The new Wrangler is a well-thought-out upgrade
DECEMBER 21, 2018
All well and good. What about day to day driving around town — how does the Wrangler do? Isn’t that how many Wranglers are used? At its launch Jeep said engineers tuned the new Wrangler’s suspension for better on-road handling and ride comfort, with a special emphasis on cutting cabin noise.
A while ago I drove a new Wrangler Sahara around Detroit and it was indeed a little quieter and quite a bit more comfortable than the outgoing Wrangler. Wind noise wasn’t bad considering I was basically driving a box on wheels. Body control felt better, too, as did the steering — much tighter.
Now I’m in the Rubicon. It doesn’t drive quite as refined as the Sahara but is still better than the old Wrangler. My biggest beef is the off-road tires droning away on the freeway, the price one pays for off-road chops I suppose. Besides, the excellent Alpine stereo does its darndest to conquer the tire noise.
Both Wranglers I drive in Detroit have the new and optional 2.0-litre turbo four and eight-speed automatic, the only trans you can get with the four. The good news is it’s a smooth transmission and feels good with the turbo. Shifting for yourself is a big part of Wranglerness, I get it, though Jeep slappys have told me the really hardcore among them use automatics in their Jeeps.
Interior build quality is indeed better now, with more soft-touch materials. The dash has the latest, optional, 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen, now more coherent and classier looking. The Rubicon’s interior has metal on the dash, as Wranglers used to have, instead of the Sahara’s leather. Don’t worry, if you don’t find a Wrangler trimmed exactly the way you want, Mopar is introducing more than 200 (!) new accessories and performance parts from lift kits to side steps to winches, so personalize away!
Nothing about the new Wrangler makes me slap my forehead and say “GENIUS!!! Why didn’t Jeep do this YEARS AGO?!?” The truck’s newness is about subtle upgrades and refinements. It’s less crude, more evolved. Not too much though: If you were concerned Jeep would soften the new Wrangler too much, don’t worry. It’s still got plenty of old-school chops. It’s just that now they’re wrapped in, let’s call it a more mature package. Nothing wrong with that.
–Wes Raynal, editor