Our loaner was a optioned-up Sahara Unlimited. If you’re going for maximum on-road comfort, this is the one to get. It has quite a few options, bumping the as-tested MSRP to $52,235. Features include leather upholstery, heated seats, LED lighting, an upgraded infotainment system, blind-spot monitoring, a body-color hardtop and a Dana 44 rear axle.
Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore: The 2018 Jeep Wrangler is a step forward for this legendary off-roader, improving it in subtle ways that truly effect change. The upgrades feel cohesive and work in harmony to create the most capable and sophisticated Wrangler ever.
We tested a loaded-up Unlimited Sahara, which stickered for the eye-watering tally of $52,235. Make no mistake, the Wrangler is a premium SUV. I’ve always said that if I were to own a Wrangler I’d go for basic trim, but after driving this almost dressy Jeep, I’m not so sure. It’s expensive — but it’s really nice.
The changes for 2018 involve powertrain, design and features. You can read about them here. The styling is what I kept noticing. The changes are subtle, but after looking at it — I’d often stare at it while sipping a cup of coffee last weekend — it really elevates the Wrangler with a more modern look. In Unlimited Sahara trim, with the elegant LED lights, 18-inch polished gray wheels and brilliant white exterior paint, it reminded me more than a bit of the Mercedes G-Class. The greenhouse, which has slightly new and larger window shapes and a steeper windshield angle, also evokes the G-Class, to my eye. This probably wasn’t Jeep’s intent, but it looks sharp. Speaking of subtle changes, I’d compare the Wrangler’s styling changes to the alterations to the Detroit Tigers’ uniforms, also from 2017 to 2018.
The interior is a solid upgrade from the JK. The digital instruments, the Sahara trim’s smart use of leather and stitching, and FCA’s clever Uconnect all made my experience in the Wrangler pretty comfy. Love the old war Jeep on the shift knob.
The driving experience does feel more comfortable to me compared to the JK. You don’t give up a bit of capability, but piloting the new one over suburban streets is less abrasive. Steering remains light on center, but it’s more connected. The eight-speed ZF transmission works with the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 to deliver smooth, well-calibrated performance. Launching from stoplights and midrange power is strong. Can’t wait to try to the turbo four-cylinder, the diesel and of course, the plug-in, which is probably what I’d wait for. Or maybe the Scrambler.
Enjoyed my weekend in the new @Jeep Wrangler Sahara. Like the styling cues and attention to detail. Feels more modern and upscale, yet lots of retro pieces. @therealautoblog pic.twitter.com/KpBO7MyUPj
— Greg Migliore (@GregMigliore) April 30, 2018
Senior Editor, Green, John Beltz Snyder: The layout of the Jeep Wrangler interior is unique. As a person who sits in the driver’s seat of a lot of different cars, the Wrangler is disorienting in the same way getting into a Mini can throw you for a loop. Nothing is where you expect it to be. I kept changing the radio station when I meant to adjust the temperature, and it took many minutes of groping before I found the pull strap that allows you to adjust the angle of the seat back. I’m not saying the interior is bad, just unlike anything else.
FCA’s 3.6-liter V6 continues to prove itself a solid engine. It’s smooth, responsive and torquey. In the Wrangler, it’s easy to hear (along with the road and wind noise). You also feel a lot of vibration through the seat, so much so that my backside was still tingling when the stop-start system shut the motor off at stoplights.
In addition to the NVH, the Wrangler’s steering is another reason this isn’t the ideal daily driver. There’s a ton of play in the steering on center (which has always been the case, dating back to the CJs of the 80s, and even the 1946 CJ-2A on which I learned to drive). When turning a corner, it takes a lot of effort to aim the Wrangler where you want it. In most vehicles, the steering will begin to right itself back toward center on its own, but you have to heave the Wrangler’s wheel back or it will just keep turning. These dynamics play well off-road, but not so much in rush-hour traffic.
One advantage the Wrangler does have in traffic, though, is great visibility. A high vantage point and big, square windows in every direction mean a quick glance over your shoulder provides a lot of information about your surroundings. Change lanes with confidence in this ute.
Despite some of the impracticalities of daily driving, I found myself wanting to get back in the Wrangler and drive when I finished my commute. This SUV has loads of character, and it always entertaining, even if it’s not the most relaxing vehicle to drive. I can’t wait until the plug-in hybrid version becomes available. I’d consider owning one of those.
— John Beltz Snyder (@jbeltzsnyder) May 2, 2018
Associate Editor Joel Stocksdale: The Jeep Wrangler is kind of a weird thing. The steering is vague and requires constant adjustment. It’s not particularly quiet, especially when it’s raining out (the fiberglass hardtop amplifies every drop upon the roof). It’s thirsty, the logical conclusion of hustling a heavy, high-riding brick. But I’ll be damned if it’s not fun.
I think it’s because it gets at the core of what driving is about. Because it’s loud and somewhat unrefined — though I actually found the ride to be pretty good, if on the firm side — it feels more involving. You’re a part of the fun of moving. And that fun is multiplied as roof panels come off and windows go down. The visibility is superb, and the Jeep’s narrow body makes it easy to hustle it around town with confidence. The standard V6 with the eight-speed automatic feels pretty spunky in town, though some luster is lost when speeds increase. Even the interior, despite getting a much needed modernization, is still really simple and easy to use. In fact, you could probably get away with never touching the touch screen, since all the radio and climate controls have buttons. I love it.
I have a big issue with our test vehicle, though, and that’s cost. You can get a lot of car for $52,000. And while the Wrangler has come a long way in style and refinement, there’s not getting around the fact that the interior is still that of an affordable vehicle, with plenty of cheap plastics. Plus, the driving refinement issues become difficult to ignore when the price starts matching luxury SUVs. And one odd omission that particularly bothered me at this price was the fact that it had heated seats, but the seat adjustments were all still manual.
But go easy on the options, and the Wrangler’s price is much more reasonable (around $37,000 for a stock Sahara, less for Sport models). And then some of the low-rent materials are forgivable, meaning you can focus on enjoying the Wrangler’s simple pleasures and characterful quirks.