There are very few icons left in the auto industry. One remains atop that shrinking list – the Jeep Wrangler.
Jeep brand has passed through numerous hands over the past 75 years. From the original Willys in 1941 through Kaizer-Jeep, and American Motors to Chrysler in its various configurations – Chrysler Corporation, Daimler Chrysler and most-recently Fiat Chrysler Corporation. The Jeep name comes from the “G P” (General Purpose) vehicle introduced in 1941. The lineage starts from that “MB” produced through the war years, followed by the CJ2 (1944-53), CJ5 (1954-86), CJ7 (1976-86), YJ (1987-95) and JK (2007-2018) to the new JL.
Now called the Wrangler, this Jeep has retained, not only its looks, but its body-on-frame structure, solid axles, and unmatched off-road capability.
Global sales topped 1.4 million units last year – the best in Jeep’s 75-year history
Creating a new version of the Wrangler was an onerous task. Jeep lovers would not accept a radical new design. The development team to make it new but – not too new.
As a result, the 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL retains the classic round headlights, seven-slot grill, hood, bumpers and fenders. But all haver been subtly reshaped
The Wrangler also retains its rugged body on frame architecture. The new frame is 45-kg lighter thanks to the use of lightweight high strength steel. Further weight saving comes from the use of magnesium for the swinging tailgate and aluminum for the doors, hood, windshield frame and hinges. All this results in a further 45-kg weight loss. The hard top is lighter, the panels and doors are easier to remove, the lighter windshield easier to fold down, and the soft-top can be power operated.
While appearing to be as aerodynamic as a brick, the new Wrangler cuts a slightly cleaner path through the air thanks to the grill and windshield being slightly more laid back.
All this is well and good but Wrangler aficionados don’t give a hoot about looks – other than “don’t mess with them.” Their main concern will be whether the development team softened their favourite off roader. They did – but in a good way.
The new Wrangler was developed to offer improved on-road manners without sacrificing off road ability. A two-speed transfer case has a 2.72:1 “rock crawler” set of gears. The standard Command-Trac system shuttles power between two and four wheels automatically and hard core off-roaders can order up Rubicon model which comes with the Rock-Trac system and the ability to manually control which wheels get power, lock the axles and a low range with 4:10 gears. The Rubicon also gets more ground clearance, bigger fenders, 33-inch all-terrain rubber and the ability to ford streams up to 76-cm deep.
There is some news under the hood as well.
The standard engine is the 3.6-litre Pentastar V6, carried over from the outgoing model. Producing 285-horsepower and 260 lb.ft. of torque it can be paired with a six-speed manual or a new eight-speed automatic. A six-speed was used previously. The newcomer to the engine family is a turbocharged four-cylinder, belting out 270-horsepower and 295-lb.ft. of torque. If you were reading closely you noticed that is more torque than the bigger V6. Give thanks to the turbo and extra punch from a hybrid system. The optional four is only available with the new eight-speed automatic.
Want more rock-crawling torque? Wait for the 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel expected within the next 12 months.
In the meantime, what we have here is a new, old Wrangler.
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Model: 2018 Jeep Wrangler
Engine: 3.6-litre V6, 285 horsepower, 260 lb.-ft. of torque, regular fuel or turbocharged 2.0-litre four cylinder, 270 horsepower, 295 lb.-ft. of torque, regular fuel.
Transmission: V6 -six speed manual or eight-speed automatic; Turbo four – automatic only
Four-Wheel-Drive systems: Command-Trac (Sport & Sahara) and Rock-Trac (Rubicon)
NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 14.7 / 11.7
Length: 4,237 mm
Width: 1,875 mm
Wheelbase: 2,460 – two-door; 3,008 – four-door
Weight: 1,819 – 2,021 kg
Price: Sport, $33,495 – $48,745 plus freight
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