Taking a ride in the all-new Jeep Wrangler
For decades now, the Jeep Wrangler has been the quintessential off-road machine. With its short wheelbase and small over hangs – it’s the perfect vehicle for the adventurous off-road driver. Last year, the Wrangler “JK”, out since 2006, was replaced by an all-new Wrangler, code-named the “JL”. This week I find myself exploring this new off-roader, in the Unlimited Rubicon trim level.
At first glace, the new Wrangler looks much like the one it replaces. That’s purely intentional. When an icon is being re-created, it has to be new, yet recognizable. The new Wrangler is exactly that.
While it may look the same, every panel is brand new. It’s larger too – the two-door is two-and-a-half inches longer while the four-door Unlimited is three-and-a-half inches longer. Wheelbase is also increased by an inch on the two-door Wrangler and two-and-a-half inches on the Unlimited.
Under the hood, Chrysler’s Pentastar V6 engine can still be found. Displacing 3.6 liters, it makes 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Want more power? Wrangler buyers can now opt for a new 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder. While it makes slightly less horsepower (270), torque jumps to 295 lb-ft – and in this business, torque is the name of the game. As a bonus, the boosted four-cylinder is equipped with a slight electric assist system. This system replaces the alternator with a motor/generator unit that can boost torque under acceleration as well as gather energy through regenerative braking. It also adds in Stop Start, to further save fuel at long stops.
Jump inside the new Jeep and you’ll find a much more modernized interior. Sure, the last Wrangler had some nice amenities, but they all seemed to be add-ons. In the new Wrangler, features like push-button start and a giant touch screen fit in nicely and feel like they belong. It’s roomier too, thanks to that slightly longer wheelbase.
So if you’re wondering if the new Wrangler Rubicon has gone soft, I can assure you it hasn’t. First off, the wheels are now larger 33 inchers, up an inch from the last model. That increases ground clearance by .9 inches (from 10.0 to 10.9). And those huge tires are now BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2s – the same tire found on the Ford Raptor.
The Rubicon comes with electronically locking front and rear differentials, an electronically disconnecting front anti-roll bar, and a 4.00:1 low range for its part-time four-wheel-drive system. Dana 44s are used for both the front and rear axles. And unlike other sophisticated off-road vehicles, the Wrangler has no adjustable-ride-height or terrain-response system. All that is left up to the driver.
Of course, the doors still come off and the windshield still folds down – both just much easier than last year’s Wrangler. And now, along with the hardtop and softtop, there is a third option – the Sky One Touch Power top. Going this route lets you choose between open air driving or a closed roof, by way of a button.
For 2019, Jeep has added adaptive cruise control and a forward collision warning system to the option ship.
As Jeep changed the Wrangler, it changed a modern day icon. But the new Wrangler is just as good as ever – and remains the ultimate off-road vehicle.
— Christopher A. Randazzo
By The Numbers:
Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 4×4
Base Price: $41,445.00 (2018)
Price as Tested: $58,990.00 (2018)
Layout: front-engine / four-wheel drive
Engine: 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Horsepower: 270 hp
Torque: 295 ft/lb
EPA Fuel Economy: 22 city / 24 highway mpg
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