Emma Jayne Williams

Jeep remakes iconic Wrangler for 2018 with serious off-roading firmly in mind

Rocks are no problem for the redesigned 2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon.
Rocks are no problem for the redesigned 2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. 2017 FCA US LLC

With a redesign for 2018, the iconic Jeep Wrangler stays true to its heritage, with iconic styling, round headlights, the trademark seven-slot grille, flat fender flares, fold-down windshield, and removable tops and doors. With one look, everyone knows it’s a Jeep.

Built and tested for driving over whatever happens to be on the trail – rocks, logs, mud, etc. – with excellent ground clearance and approach, break-over and departure angles, the all-new Wrangler keeps the fun going. Tight spots aren’t a problem with precise steering and a tight turning radius.

With its air intake positioned high in the engine compartment, electrical connections sealed against moisture, and body openings that close tightly, small creeks, streams or deep rain puddles are no challenge.

While the all-new Wrangler carries the Jeep brand’s DNA, it takes advantage of the latest technology and materials for a memorable interior, with new levels of fit and finish along with rugged details.

Four trims are available: Sport two-door, $26,995 (four-door, $30,495), Sport S two-door, $30,195 (four-door, $33,695), Sahara four-door, $37,345, Rubicon two-door, $36,995 (four-door, $40,495).

All models feature a 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine, delivering 285 horsepower, with enhanced performance to improve mileage – 17 mpg city/23 highway – for the most fuel-efficient Wrangler ever. The pushbutton starter is waterproof. The key never has to leave your pocket, with passive entry system automatically unlocking the door or swing gate with a pull of the door handle (with the key in range).

A new six-speed manual transmission is standard on all models, with an eight-speed automatic available for $2,000. For the off-road enthusiast, the new manual transmission has a short-throw shifter, a vent tube for water crossing and low first and reverse gears for greater crawl ratios and better off-road driving control.

Every 2018 Wrangler sports the hard earned Trail Rated badge, after conquering grueling tests over tough terrain, proving its ability to withstand harsh conditions and deliver extraordinary off-road capability.

Going topless is a big part of Jeep open-air fun. A new zipperless Sunrider soft top opens and closes manually with a spring-assist, folds flat, and, when open, is secured to the roof rails with Velcro straps.

The new Sky One-Touch Top opens and closes with the touch of a button – up to 60 mph – folds accordian style as it goes, and can be partially or completely opened. The Freedom Top hard top is 20 percent lighter than previous hard tops, with three easily removable panels.

Door removal has been simplified by a new multi-length hinge-pin system – using the Torx Tool Kit included with the Jeep, unscrew the hinge bolts, pull a quick release lever, and lift the door off.

A foldable windshield increases the open-air enjoyment, now with the removal of fewer bolts than before. A new body-color sport bar is part of the permanent windshield frame, and redesigned hood bumpers cleverly disguise washer nozzles.

My all-new Wrangler Rubicon two-door, painted Granite Crystal Metallic, rode on new 33-inch all-terrain tires for improved crawling on advanced trails.

Big, tough tires mean more ground clearance at 10.9 inches, and more-efficient use of power thanks to larger surface area and better traction. The 17-inch black wheels with polished lips ($895) had five heel-shaped spokes.

The distinctive exterior with a power-dome hood featuring two vents to cool the engine, and high-clearance body-color fender flares ($395) accentuating the huge tires matched my Rubicon’s superior capabilities, with rock rails, front and rear red tow hooks, and red-accented Trail Rated badge capping off the look.

New air extractors behind the fender flares also help to cool the engine compartment. The Jeep badge has been moved from the hood back to the side of the fender, reminiscent of past models. The familiar flutter of the hood at highway speeds has been eliminated thanks to redesigned latches. Is that a good thing?

Grab handles were built into the A- and B-pillars, making it easier to get in and out and offering solid support for serious off-roading.

The front bucket seats on my tester were trimmed in Heritage Tan leather with Rubicon embroidered on the seatbacks, included in a package with black leather-wrapped park brake handle and shift knob (with a red grip ring around the lever) and black premium wrapped instrument panel and door trim panels for $1,395. The dash panel, interior door handles, steering wheel, and control panel were trimmed in pewter gray.

A Cold Weather Group ($595) brought heated front seats and steering wheel, and an engine block heater.

The new Jeep Utility Grid on the seatbacks was inspired by MOLLE-style (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) military tactical packs, with Pouch Attachment Ladder System webbing for storing a flashlight, first aid kit or water bottles for easy access.

Premium LED headlights and LED signature rings gave my Rubicon a distinctive look, and were part of a package including LED fog lights in the front bumper, taillights and daytime running lights on the fenders.

Trailer sway damping is standard, while a Trailer Tow and HD Electrical group ($795) adds an upgraded 700-ampere maintenance-free battery and 240-amp alternator, a Class II receiver hitch, a seven- and four-pin wiring harness, as well as programmable auxiliary control switches to control aftermarket products, such a lights, winches, cameras, and other fun, useful equipment.

The new Trail Rail Management System ($195) is an adjustable rail-based tie-down utility system mounted on the cargo floor and swing gate. It can be customized with accessories from Jeep Performance Parts. The package included a cargo compartment floor mat.

A removable cargo floor helped keep gear hidden, and lockable glove box and center console kept smaller items secure even with the top down. All-weather floor mats in the passenger area added $130.

All-new, one-way drain valves in the floor allow water to flow out but not back into the wash-out interior. Remove the carpet and wash out the interior with a hose.

Jeep’s legendary Rock-Trac Heavy Duty part time 4x4 system, with a heavy-duty two-speed transfer case featuring a 4:1 low range and an 84.1:1 crawl ratio (with the manual transmission), and easily accessible switches for engaging 4x4 functions, is ready for any boundary-breaking experience.

Rock-Trac is standard on the Rubicon, and delivers more torque and more control for excellent off-road performance. Three different 4x4 systems are available, each designed to address different situations.

Tru-Lok electronic locking front and rear differentials, and an electronic front sway bar disconnect are also standard on Rubicon, allowing the front wheels to drop and compress when the sway bar is disconnected, keeping the wheels on the ground for maximum traction and stability on rough terrain.

Disconnecting also relieves stress on suspension components, to avoid breaking them – something you don’t want especially when in a tough situation. Tru-Loc locking differentials lock and distribute power between wheels for maximum traction during low-speed rock crawling.

Front and rear Dana 44 axles were beefed up with thicker tubes for strength, rigidity, and durability. Heavy-gauge skid plates protected the fuel tank, transfer case and transmission. The heavy-gauge steel tubular rock rails protected the rocker panels and lower body sides, helping the Rubicon slide over rocks and other obstacles.

My Rubicon had rugged steel front and rear bumpers, in a $1,295 package. The winch-capable front bumper had removable endcaps for better clearance.

A Black Freedom Top three-piece hard top ($1,095) replaced the standard Black Sunrider soft top, included in a package along with a rear window wiper/washer, rear window defogger, and a Freedom Panel storage bag. Black door handles and mirrors complemented the top. A Hard Top Headliner for $495 helped insulate for sound and temperature.

An Electronic Infotainment System Group ($1,295) brought Uconnect 4C NAV with an 8.4-inch display, Alpine Premium Audio System, auto-dimming rearview mirror, Roadside Assistance and 911 call, HD radio, SiriusXM Guardian, Traffic, Traffic Plus, and Travel.

Dual USB ports in the front of the center console tray and one in the console bin can keep smartphones connected and charged, and a 115-volt power outlet could power up electronics without an adapter.

The 2018 Jeep Wrangler has been designed to make your on- or off-road life easier, more convenient, safer, more secure, and – last but not least – more fun.

With $9,280 in options and $1,195 destination charges, my fun-to-drive, comfortable, eye-catching Rubicon delivered for $47,665.

The automotive columns of Emma Jayne Williams have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 2007. Contact her at emmajayne1948@gmail.com