As a longtime resident of eastern Snohomish County’s Sky Valley, I’ve seen more than the average person’s share of off-road-capable vehicles that are actually taken off road. The nearby Reiter Foothills Forest includes a popular ORV area within its 10,000 acres, and mud-encrusted après off-road vehicles are a familiar sight in the valley.
Many of those vehicles are Jeep Wranglers, and none of those Wranglers are new. Who wants to risk denting and scratching a shiny new car they just spent tens of thousands of dollars on? The Reiter Foothills folks have old Wranglers they can take off-road without such worries.
But new Wranglers do get sold, so who’s doing the buying? People who love the look of this classic Jeep, and the whole idea of adventure it evokes, and the way the tops and doors come off, and just everything about it. As the saying goes, “It’s a Jeep thing.”
There’s great news for anyone who covets a new Wrangler but has resisted due to practicality issues: The Jeep Wrangler is all-new for 2018, with all-inclusive improvements to its ride and handling, comfort and convenience, utility, fuel economy, safety and technology. And before you off-road purists go off the rails thinking that Jeep has lost the faith, Wrangler’s off-road capability is better than ever with this new version.
Jeep recently introduced the 2018 Wrangler to members of the automotive media at an event in Tucson, Arizona, where we drove it on city streets, winding roads and highways, and on a long stretch of bumpy dirt road in the Saguaro National Park area. Jeep constructed a formidable off-road route for the event that consisted of nearly nothing but boulders.
The 2018 Jeep Wrangler two-door model is available in three different trim configurations: Sport, Sport S and Rubicon. Wrangler four-door models are available in four different trim configurations: Sport, Sport S, Sahara and Rubicon. There are dozens of different door, top and windshield combinations.
Three engines and two transmissions make up the powertrain selection. There’s an all-new 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine with eTorque technology; a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine with Engine Stop-Start (ESS); and, coming in 2019, a 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6, also with ESS. Transmission offerings are a new eight-speed automatic or six-speed manual.
Jeep’s trademark seven-slot grille has been tweaked for the new Wrangler and now shows both of the outer grille slats intersecting with the headlights. Jeep says it pays homage to the Jeep CJ.
Wrangler’s new Sky One-Touch power top makes the transition to open-air driving quick and easy, and there’s a fold-down windshield for the ultimate in open-air ambience.
A tilt and telescoping steering wheel (with a heat option!), dual-zone climate control, and a rear seat with enough room and comfort for adult passengers are just a few of the interior highlights.
My daylong drive of the 2018 Jeep Wrangler under all conditions listed above demonstrated clearly the improvements to ride and handling, comfort, performance and capability. Noise, vibration and harshness inside the vehicle are vastly improved over the outgoing version, which was already vastly improved over the older models. Even the deeper potholes along the dirt road taken at a brisk pace (for bumpy dirt) were barely felt.
Pricing for the new Wrangler starts at $28,090, including a $1,095 destination charge, for the two-door model.
I’ll do a full review after the standard weeklong test drive, and we’ll see how the new Wrangler does on the wet and winding bumpy roads of Snohomish County, paved or otherwise, day or night.
Mary Lowry is an independent automotive writer who lives in Snohomish County. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild, and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association.