An icon reimagined.
The Jeep Wrangler, and other iconic vehicles like it, are perhaps some of the hardest cars to ‘renew’ for a new generation. If you’ve got something as culturally insignificant as a Hyundai Accent or a Toyota Corolla, it doesn’t matter if you want to turn it on its head or stick a wheel on the roof (okay, that latter option might dent sales a bit). But when you’re dealing with automotive icons, like the Land Rover Defender, the Rolls-Royce Phantom, and the Jeep Wrangler, you have to tread with extreme caution.
The Jeep Wrangler has played a significant role in the lives of many, particularly if you’re American. These things sell immensely in the North American market, and it sells significantly in our market too, but not so much everywhere else. Broadening that appeal without losing its recognition was the name of the game for the designers and engineers at Jeep when faced with the unavoidable eventuality of redesigning the Wrangler, and it appears like they’ve just about done it.
The design may be familiar, but it’s all new underneath. There’s a new frame upon which that iconic silhouette rests, itself made of aluminium, high-strength low-weight steel, and magnesium, resulting in a reinvention that doesn’t offend purists. Functionality and day-to-day usability improvements were prime focuses for the new-generation Wrangler, resulting in an instantly-recognisable off-roader that is, by any objective metric, vastly improved.
The latest model is lighter than the outgoing car, and offers a range of new engines (and retains one old one). There’s a mild-hybrid system in here too, as well as a majorly improved cabin with better use of materials that don’t compromise the rough-and-tough usability of it all. The exterior, if you squint, has seen a myriad of little changes that may require more than a fleeting glance to spot. The headlights are now full-LED, replete with daytime running lights. The taillights are LED too, and have an outline shape similar to that of a jerry can. The grille has been tweaked slightly, and is now three-dimensional in its presentation, with a slight curve toward the top for better aerodynamics.
The wheelbase has been lengthened, and the front approach angle has been improved further. There are a variety of roofs to go for, including a powered canvas roof that can retract at the touch of a button. The engines have been thoroughly revised too, though the 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 petrol we’re all quite familiar with will remain a part of the lineup, though it’s received a stop-start system to save fuel. A turbocharged 2.0-litre joins the range too, with greater torque than the V6, though the torque game will be moved onwards with the offering of a 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel, the same unit from the bigger Grand Cherokee (though the oiler will only debut in 2019).
All models will be all-wheel drive (you didn’t really think otherwise, did you?), with the option of an eight-speed automatic transmission that will help improve motorway refinement and fuel consumption. There will also be a six-speed manual gearbox for those wanting a bit more control over their progress.
The cabin (yes, we’re only getting here now) will see the fitment of one of three new Uconnect infotainment systems, with the associated touchscreen measuring in at either 5-inches, 7-inches, and 8.4-inches in width, with the largest of the three featuring satellite navigation.
The two larger screens will come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto too. The reversing camera will also display its feed here, and will undoubtedly make a huge difference to the driving experience (this writer used to say a prayer before backing up in the larger Unlimited models).
All cars will retain their off-road ability, as the ‘Trail Rated’ badge suggests. Standard models get a Command-Trac all-wheel drive system with a crawl ratio mode specifically for, well, crawling, while Rubicon models get a more hardcore ‘RockTrac’ system with a 4LO ratio to ensure greater progress over the knobbly stuff.
There are skid plates on either end, as well as bumpers that are ready for off-road winches, though a Rubicon with 33-inch tyres or a regular model with proper off-road wheels will likely never need to be pulled out.
The new-generation Wrangler will be built in the Toledo, Ohio plant in the US, where Jeep vehicles have been built for the better part of the last decade. There’s no confirmed timeline for the Wrangler’s introduction in Australia, nor a mention of the upcoming Wrangler Ute body style (we know that it’s coming though), so stay tuned to CarShowroom as we bring you more updates as they come.