I simply completed crawling up a steep rock hill within the 2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon throughout a Jeep-sponsored press occasion, and the spotter requested me to take a tough left, basically planting the driving force’s aspect BF Goodrich KO2 tire straight on a close to vertical rock. I anticipated to listen to a scrape from the entrance bumper as I approached the rock, however this, my buddies, is the brand new Rubicon. With an improved method angle of 44 levels, the Rubicon pushed itself up and over the rock with nary a scratch on the skid plate or a dent within the bumper.
Full disclosure: I’ve at all times been a Jeep gal. My childhood reminiscences are stuffed with off-road journeys within the household 1966 CJ5. However just lately I spent lots of time within the, and got here to like the superior payload and towing capability of a truck mixed with the entrance and rear lockers. As quickly as I sat behind the wheel of the brand new Jeep, all that nostalgia got here flooding again, and all ideas of practicality went out the window.
TheWrangler arguably has the most effective off-road functionality of all SUVs at the moment available on the market. The Wrangler 2-door mannequin is out there in Sport, Sport S and Rubicon trims. If you’d like a bit extra room, Wrangler Four-door fashions can be found in Sport, Sport S, Sahara and Rubicon trims. 4-wheel drive with a low vary comes normal on all fashions, however the Rubicon goes a number of steps additional with locking entrance and rear differentials, disconnecting sway bars and different off-road goodies.
The confirmed three.6-liter V6 engine is normal, though it now comes with idle cease expertise for improved gas financial system. Final yr’s numbers of 16 miles per gallon within the metropolis and 21 on the freeway are as much as 18/23 with the brand new eight-speed automated and 17/23 within the new six-speed guide.
New this yr is a 2.Zero-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, good for 270 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, mated to the brand new eight-speed automated transmission. This engine incorporates a new eTorque mild-hybrid expertise with idle cease, gas shut-off and regenerative braking. No phrase on EPA gas rankings, however Jeep actually appears to be taking note of effectivity this time round.
People keen to attend till 2019 shall be rewarded with a three.Zero-liter V6 EcoDiesel, mated to the eight-speed automated transmission. That is the powerplant I’m most enthusiastic about due to the 260 horsepower and 442 pound/toes of torque. Jeeps are made for gradual and regular mountain climbing, not quick dune operating just like the; it does simply wonderful with horsepower within the mid-200s. The additional torque, nevertheless, is a boon and will assist the Wrangler climb up and over obstacles even simpler.
And if none of those choices get your gears greased, attempt ready for 2020 when Jeep will throw a plug-in hybrid beneath the hood. Yup, four-wheeling on electrical energy.
On the pavement drive to Jeep’s off-road take a look at part, I acquired to pattern a four-door Sahara with the non-compulsory Selec-Trac full-time two pace switch case. This new possibility gives what Jeep calls full-time 4 wheel drive, however its actually extra of a rear-biased all-wheel drive system, the place energy is diverted to the entrance wheels solely when wanted. The Selec-Trac system additionally options Jeep’s conventional part-time 4 wheel drive in addition to a low-range.
My pavement tester was additionally geared up with the brand new 2.Zero-liter turbo powerplant. I will admit to being skeptical, however the little engine was greater than enough. Due to the twin-scroll turbocharger, there’s no noticeable lag, and the brand new eight-speed automated transmission is unobtrusive in its shifts. Jeep mounted the turbocharger straight on the cylinder head for better sturdiness, and its electronically actuated waste gate ought to carry out properly even when one is rock crawling or in a precarious state of affairs. Additional, a separate liquid-cooling system for air, throttle physique and turbo ought to enable drivers to show up the warmth on their driving line decisions whereas preserving their energy factors good and funky. I actually hope to spend extra time with the turbocharged engine at a later date to get into some filth and dunes.
Driving a Jeep on the pavement is, properly, like driving a Jeep on the pavement. The strong entrance and rear axles imply it is not going to win any consolation contests, and regardless of the improved aerodynamics supplied from the raked windshield and seven-slot grill, it is nonetheless fairly straightforward to catch a crosswind. That mentioned, Jeep added vents behind the entrance fenders so the hood flutter from yesteryear is gone and wind noise, no less than within the laborious high, has been improved.
What hasn’t been improved is payload capability. You possibly can nonetheless solely haul a most of 1,000 kilos and tow a most of three,500. It is sufficient to tow a small tenting trailer or an open trailer loaded with a light-weight automotive, however those that have large man and gal toys are higher off with a truck.
Once we lastly reached the tough stuff, Jeep had me change out the Sahara mannequin for the grand daddy Rubicon. The Rock-Trac four-wheel drive system within the Rubicon comes with the entire shebang: locking entrance and rear differentials, entrance sway bar disconnect and a killer Four:1 low-range gear ratio. Via the magic of math and engineering, as soon as the torque will get multiplied by way of the transmission, the switch case and the axle, the ultimate crawl ratio is 77.2:1 for the automated transmission and 84.2:1 for the guide, an enormous enchancment during the last era.
Okay, so what do these numbers imply? The larger the crawl ratio, the extra torque will get put to the bottom, the simpler the Jeep will climb up and over obstacles in a gradual and managed method. I discovered this out as I maneuvered the Wrangler over rocks that might make my beloved ZR2 weep with envy. Following the instructions of my outdoors spotter, I turned my wheels hither and yon and utilized only a contact of the fuel. With the entrance and rear locked, every wheel acquired an equal quantity of torque. Additional, with the entrance sway bar disconnected the wheels had much more articulation. The KO2 tires fought only a bit for buy on the slick rocks, however earlier than I knew it, the Wrangler had popped itself to the highest of the rock pile and I hadn’t even damaged a sweat. Okay, perhaps a small sweat was damaged, however very small.
For each impediment I tried within the Wrangler, it was the identical: shift to Four-low, lock the entrance and rear, and maintain the proper foot gentle and regular. Certain, typically I hit the rock rails, even with the improved floor clearance of 10.eight inches, and the skid plate noticed a little bit of use, however that is what these issues are for. General, the brand new Wrangler makes off-roading straightforward for newbies and places much more tough trails within the sights of these with expertise.
Wranglers have by no means been identified for his or her inside expertise, however the 2018 mannequin is shaping as much as be fairly nifty. FCA’s wonderful Uconnect system comes normal, displayed on both a 5-, 7- or eight.Four-inch touchscreen with pinch and zoom functionality. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are each included, together with a WiFi hotspot, two USB ports, two 12V accent ports and a 115-volt three-prong AC outlet, all the higher for mixing up some drinks on the finish of the path.
And for many who concern a misguided return to the square-headlight days of yore, by no means concern. The 2018 Wrangler nonetheless sports activities the acquainted spherical headlights and seven-slot grille. The windshield folds down and the doorways come off, however the aspect mirrors are mounted on the doorways. As soon as they’re gone, so too are your mirrors. Probably the most distinctive change to the entrance fascia is the relocation of the LED flip indicators to the entrance of the fenders, somewhat than simply under the headlights. It is a daring transfer and definitely emphasizes the Wrangler’s width.
The Wrangler lastly joined the 21st century with the addition of a back-up digital camera. I would not maintain my breath for adaptive cruise management or lane preserving help, however the availability of blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-path detection is welcome.
Out there subsequent summer time would be the Sky One-Contact powertop, taking a number of the burden of letting the sunshine in. The present high is, properly actually, a bear to take down. The addition of a push-button open canvas roof ought to be a welcome possibility.
The 2018 Jeep Wrangler with the three.6-liter V6 shall be obtainable in January of subsequent yr. A two-door mannequin begins at $26,995 for the Sport, with the Rubicon at $36,995. If you’d like a bit extra room, the four-door begins at $30,495 for the Sport, $37,345 for the Sahara and $40,495 for the Rubicon.
No phrase on pricing but for the two.Zero-liter turbo fashions, however count on to see them hitting dealerships in summer time of 2018.