2018 Jeep Wrangler JL review

We drove the all-new Wrangler off-road and on in the hills of Austria

By Shahzad Sheikh

Click below to watch my 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL review

We attended the European and Middle East launch of the all-new 2018 Jeep Wrangler – known as the JL – in the beautiful setting of evergreen Austria. In this Sound-of-Music setting, our Middle East spec cars really stood out thanks to their Dubai-registered numberplates. Yep, they transported the cars over there, just so we could drive the correct spec Wranglers.

2018 Jeep Wrangler JL review

Over 5 million Wranglers have been sold to date, sales have been steadily rising in the European and Middle East region to the point that 1 in 17 SUVs sold globally is said to be a Jeep, and the manufacturer is aiming to further that ratio to 1 in 12 by 2020. And based on the iconic appeal of the new Wrangler, they might just do that!

2018 Jeep Wrangler JL review

Whilst it looks quite familiar and similar to what’s gone before, it’s quite distinctive at the front and back up close. There is a more classic style rear-end with quite a blocky look to it, Willy’s Jeep inspired fenders, a curved grille reminiscent of the TJ edition (1996-2006) and headlights that cut into the iconic Jeep grille bars like the CJ (derived from the original Jeep produced upto 1986.

2018 Jeep Wrangler JL review

Inside it gets a more luxurious and modern interior with, as well as the usual Easter Egg motifs and designs dotted around the inside and outside of the car, there are more features such as micro-USB plugs and buttons for the diff locks and even the sway bar.

2018 Jeep Wrangler JL review

It has updated updated four-wheel drive with a 2-speed transfer case and you can shift from 2WD to 4WD on the go. There’s a familiar 3.6 V6 Pentastar engine puting out 284bhp and an 8-speed auto. We don’t get the 272bhp 2.0 for now, though a hybrid is in the pipeline for 2020.

2018 Jeep Wrangler JL review

There are drivers aids on this Wrangler including reversing camera, as well as stronger axles and the aluminium bonnet, doors and windscreen surround lighten the weight by 91kg. The front axle has been moved forward and the longer wheelbase frees up more space which is especially useful in the four-door version. Later this year a powered sliding canvas roof will be offered and Mopar accessories including the official lift-kit is already available.

2018 Jeep Wrangler JL review

Quite frankly, Jeep has done, what it always manages to do with each evolution of the fabled and legendary Wrangler – and it’s not unlike the formula employed by Porsche for the 911. Jeep perfectly judges the balance between keeping the car familiar and retaining the enduring attributes that keep buyers and loyal fans coming back, but updating it with mod-cons and more comfort and space to make it somehow even easier to drive, enjoy and own.

2018 Jeep Wrangler JL review

On the road it has a familiar feel – you glide across the tarmac from a lofty position, guiding the Wrangler down the road both slightly detached from the road and yet intimate with its surroundings. It’s extraordinary how a Wrangler does that. It’s better riding and more competent than ever, but somewhat reassuringly it can’t be called car-like.

2018 Jeep Wrangler JL review

You know full-well that this is meant for off-roading – and boy does it excel as soon as it leaves the blacktop. Now I’m not the world’s best or most enthusiastic off-roader. And mud and bog traversing is probably my least favourite form of it. I find it unintuitive, difficult to judged and just not much fun.

2018 Jeep Wrangler JL review

Scrap that. 10 minutes in the latest Jeep Rubicon and I’m laughing out loud as I’m doing stuff that normally I would observe from a safe distance – like sitting at home on the sofa and watching it on the telly! The new Wrangler does what it does best, but does it somehow even better. It just scrambles everywhere without a hint of a moan or a complaint and seemingly without breaking a sweat.

2018 Jeep Wrangler JL review

And the regular car is not much less competent either – for most people the standard car is a perfect first time off-roader which you can buy, drive off the showroom and straight into the wilds of the Arabian deserts and wadis without having to do any modifications and with minimum training. It’s just such a reassuring car to peddle wherever, whenever and to the ends of the Earth.

2018 Jeep Wrangler JL review

Yes it’s a little more pricier than before, but the amount of development and clever engineering that’s gone into it, as well the user-friendly gizmo and gadget updates, easily justifies it, plus it’s roomier and more comfortable – and don’t forget the classic (previous JK) models will continue to remain on sale side-by-side with the new car for a while (great bargainst to be had there!).

2018 Jeep Wrangler JL review

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