Going Off-roading in a 2018 Jeep Wrangler – JK-Forum

Going Off-roading in a 2018 Jeep Wrangler

JK-Forum experienced first-hand the unmatched off-road capabilities of the all-new 2018 Jeep Wrangler in the canyons of Malibu, California.

Redesigning a vehicle as iconic as the Wrangler is a complex and delicate undertaking – one mistake could mean the alienation of an important group of long-time Jeep and off-roading enthusiasts.

And after spending a day on a challenging, custom-built trail in the mountains of Southern California, JK-Forum is pleased to report that all is right in the 4×4 world as the all-new 2018 Jeep Wrangler stays true to its history and design while offering a plethora of modern styling and performance updates.

The result is an SUV that’s more versatile, user-friendly, and capable than ever.

A Modern Icon

In terms of design, the 2018 Wrangler draws many styling cues from the legendary CJ-5 – notable highlights include larger round headlights that invade the more upright grille, and a fuller hood profile.

Overall proportions have grown a bit, but Jeep’s designers have smartly hidden the changes – the wheelbase has been extended about an inch to fit the new 8-speed transmission, the hood has increased in length, and the beltline has been lowered for better outward visibility.

The windshield sits at an optimized angle for better aerodynamic efficiency, and features a new four bolt design that makes it very easy to release and fold down. For those who want even more open-air options, the 2018 model year makes available an all-new Sunrider soft top with removable rear windows that slide in a track; no more jammed zippers!

These changes might sound small, but they’re all extremely thoughtful, and stem from lots of community feedback.

“We’ve been making lists of things to get to for a long time,” said Mark Allen, Head of Jeep Design, FCA. “There were a lot of unmet needs that people wanted, like tops and engine options. We had a great foundation, and we just needed to build on it. Everything we could touch on the vehicle, we improved.”

And while not every improvement is immediately apparent, they definitely show their benefit once you’re on the road. For example, new hood latches and fender vents eliminate hood flutter at high speeds – a common issue in the previous-generation Wrangler.

There are countless new features on the 2018 Wrangler, and all of them are there to further enhance the unique experience of driving and owning a Jeep.

Still the King of Off-Road

It’s hard to imagine that a Wrangler could get any better as an off-road vehicle, but the engineers at Jeep have somehow made it happen.

Starting with the powertrain, the 2018 Wrangler adds an all-new 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine to the lineup alongside the tried-and-true 3.6-liter Pentastar V6. And in 2019, the legendary 4×4 will finally offer a 3.0-liter V6 EcoDiesel, in response to overwhelming consumer demand.

When it comes to delivering unmatched traction, a next-generation Dana axle, new full-time two-speed transfer case, electric front- and rear-axle lockers, Trac-Lok limited slip differential, and 33-inch off-road tires give the Wrangler more all-terrain capability than ever before.

JK-Forum was able to experience this performance first-hand while behind the wheel of a 2018 Wrangler Rubicon 4-Door with a 6-speed manual transmission.

Compared to previous models, the clutch pedal on the 2018 Wrangler requires much less effort to operate, and the manual transmission comes with an impressive 84.2:1 crawl ratio in 4-Low (77.2:1 ratio with automatic transmission). This means the vehicle won’t show signs of engine stall until it’s almost at a complete standstill, allowing you to focus on safely navigating obstacles without worrying about feathering the clutch.

A simple switch engages the TruLok electric front- and rear-axles lockers – lock both or just the rear – and a dedicated button electronically disconnects the sway bar for maximum wheel articulation. Both features are exclusive to the Rubicon model.

Our 2018 Wrangler Rubicon made quick work of the large moguls, steep hills, and rocky surfaces. We chuckled at how easy it was to conquer this challenging trail – the Wrangler Rubicon will have even the most novice drivers feeling like a champion off-roader.

Finally, a True Daily-Driver

Let’s be honest, the Wrangler has always been phenomenal for adventuring, but left much to be desired when used as a daily-driver.

Our experience with the previous-gen Wrangler on the busy streets of Southern California felt closer to that of a school bus than a sport utility vehicle, with its heavy steering and tall gear shifter. That’s all in the past though, as the engineers and designers at Jeep have created a Wrangler that’s accessible to just about everyone.

All Wrangler models now feature electro-hydraulic power steering, which adjusts the level of assistance based on vehicle speed, and the manual transmission has 50-percent shorter shifter throws.

The 2018 model year also sees the debut of the fourth-gen Uconnect infotainment system on the Wrangler. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, and the award-winning system is available in 5, 7, or 8.4-inch touchscreen variants. We were also especially excited about the inclusion of a ParkView rear backup camera.

Countless other improvements have been made to deliver a quieter, more comfortable, and more efficient on-road experience for the all-new Wrangler, making it the most versatile iteration to roll off the line at the Toledo Assembly Complex.

We think it’s safe to say that Jeep has succeeded in modernizing the legendary Wrangler while staying true to the original, and we’re excited for the future of this iconic vehicle.

Photos: Andrew Chen

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