The new Jeep Wrangler JL is here, which means a few things: first, we can stop the speculation on what it’s going to look like; two, how did it improve on the massively successful JK; and three, can it fit 37-inch tires on a one-inch lift and still look cool at the mall?
Okay, okay, that last one is a joke. In all seriousness, this is big news for off-roaders, and now that the cat’s out of the bag, we can start breaking down what we can expect from this new SUV.
We get two- and four-door versions, carrying over from the JK, with trim levels Sport, Sport S, Rubicon, and Sahara, the latter being available only on four-door versions. Two four-wheel-drive systems – Command-Trac and Rubicon-exclusive Rock-Trac – are available. The former pairs with Dana front and rear axles, and has a 3.45:1 gear ratio. The latter uses Dana 44s front and rear, and has locking differentials, too.
It’s really going to be difficult to want to try anything other than a Rubicon JL. With its stouter axles and locking diffs, as well as 33-inch tires and standard six-speed stick-shift, the Rubicon is clearly catering to the hardcore off-road fans.
Still, Jeep packs on some sweet features for all JLs, not just the top-tier Rubicons. Among these are skid plates, tow hooks, optional stubby and winch-ready bumpers, 10.9 inches of ground clearance, and approach/breakover/departure angles of 44/27.8/37 degrees.
Looks-wise, the JL is practically a spitting image of the JK, with only small alterations here and there. It retains the all-important seven-slat grille that Jeeps have become famous for, with touches in homage to the CJ Jeeps of old. Also, the windshield is raked back a little more. The only big change we could see in profile is the ventilation added to the front fenders.
One cool change is the Sky One-Touch powertop. This add-on allows users to open things up with the push of a button, folding back the canvas roof. Other top choices include the Sunrider or hardtop.
So we know the looks outside remain more or less the same; what about the inside? Here, Jeep made a ton of changes, and all of them for the better. The rearrangement moves all of the A/C vents up into the dashboard, and the button-crazy center section is is still there, but with the addition of a touchscreen infotainment center – all the rage in modern-day vehicles. An unwelcome addition is ESS, or Electronic Start-Stop, but this can be turned off with a button as well.
Under the hood, the options are opened up when compared to the JK. The fan favorite – the 3.6-liter Pentastar – is still here, making 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. It’s joined by a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four making 270 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, which boasts “eTorque” technology and a freakin’ turbocharger! Does it get any better than this?
Turns out, it does. That’s because starting in 2019, the Wrangler can receive a 3.0-liter EcoDiesel for the first time ever. Already popular in other FCA vehicles like the Ram 1500 or Jeep Grand Cherokee, the EcoDiesel makes a respectable 260 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque.
Transmission-wise, the 5G-Tronic five-speed automatic is changed to an eight-speed automatic. Gear hunting much? We hope not, but more gears tends toward more problems. As already mentioned, there’s also the manual six-speed format that comes standard on all models.
Is the JL ready to carry the Jeep torch into the future? It certainly looks that way. Jeep claims to have tested the JL on “more than 3.9 million miles” of terrain, including Alaskan wilderness and Arizonan desert. It’s been driven in Michigan, Italy, Brazil, China, India, and more.
By all accounts, the JL seems ready to take on the mantle of a trusted off-road performer. Pricing is still a mystery at this point, but we’d bank on forking over $45,000 for an automatic four-door Rubicon.
What do you guys think of the next Wrangler? Let us know in the comments below.