- The undisputed off-road champion
- Singular style
- Smooth and strong V-6
- A few concessions to modernity inside
- Rough-and-tumble ride
- Poor on-road handling
- Expensive high-end editions
- Remarkably poor safety scores
- Soft tops are fussy to use
The 2018 Jeep Wrangler skips over the on-road part of the driving test, and heads straight for the hills.
The 2018 Jeep Wrangler is a fresh look at an icon. It appeals to buyers as much for what it is (a sturdy off-roader with a removable top) as it does for what it isn't (a comfortable, luxury SUV).
This year, the 2018 Wrangler’s new for the first time in more than a decade (although the old body style, called Wrangler JK by enthusiasts, was also briefly offered for the 2018 model year). The new Wrangler is a far superior machine, better in every way and still every bit a Jeep. It earns a 6.0 out of 10 on our scale. We recognize that a great Wrangler is not that good on the road, and that its interior’s wash-out nature limits luxuries. It earns big points for its style, its personality, and, of course, its ability to go anywhere. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The Wrangler is offered in Sport, Sahara, and Rubicon trim levels for 2018, with numerous special editions likely to follow. All versions can be ordered in either classic two-door, short wheelbase or extended Wrangler Unlimited four-door configurations. A 3.6-liter V-6 engine is standard and can be paired to either a 6-speed manual or an 8-speed automatic. An optional 2.0-liter turbo-4 is offered only with the latter, but it features a mild-hybrid electrification system that turns off the engine while coasting to save fuel.
Underneath, the Wrangler rides on a separate ladder frame chassis with solid front and rear axles suspended by coil springs. Open, limited-slip, and electronic locking differentials are available depending on the trim level. All Wranglers are four-wheel drive and can be ordered with one of three transfer cases, including a new Selec-Trac system that can be left engaged on any kind of pavement to extend the Jeep’s appeal on snowy days.
Jeep tweaked the Wrangler’s body to make it more fuel-efficient without losing any of its off-road virtues. Its front grille is erect, but cants back slightly and its big headlights carve into the signature seven-slot arrangement. The windshield can still fold forward for low-speed off-roading (now by removing just a handful of bolts), but it slants at a more aggressive angle to improve airflow.
Both soft and hardtop setups are available, with an optional full-length, power-retractable cloth sunroof integrated into the hardtop—and that’s our pick. Wrangler Unlimiteds have more rear-seat space than before, while all models have a new dashboard that’s made of higher-grade materials and puts controls in more logical places. Outward visibility is better, but still not terrific for a high-riding vehicle.
Jeep finally brought the Wrangler’s tech story up-to-date. A standard 5.0-inch audio system can be upgraded to 7.0- and 8.4-inch touchscreens with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities.
One place where the Wrangler still lags is safety tech. Just four airbags are included and high-tech features extend only as far as lane-departure warnings and a rearview camera.
But you’re not reading this because you want the safest car on the road. In the Wrangler, it’s all about freedom—or at least the illusion of it while you’re sitting in traffic on the Beltway. The Wrangler delivers all that in spades, better than ever.
2018 Jeep Wrangler
Don’t call it retro—the 2018 Jeep Wrangler is a terrific remake of a shape that’s been on (and off) the road since 1941.
The 2018 Jeep Wrangler subtly remakes a classic shape. Close attention to the details outside and a far more livable interior inside elevate it to an 8 out of 10 in our eyes. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
For once, even the base Wrangler looks meaty and tough. That’s thanks as much to a widened track as it is to the revamped fender flares that are as iconic as the seven-slot grille. This year, the grille cants rearward at the top, a nod to the YJ-era Wrangler that was in Jeep showrooms from 1986 to 1995. Even more prominent are the big headlights that push into the grille, as they did on CJs. The Wrangler honors its past without getting too lost in kitsch.
At the rear, the Wrangler’s tailgate is still frustratingly hinged on the passenger side, but it’s lighter and the spare tire mounted to it features a third brake light that can be adjusted to accommodate up to 35-inch tires.
Four-door Wrangler Unlimiteds have an extra inch to their wheelbase for more rear-seat room. A more prominent belt line and some angularity added back into their hardtops gives them hints of Land Rover Defender 110, especially in lighter hues.
The Wrangler Rubicon stands out for more than just its 33-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain rubber. Its flares sit higher on the fenders. Would-be owners will want to make an appointment at their local tire shop to have 35-inch rubber installed; it’ll fit without a lift.
The Wrangler’s interior shows a far more obvious transformation. The entire dash assembly is less prominent than before, which combines with a lower window line for an airier feel than last year’s model.
Controls are mounted higher up, although there’s some unnecessary busyness around the climate knobs and buttons that makes them hard to sort through at a quick glance.
A 5.0-inch audio system is standard, but the 8.4-inch unit that’s the big-cost upgrade looks best in the dash.
Jeep offers a slew of top options, too: soft tops that can flip up for a massive sunroof feel, hard tops painted black or body color with removable panels, and a hardtop with an enormous power-retractable fabric ceiling that truly brings the outdoors in.
2018 Jeep Wrangler
The 2018 Jeep Wrangler’s real asset is its off-road ability. But you knew that.
More livable on-road and more capable off-road, the 2018 Jeep Wrangler defies convention. It’s certainly no corner-carver and its ride is choppy in short-wheelbase variants. Overall, we give it a 5 out of 10, pulling a point back for its ride but adding in another for the stellar off-road ability baked into every trim level. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
This year, the Wrangler’s 3.6-liter V-6 is joined by new 8-speed automatic and 6-speed manual transmissions. A 2.0-liter turbo-4 with a 48-volt mild-hybrid powertrain is also available, paired exclusively to the 8-speed automatic. Diesel and plug-in hybrid variants will follow, but not this year.
The V-6 may have the most cylinders, but it’s the base engine. Here, it’s rated at 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. It provides strong, smooth acceleration and mates especially well to the 8-speed automatic. The 6-speed manual, which is unrelated to last year’s ropey gearbox, has a solid feel but the center console can get in the way of even-numbered shifts. The V-6 is light on low-end torque, which is exacerbated with the 6-speed manual and makes loping along at slow speeds off-road a chore.
More surprising is the turbo-4, which is more or less shared with the Alfa Romeo Giulia and Stelvio. It’s rated at 270 hp and 295 lb-ft, so it doesn’t feel much faster than the V-6. However, its torque comes on full-force at 3,000 rpm versus 4,800 rpm for the V-6, which makes it more usable over difficult terrain.
The turbo-4 idles smoothly and is light on lag. Unlike the V-6, which runs on regular fuel, Jeep says that the turbo engine’s power rating is achieved with pricier premium unleaded.
Jeep fits the turbo-4 with a 48-volt battery system that can run the air conditioning and other accessories while the engine is off. Although it can’t run under electric power on its own, the mild-hybrid system turns off the Wrangler’s 4-cylinder engine while coasting to reduce emissions and fuel consumption. Both engines feature a stop/start system, but the turbo-4’s is less intusive.
Regardless of engine, Wranglers are rated to tow up to 2,000 pounds in standard configuration and 3,500 in the extended Unlimited body.
Underneath, the Wrangler rides on a separate ladder frame suspended by coil springs and solid front and rear axles. Wrangler Rubicons sit a little higher than their brethren and ride on 33-inch all-terrain tires.
Short wheelbase Wranglers ride roughly and exhibit considerable side-to-side motions that are mostly quelled with the extra 22 inches of wheelbase found on the Wrangler Unlimited. Silence is not a Wrangler attribute, but the 2018s have less wind rush than before and their hardtops can be fitted with extra insulation to both keep cabin temperatures more comfortable and to temper road rumble.
For the first time ever, the Wrangler’s steering wheel gives some hints as to what’s going on with the front wheels. The new electro-hydraulic system is weighted nicely and tracks true on the highway with some slack off-road.
Sport and Sahara versions come standard with a two-speed, part-time four-wheel drive transfer case not meant for use on dry pavement. Skid plates and tow hooks are standard and a limited-slip rear differential is optional. Though they may be the simplest Wranglers, they’ll conquer just about any obstacle with ease. The latest versions boast a tighter turning radius than last year and a hint more ground clearance.
Jeep views the Sport as a blank slate for modifications and the Sahara as the pavement-pounder for those who may go off-roading on the weekend but want a less-punishing ride and some creature comforts for in-town use.
The Wrangler Sahara offers a Selec-Trac transfer case with an automatic four-wheel drive mode that operates like all-wheel drive for any kind of terrain. It’s only available on automatic transmission models, but the transfer case is a worthwhile upgrade for snowy or even rainy days.
For those who want extreme capability with a factory-backed warranty, the Wrangler Rubicon is astoundingly capable. It’s more than just a big tire package, although it has those too: 33-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A K02 rubber. Its axles are beefier Dana 44 units with selectable locking differentials and its sway bars can be disconnected at the tap of a button for improved off-road articulation that helps keep that hefty rubber on terra firma. A special part-time transfer case with a crawl ratio that lets the Rubicon inch over moguls is also standard.
The Rubicon’s plastic flares sit higher on the fenders, which Jeep engineers say opens up enough room for 35-inch rubber without a lift kit. In other words, watch your local Craigslist for gently used 33-inch Rubicon take-off tires. Also available on Rubicons is a steel front bumper that can accommodate a winch.
Although our off-road time in a Rubicon has so far been limited to a purpose-built rock course in Arizona, its abilities defied our admittedly high expectations. Short of the bonkers Mercedes-Benz G550 4x4 Squared, a more capable off-roader doesn’t exist. Especially one that marries acceptable on-pavement dynamics to eager four-wheeling abilities.
2018 Jeep Wrangler
Comfort & Quality
The 2018 Jeep Wrangler is roomier, but still compromised.
To be exceptionally capable off road, the 2018 Jeep Wrangler’s design compromises passenger comfort. This year’s redesign brings it up to par in many instances, especially the rear seat of the four-door Unlimited, but overall the 2018 Jeep Wrangler earns just 4 out of 10 points. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
We derive that score by deducting a point for its limited interior storage space but stop short of pulling back a point for the Wrangler’s rear seat.
All Wranglers have reasonably supportive front seats covered in fabric or leather. Adjustable lumbar support is newly standard. The seatback mechanism requires reaching way back to pull on a thin strap, which makes on-the-go adjustments a challenge. A lower dashboard aids visibility—a boon both in-town and off-road.
Rear seat riders in two-door Wranglers will find the seat predictably hard to access but fairly roomy once they’re back there. Four-door Wrangler Unlimited models vastly outsell their two-door siblings, so our rating here is based on those models. This year’s longer wheelbase adds an extra inch of leg room and the split-folding bench has been reworked with a more comfortable seatback rake. The speaker bar that used to dig into rear passengers’ head room has been moved forward and now incorporates a hidden grab handle for off-roading. Additionally, rear seat riders have their own climate control vents and, on higher-spec trims, they get a USB port.
Four-door Wrangler Unlimiteds have three seatbelts in the rear, while two-doors have just two. Either way, Wranglers can finally accommodate the rated number of adults in reasonable comfort.
Cargo space is good: nearly 32 cubic feet with the rear bunch upright and 72.4 cubes with it folded.
The Wrangler’s new dashboard is lower and intrudes less into the passenger compartment. That contributes to an airier feeling inside even though overall interior volume isn’t up all that much compared to the previous model. The dash puts all controls up higher, especially infotainment screens available from 5.0 to 8.4 inches. The climate controls are over-styled, which can make them hard to read at a glance.
The new design also brings interior materials to the Wrangler’s cabin, albeit at a price. Sport trim levels have hard plastics everywhere, which feel out of place at upward of $30,000 with a few options but are at least easy to clean with a hose after a day of mud-plugging. Stitched soft-touch surfaces are available on Wrangler Rubicon and Sahara and they impart a classy, but still rugged, feel that’s more price-appropriate.
2018 Jeep Wrangler
The 2018 Jeep Wrangler is light on advanced safety tech.
The 2018 Jeep Wrangler hasn’t been subjected to a full barrage of crash tests, so we can’t assign it a score here. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Its safety feature count is much higher than last year’s model, but that’s not saying a lot. You’ll only find four airbags—virtually every other new car has at least six—and advanced optional safety features go only as far as blind-spot monitors and rear parking sensors. You won’t find adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, or active lane control here, no matter how many options you select.
A rearview camera is standard across the line and it’s housed in a beefy cover at the center of the spare tire.
2018 Jeep Wrangler
Although characteristically basic at the entry level, the 2018 Jeep Wrangler can be configured to meet just about any need.
The 2018 Jeep Wrangler is offered in seven trim levels, but you can bet that a slew of special editions are inbound.
The Wrangler is as basic as they come (although not particularly cheap) in Sport guise. The Wrangler Rubicon that tops the lineup includes enough off-road gear that even the most hardened enthusiasts may resist modifying it (at least for a few weeks).
Overall, we give the lineup points above average for customizability, the Rubicon’s off-road features, a wide variety of roof and body types, and a stellar optional infotainment system. We deducted a point for the Wrangler Sport’s limited feature count, bringing it to a 7 out of 10 overall. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
All variants of the Wrangler except for the Sahara are available in both two-door and four-door guise. The Wrangler Sport comes standard with roll-up windows, manual door locks, keyless ignition, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, and a 5.0-inch display for its eight-speaker audio system.
Optional equipment includes air conditioning, navigation with an 8.4-inch touchscreen, a limited-slip differential, a hardtop, and a trailer-towing package. In short, the Sport is for purists. Jeep sees it as a platform for those who intend to modify their vehicles.
The Sport S piles on creature comforts such as power windows and locks, air conditioning, tinted windows, and alloy wheels. It’s also the gateway to packages with niceties such as heated seats and steering wheel, remote start, automatic climate control, and a 7.0-inch display in the instrument cluster with Alpine-branded speakers.
From there, the Jeep lineup goes in two directions: the comfort-oriented Sahara and the unstoppable Rubicon.
The Wrangler Sahara uses the same suspension and axles as the Sport, but it’s only available as a four-door. Body-color fender flares and 18-inch alloy wheels give it a more upmarket look outside. Inside, its feature count grows with automatic headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 115-volt power outlet, a garage door opener, and more USB outlets.
Jeep offers some luxury-grade options on the Sahara: leather upholstery, full-time four-wheel drive (with the automatic transmission only), LED headlights, and a body-color hardtop.
Wrangler Rubicons discard with the other models’ axles in favor of beefier units with electronic lockers and sway bars that disconnect at the press of a button. Raised fender flares can accommodate 35-inch tires, although they’re not factory-supplied. A more robust part-time transfer case with a special low-range ratio adds to its four-wheeling bona fides.
Rubicons start essentially par to the Sport S in terms of their creature comforts, but they can be loaded up to Sahara level with leather upholstery, a color-matched hardtop and flares, and LED headlights. A winch-capable steel front bumper is a Rubicon-specific option.
Wranglers with the 7.0- and 8.4-inch infotainment systems feature terrific, user-friendly software with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
2018 Jeep Wrangler
A plug-in hybrid Jeep Wrangler is coming, but the standard model isn’t as thirsty as its shape might suggest.
The 2018 Jeep Wrangler sips less fuel than before thanks to its more aerodynamic shape.
Our 5 out of 10 rating here is based on most popular model: the standard V-6. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
That engine is rated at 18 mpg city, 23 highway, 20 combined with the 8-speed automatic. Picking the 6-speed manual drops those figures to 17/25/20 mpg. Opting for the four-door version doesn't dent mileage despite the added length. Automatics check in at 18/23/20 mpg and manuals offer 17/23/19 mpg.
The new turbo-4 is frugal, but can't solve the Wrangler's aerodynamic properties. (It's a brick in the wind.) The turbo-4 is rated at 23/25/24 mpg with two doors, 22/24/22 mpg with four doors.
All things considered, that’s not bad.
Both the V-6 and the optional 2.0-liter turbo-4 include a start/stop system that cuts the engine out at traffic lights to reduce fuel while idling. The inline-4 is a 48-volt mild hybrid system that can “sail”—that is, its battery can run accessories when coasting, so the gas engine can be turned off. A generator in place of the alternator provides some additional oomph while underway, too, which further reduces consumption.
A plug-in hybrid version is on the way next year, too.