to tackle a trail than they are to walk on the moon.
Jeep says the approach, breakover, and departure angles are all either on par with or improved from the current model.
The Rubicon, which is the top-tier off-road oriented model, also gets 33-inch tires — the largest tires ever offered from the factory. That adds nearly an extra inch of ground clearance. And because the fender flares are raised on the Rubicon model, it can accommodate up to 35-inch tires without any modification.
Jeep has also improved the crawl ratio.
As has been the case for all 76 years of Jeep’s history, Dana Inc. supplies the solid front and rear axles.
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