2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon first drive review
There are some vehicles that are here to stay. While other models may come and go, few legendary machines survive and continue to please their fans and attract new customers, because they are special and unlike any other. The 2018 Jeep Wrangler is one such vehicle that proudly carries more than 75 years of legendary heritage.
The Jeep Wrangler has gone through many generational changes and upgrades. And with almost each revision it has improved and become more advanced and modern, while at the same time staying true to its roots and retaining the original DNA that distinguishes it and makes it special.
The new generation Wrangler features even more of the famous Jeep 4X4 capability, improved and efficient engines, more safety features, advanced technology, better on- and off-road dynamics, and a lot more.
Purists like me will be delighted that the new Jeep Wrangler has a modern design that stays true to the original. It is instantly recognizable by its iconic grille and the seven vertical openings with round headlights flanking them. This front image of the Jeep is imbedded in millions of minds and has even been used in cartoons, comics, books, modern-art, etc, to convey the message that this is a Jeep, capable of going anywhere.
Interestingly the grille now has a slight bend towards its top, which is said to improve airflow and aerodynamics. The windscreen is also more angled to aid smoother airflow, the A-pillar edges have been rounded and the overall design has fewer gaps and is more rounded and streamlined.
If there are round headlamps on front, there are square tail lights at the back in keeping with the distinctive Wrangler character. The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon we drove has LED headlights, fog lamps and daytime running lights that form a kind halo around the headlights. In keeping with modern day needs, the new Wrangler comes with light and high-strength aluminum doors, hinges, hood, fenders, windshield frame and a magnesium tailgate, all of which have contributed in weight loss to aid fuel efficiency and performance.
Interestingly, the doors now have the Torx bit tool size stamped directly onto the hinge to eliminate guessing which tool size is needed to remove the doors. Yes, let's not forget that this is a Jeep Wrangler and one of the things it promises is 'Freedom' and that too with a capital 'F'. The well- known 'Freedom' panels are lighter now and also have improved latches to enable a quicker removal and installation of the hardtop.
The windscreen can be folded-down for off-road purists like me and dozens of different door, top and windshield combinations allow for endless configuration possibilities. You also get open-air freedom with the new easy-to-use Sky One-Touch full-length open canvas top or rag top, which opens and slides back at the push of a button. And for better outward visibility, especially out on the trails, the new Jeep Wrangler has a lowered beltline with larger windows.
While the passenger compartment still features the heritage-inspired chimney like center stack it has a clean, sculpted shape that complements the horizontal dashboard design. The finish varies by model and the multi-media system includes communication, entertainment and navigation features like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and the choice of 5.0, 7.0- or 8.4-inch touch screens with pinch-and-zoom capability.
The screen resolution is better and below it are the climate and volume control knobs and media connectivity ports. The two USB ports up front and two in reach of occupants in the back seat connect to the media center. Standard 12-volt accessory outlets are located throughout and it has useful mesh type pockets that extend the entire length of the doors and numerous phone storage areas. An under-floor storage area behind the rear seat provides room to secure small items out of sight.
The glove box is now damped and like the center console, can be locked to safely secure valuables when the top is down. Many of the controls have really nice looking metal-plated accents and the vinyl-wrapped door trim panels are soft touch. The arm rests have been lengthened for better comfort and the entire passenger compartment is built well with nice looking and good to feel materials.
Jeep says that the new Wrangler has 75 advanced safety and security features including - Blind-spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Path detection, Park View rear backup camera with dynamic grid lines, electronic stability control (ESC) with electronic roll mitigation and four standard air bags. Every Wrangler also comes with a durable and washable interior and features drain plugs for easy clean up.
Engine & Transmission
The new Jeep Wrangler is available with a new 2.0 litre four-cylinder petrol turbo-charged unit and the 3.6-litre V6. The all-new 2.0-litre turbocharged engine makes 274PS and 400Nm of torque and is mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission. Interestingly, its torque is more than that of the V6!
The 2.0 litre comes with an eTorque system and its hybrid functions include auto stop/start, electric power assist, extended fuel shut-off, transmission shift management, intelligent battery charging and regenerative braking. Both the engine and fuel flow may be turned off during stops, coasting or when the engine is decelerating. It features a twin-scroll, low-inertia turbocharger with an electronically actuated wastegate for exceptional responsiveness and performance, even while traversing over difficult terrain. On our drive, I was most impressed by this engine and its linear power delivery. There is no detectable turbo-lag and you get an instant response even if you slightly push the accelerator pedal.
The eight speed auto transmission is quick to respond too and provides good flexibility. Jeep says, "It's engineered for commuting during the week or rock crawling on the weekend and customers will enjoy a smooth, linear power delivery and improved fuel efficiency".
2018 Jeep Wrangler JL Rubicon
The first thing that strikes one is how much better behaved the new Jeep Wrangler is on regular paved city roads and highways. The ride is so much better, the body moves around less and the steering is also more direct without lots of the earlier vagueness. The ride quality is more supple and comfortable and overall NVH levels are better too.
The use of lighter materials and improvements in suspension settings has certainly benefited the new Wrangler. Jeep says, "The roll center height has been raised and the spring rates have been retuned to provide a comfortable ride when traveling around town". The retuned shock absorbers along with all the other changes like new hard points and body mount strategy, have significantly benefitted the ride comfort, body-roll control, and handling.
While the new Jeep Wrangler feels so much more comfortable and nicer to drive, as we experienced, its off-road capabilities have been enhanced too. In fact now there is optimum balance between on-road handling and the legendary off-road capabilities of the Wrangler. The new Jeep Wrangler has an amazing ground clearance of 277mm and outstanding approach, breakover and departure angles.
All changes to the suspension, steering, etc, have been made to transform on-road handling and ride comfort without sacrificing off-road capability, and the Wrangler proudly boasts of one of the best 4X4 drivetrains, electric front- and rear-axle locks, limited-slip differential and up to 30 inches of water fording ability. The Wrangler Rubicon model I drove offers improved wheel articulation and total suspension travel versus the previous generation with help from an electronic sway-bar disconnect.
To protect critical components like the fuel tank, transfer case and engine and automatic transmission oil pans when off-road, the Wrangler has four strong skid plates and bars. Rubicon models also get heavy gauge tubular steel rock rails to curtail any potential body damage.
The 2018 Jeep Wrangler 2-door model is available in three different trim configurations: Sport, Sport S and Rubicon. Wrangler 4-door models are available in four different trim configurations: Sport, Sport S, Sahara and Rubicon. But it appears to be seen what Jeep actually offers in India.
At around Rs 75 lakh, the Jeep Wrangler is very pricey in India, and we can also expect this to be the case when the new one is launched here. But it is a far superior machine with remarkably better on-road performance. It is easier and more satisfying to live with and as mentioned, the legendary off-road capabilities have also been further enhanced. Despite the high price, I unhesitatingly recommend the Jeep Wrangler, because there is nothing really quite like it, and it has the potential to change both the way you live and drive.
Starts Rs 53.9 Lakhs