A lot happens in the automotive industry over the course of ten years, unless you’re referring to the Jeep Wrangler. Its current iteration, the JK series, debuted for the 2007 model year and its predecessor, the TJ series hit showrooms a decade prior to that. Unsurprisingly, the original YJ Wrangler came out ten years before to the TJ and it replaced the CJ-7, which had been around for approximately- you guessed it- ten years. There seems to be a pattern here. Since history has a fantastic way of repeating itself, we are anxiously awaiting the launch of the all-new 2018 Jeep Wrangler (“JL” in Jeep speak), albeit a model year past the norm.
Not, of course, to be confused with JL Audio, a go-to subwoofer supplier for those wishing to irritate their neighbors while destroying their eardrums. On a sidebar, JL Audio offers a pretty slick line of bespoke subwoofer enclosures for the current Wrangler so it’s likely just a matter of time before you can add some JL Audio to your JL Wrangler.
Details regarding the new 2018 Wrangler are being closely guarded over at FCA, other than a handful of spy shots that confirm it will continue looking like a Jeep Wrangler. The folks over at the JL Wrangler Forums have, however, managed to leak a copy the owner’s manual, which gives some insight into the features and quirks that we can expect from the new model. Here are some of our favorites:
2018 Jeep Wrangler Engines
Whenever a new model is involved, one of the first things asked is “What’s it got for a motor?” According to the leaked manual, the 2018 Jeep Wrangler will offer 2.0L and 3.6L engines. It’s safe to assume that the 3.6L will be a carryover of the Pentastar V6 found in the JK Wrangler and good for 285 horses. Somewhat unloved by the hardcore Jeep fans for questionable reliability and a lack of modification options, it merely adequately motivates current JK Wrangler, especially in Unlimited guise, despite its reasonable output figures. Bear in mind that the JK is significantly heavier than its predecessors and the JL could pack even more girth.
The 2.0L four-banger, however, will likely be the power plant of interest due to the presence of a turbocharger. The capacities section of the manual has a separate coolant spec for the 2.0L intercooler unit that suggests some kind of liquid-to-air intercooling action. The mill is rumored to pump out an impressive 368 horsepower while running on 91 octane. Historically, turbocharged four-cylinder motors have lacked the low-end grunt of their six-cylinder counterparts however recent advancements in variable valve timing and wastegate management have all but eradicated turbo lag.
Expected reaction from actual Jeep enthusiasts: Cantankerous grumblings about the demise of the 4.0L pushrod six.
2018 Jeep Wrangler Axles
One of the things that make a Wrangler a Wrangler is the solid front axle. While the manual doesn’t implicitly mention axle design, several diagrams of the drivetrain (displayed in the infotainment screen, of all places) clearly suggest the presence of a steel tube under the front end. Even with the addition of touch screens, motorized accessories, and high-tech engines, the Wrangler will soldier on with the simple, rugged Jeepness of a beam axle.
Not to worry, 2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon models will still be equipped with differential locks and remote swaybar disconnects. Although arguably heavier and pricier to produce than a modern, independent setup, this design offers reliable articulation and relatively easy modifications. Besides, what’s a Wrangler without the risk of death wobble?
Expected reaction from actual Jeep enthusiasts: “This is literally the only reason why we still buy these things.”
2018 Jeep Wrangler Transmissions
While most of you will opt for the eight-speed automatic and not even bother to read the rest of this section, there are no less than seven people out there that are ecstatic to discover that a genuine shift-it-yourself gearbox will continue on in the 2018 Jeep Wrangler. It will likely be the Mercedes-sourced NSG370 six-speed box that first appeared in the 2005 TJ Wrangler. While technologically unremarkable, it allows the Wrangler to carry on as the last non-crossover SUV available in America with a bona fide manual transmission and that makes me and those six other people smile.
Expected reaction from actual Jeep enthusiasts: Nods of approval, despite most of them still ordering the automatic.
2018 Jeep Wrangler Doors and Windows
Another long-standing tradition of Jeeping is removing the doors and folding down the windshield, which appears to carry on with the new model. According to the manual, the process of lowering the windshield seems quite a bit easier than with previous generations and they even provide you with the tools to do so. The same goes for the doors, however not without an added caution from Jeep regarding the added weight presumably due to the presence of things like side-impact protection and motorized window lifts. Other items that can be ditched are the back seat, the top, and the carpets, thanks to the inclusion of some nifty quick-release grommets. Bare-bones open-air motoring is a hallmark of the Jeep experience and it’s nice to see that all the new luxury gadgets haven’t gotten in the way of that (too much).
Expected reaction from actual Jeep enthusiasts: Genuine yet restrained glee.
2018 Jeep Wrangler Power Sliding Top
As we’ve become accustomed, the 2018 Jeep Wrangler will be available with several roof configurations, most of which are removable. The classic folding soft-top will be offered as standard while the removable hard-top is optional with the availability of an accessory soft-top thrown in for good measure. Also available will be what FCA’s marketing flacks have dubbed the “Freedom Roof”. This is effectively the rear section of the basic removable hard-top with the section over the front seats being in two pieces, kind of like T-tops.
If you insist on the security of the hard top but can’t be inconvenienced to jump out and pull the Freedom Roof panels when stricken with the urge to roll al fresco, I suggest that you opt for the optional power-sliding top instead. At the touch of a button, a canvas section of the roof slides back into the rear section, creating the same effect of the Freedom Roof, except without actually doing work. The downside of this setup is that it’s permanently mounted but Jeep offers instructions on how to remove the side windows so you can still almost have that open-air experience. Until, of course, the mechanism breaks.
Expected reaction from actual Jeep enthusiasts: Obvious nausea.
Heated Steering Wheel
Options like motorized windows, leather upholstery, and automatic air conditioning appeared on the JK Wrangler, so it’s no shock to find them on the JL’s spec sheet as well. Unsurprisingly, the new model will continue to step up the luxury gadgets and probably the most egregious will be an electrically heated steering wheel. Properly equipped, your 2018 Jeep Wrangler steering wheel can be gently warmed at the touch of a button. Not that this is a new technology by any means; the Germans have been heating the steering wheels of their top-spec luxo-barges since the Clinton administration but they do seem wildly out of place on utility vehicle that has removable doors.
Expected reaction from actual Jeep enthusiasts: Full-throttle circa 2007 Britney Spears-esque meltdown.
Fret not, loyal Jeep-ists. You’ll still be able have your Wrangler in bare-bones regalia with two-doors, a soft-top, and wind-up windows. You’re probably going to have to pull out the carpets yourself though.
Don’t forget to check out the great accessories we carry classic Jeeps and join us in December at the Los Angles Auto Show for the official debut of the 2018 Jeep Wrangler. Sales will initially limited to the four-door Unlimited models with the classic two-door following in early 2018 and a pickup-bedded Scrambler model appearing later in the year.