The Jeep Wrangler is no doubt Jeep’s most iconic and important vehicle, and as a result immense pressure were on Fiat Chrysler designers and engineers to keep it true to its roots as the hardcore and durable military vehicle it was during World War II. That meant maintaining the rugged capability prized by the model’s core group of off-roading owners while improving its refinement in order to appeal to the majority of customers who buy Wranglers as daily drivers these days.
To do that, Jeep stuck with a ladder frame construction and solid front and rear axles, but subtly improved the aerodynamics of its boxy body and loaded it with plenty of comfort, performance and infotainment tech. While this was the first revamp in around 10 years, designers didn’t want to mess much with the looks. Changes to the exterior are subtle yet effective - with aerodynamic efficiency being a big deal - to the extent that the windshield was rounded and its angle lowered, and there is even a subtle small spoiler at the back of the roof. Engineers also shed about 90kgs by use of lighter high-strength steel in the frame as well making the bonnet, doors, fender flares and hinges out of aluminium.
Under the bonnet are new engines too. An all-new 2.0-litre turbocharged inline four-cylinder and 3.0-litre EcoDiesel V6 join the Wrangler lineup, while the 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 engine is upgraded for 2018. Prior to the launch, the 2.0T was subject to much hype with many outlets reporting it would produce 275kw. It turns out this was inaccurate, as it actually produces 200kw. The new four-cylinder motor will be mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission. The tried and tested 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 engine delivers 213kw and now features a much-needed Engine Stop-Start (ESS) as standard equipment. An all-new six-speed manual transmission is standard on all Wrangler models equipped with the 3.6-litre Pentastar V6, and a new-to-Wrangler eight-speed automatic transmission is optional. The 3.0-litre EcoDiesel engine will be available starting in 2019 on Wrangler 4-door models, while output is rated at 194kw and 600nm, with Engine Stop-Start (ESS) standard. A new eight-speed automatic transmission is standard and is designed to handle the increased torque output.
Fiat Chrysler’s fourth-generation UConnect infotainment system offers 4G Wi-Fi and both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration and can be augmented by a 7-inch LED screen in the instrument cluster that has several off-road functions, including pitch and roll displays. The display allows the driver to configure information in over 100 ways including current media being played, tyre pressure, or digital speed readout. A 7.0- or an available 8.4-inch touchscreen houses the primary Uconnect system, while Wrangler comes with up to a nine-speaker audio system that features a Sound Bar mounted to the roof beam behind the front seats. And as with all modern vehicles, just about everything can be controlled from the multi-function steering wheel.
Storage space was another area that designers paid particular close attention to. There are numerous phone storage areas, cup holders, as well as mesh pockets on each of the doors. Even the placement of the subwoofer was key, to allow more storage space than before. There’s also a nifty under-floor storage area behind the rear seat to hide valuables. And as with the center console, the glove box can be locked to safely secure valuables when the roof is removed.
Safety and security were paramount in the development of the new 2018 Wrangler, which is said to offer over 75 available active and passive safety and security features. Available features include: Blind-spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Path detection, ParkView rear backup camera with dynamic grid lines, electronic stability control (ESC) with electronic roll mitigation and four standard air bags. A sturdy roof frame provides superior rollover protection to past Wrangler designs.
In terms of body styles, the new Wrangler is available as a either a two-door or four-door, while roofing options include either a hardtop, a convertible top consisting of a number of removable roof panels, and as a powered soft top. If you’re a hardcore off-road enthusiast though, you will want the Rubicon version as this offers the most off-road prowess. It features 33-inch off-road tyres, electronically disconnecting anti-roll bars, beefed up fenders, Dana 44 axles, and a host of suspension modifications.
The new Jeep Wrangler is scheduled to arrive in South Africa after April 2018, with pricing and model specifications disclosed closer to the local model launch.