The Jeep All-New Wrangler Unlimited – cursed with such a silly name because Jeep is selling this redesign alongside the old model, rebranded as Wrangler JK Unlimited and listed separately – represents a significant advancement in design while being able to maintain, and even expand upon, the rugged looks and ultimate capability that has made it an American icon.
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2018 Jeep All-New Wrangler Unlimited Overview
What's New for 2018
This model year marks a full redesign resulting in a Jeep that is improved in nearly every measurable way.
Choosing Your Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
Jeep has expanded the 2018 Wrangler’s powertrain lineup to include a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder that is mated to an eight speed automatic transmission. Capable of producing 270 horsepower and 295 pound feet of torque, the 2.0-liter turbo is expected to be more efficient than the standard 3.6-liter V6. Helping on the efficiency front is a 48-volt mild hybrid system which swaps the alternator for a generator. The system enables the Wrangler to cut fuel to the engine and “sail” during coasting situations and it can also provide enough power for the air conditioning and other electrical loads with the engine off while sitting in traffic. The EPA ratings have yet to be released, which makes sense, as the 2.0-liter Wrangler won't arrive in dealers until later this year. It will eventually be joined by a diesel-powered V6, too.
In the meantime, the standard and familiar 3.6-liter V6 will have to do, with 285 horsepower and 260 foot-pound of torque. It too is equipped with a start-stop system and can be mated to an improved six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Four-wheel drive is standard and there are three different systems available. The Sport and Sahara come standard with a part-time, two-speed transfer case that is manually controlled, just as the Jeep gods intended.
A more advanced transfer case is newly available on 2018 Sahara models, and offers an automatic mode that engages both axles depending on vehicle sensor data. It's the first full-time four-wheel-drive system in the Wrangler's history.
At the top of the four-wheel-drive food chain is a heavy-duty part-time system that comes standard with the Rubicon trim. It features specific gearing that favors low speed rock crawling, and is one of a bevy of unique systems for Jeep's most capable Wrangler trim.
Those looking to tow often may appreciate the Unlimited’s increased towing rating, up to 3,500 pounds, compared to the two-door model's 1,500-pound rating..
The EPA estimate for the Wrangler Unlimited V6 automatic is 18 miles per gallon city, 23 mpg highway, and 20 combined which is a notable improvement over the previous generation. The six-speed manual earns 17 mpg city, 23 highway, and 19 combined.
Jeep offers three trims that range in equipment levels from extremely basic to remarkably luxurious (for a Wrangler).
It may be very tempting to jump for the Rubicon but be sure to consider you need the capability that its hefty price tag provides (you probably don't). Instead, we recommend starting with the Sport S before going hog-wild on the options catalog.
2018 Jeep All-New Wrangler Unlimited Review
One of America's most iconic vehicles, the 2018 Jeep Wrangler is the first of a new breed, a comprehensively redesigned take on the boxy off-roader that's bristling with modern technology and drivetrain technology. But at its core, the Wrangler remains one of the most rugged, capable, and charming vehicles on the market. That's doubly true of the Wrangler Unlimited, which adds an extra pair of doors to the equation.
Jeep sells the Wrangler Unlimited in three trims – the budget-friendly $31,690 Sport, which doesn't even come with air conditioning as standard, the cushy, image-conscious $38,540 Sahara, and the highly capable $41,690 Rubicon. While we tested the Rubicon, the smart buy is the Sahara.
For a start, this trim adds a lot of the optional content from the Sport – the entire $3,200 Sport S Package, which includes stuff like air conditioning and power windows, and a seven-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility being the most notable – and also grants access to a few better options.
You'll want the LED Lighting Group, it costs $895 but replaces the horrible halogen headlights with far superior LED units. The $595 Cold Weather Package is a smart buy, adding heated front seats and a heated steering wheel, while the $895 Active Safety Package adds blind-spot monitoring and rear parking sensors. That's a lot of content for just under $2,400.
The Dual-Top Group is expensive at $2,195, but it makes a lot of sense if you live somewhere with four seasons – a hardtop can be a savior in the cold. But bear in mind, if you ever want to take the hardtop off, you'll need a place to store the big, rigid roof.
Enthusiasts and the frugal should grab the no-cost six-speed manual transmission, while everyone else needs to shell out $2,000 for the eight-speed automatic. Jeep will also offer a diesel engine and a 2.0-liter, gas-powered turbo four-cylinder later this year, but for now, the 3.6-liter V6 is the only available option and it's the one we've chosen.
- Model: 2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara
- Engine: 3.6-liter V6
- Output: 270 hp / 295 lb-ft
- Transmission:Six-speed manual
- Drivetrain: Four-wheel drive
- MPG: 17 City / 23 Hwy
- Options:LED Lighting Group ($895, LED headlights, running lights, fog lights, and taillights), Cold Weather Package ($595, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, remote start, engine block heater), Jeep Active Safety Group ($895, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, rear parking sensors), Dual-Top Group ($2,195, three-piece hardtop, black Sunrider softtop)
- Base Price:$38,540 (including the $1,195 destination charge)
- Best Value Price:$42,225
To talk about the Wrangler's performance means focusing on two different elements – on and off road. Off road, the Wrangler is shockingly capable. The Rubicon arrives with locking differentials, electronically disconnecting sway bars, upgraded front and rear axles, available steel bumpers (for extra durability), and 33-inch off-road tires. If you can see it, the Rubicon can probably conquer it. It's indomitable.
The Wrangler is more frustrating on road, where its off-road nature weighs down the experience. The suspension is very soft and there's so much give in the huge sidewalls of the off-road tires that the Wrangler rolls heavily and quickly. Live front and rear axles react severely to any significant potholes or imperfections. Despite these woes, it's worth noting that the Wrangler's steering is vastly improved, offering better high-speed stability and more natural weight that go a long way toward reducing the effort of highway travel.
Both on and off road, the 3.6-liter V6 performs well. Low-end performance is plentiful, and the mid-range punch is strong. Rev the base engine out, and at least on our Rubicon tester, there's an ear pleasing exhaust and induction note. The jury is still out on the optional 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder and its 48-volt mild hybrid system, as well as the long-awaited diesel engine.
The six-speed manual is fun, but the clutch uptake is vague and thanks to the overeager throttle response, it's hard to take off from a standstill smoothly. We haven't driven an eight-speed automatic in the Wrangler, but based on the other FCA products with this engine/transmission combo – the Ram 1500, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Chrysler 300, Dodge Challenger, and Dodge Charger – it will be excellent.
In news that will shock all, the 2018 Wrangler Unlimited looks like a Wrangler. Its two-box layout is smoothed out slightly, with a more aerodynamic grille and a sharper rake to the windshield. But the seven-slat grille, round headlights, square taillights, and enormous wheel arches remain, hiding the smaller design details. For example, the headlights intrude on the exterior grille slats, just like the original military vehicles that were the first Jeeps.
The cabin is a vast improvement. Our test model had a seven-inch display in the instrument cluster and an 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system over the center stack, just like the Cherokee and Compass. It's a smart, clean, intuitive setup that works well (which is probably why it's now present in so many of Fiat Chrysler's vehicles).
The buttons underneath the center stack are mostly redundant and aren't a particularly clean design. That's exacerbated by the four switches for the window. That said, given the option of using the touchscreen and the analog buttons, we mainly opted for the old-fashioned approach. At the very least, we're glad Jeep isn't forcing consumers to use its touchscreen (even though it's excellent).
Clever interior design touches abound – we dig the hand-grenade-style shift lever, which is the right size and easy to grip. But the more functional things, like the front seats, aren't as good. The bottom cushion isn't large enough, and there's a lack of support from the bolsters. The smaller front window also makes it difficult to see out of the front. The second row is roomy enough and perfectly fine for occasional adult use.
The Best and Worst Things
For the price, the Wrangler is arguably the most capable off-road vehicle on the road. But this capability could be uncomfortable to live with daily, owing to the super-soft suspension and live axles.
Right For? Wrong For?
Outdoors enthusiast should continue to flock to the Wrangler, even in its base trim. This is a versatile, capable vehicle – just as it's always been – but it's going to keep you safer and more comfortable no matter where in nature you go.
The frugal might not appreciate the speed that the Wrangler Unlimited's price climbs. Starting north of $30,000, our Unlimited Rubicon's price starts at over $41,000. Our tester was pushing up against $50,000 – that's an eye-watering price for a vehicle with such a utilitarian character.
The Bottom Line
A charmer off road, the Jeep Wrangler demands a lot of sacrifices for everyday use. But if you can live with its noisy and uncomfortable on-road character, even a basic Wrangler can take you far off the beaten path, where its shortcomings simply won't matter.