|Positives: Fresh duds still evoke Jeepness, so much better to drive on pavement than before, proper infotainment arrives, great roof options, great small storage spaces, fun vintage Jeep cues.|
|Negatives: Can get expensive when optioned out, likely mediocre safety scores when it gets tested.|
|Bottom Line: The new Jeep is better than ever before because it's no longer horrible to drive on road. In fact, it's surprisingly good, and the new design brings it into the modern age without losing its ethos.|
The last Wrangler we drove was downright awful on-road. Ponderous steering and handling, buffeted by the winds, and generally tiring to helm for long distances at higher speeds. The new Jeep is echelons better, bordering on excellent. No joke.
Ride Quality: The longer wheelbase surely helps here. The ride is firm, but the Wrangler Unlimited no longer feels upset by pavement bumps and gaps.
Acceleration: The 3.6-liter V6 feels more than adequate here, getting to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds, over a second faster than the 2017 model. The 8-speed automatic is pretty good with no gear hunting and good shifts.
Braking: Brakes modulate well, and pedal feel is pretty good.
Steering: The steering is far better than its predecessor's with good effort and precision.
Handling: Though we would never autocross the Wrangler Unlimited, it does have manageable body roll, and the big Jeep feels well planted. The increased used of high-strength steel and a much lighter curb weight results in more surefootedness. The improvement is palpable.
For the 2017 Wrangler Unlimited we tested, we couldn't believe that you had to pair Bluetooth through voice commands. It was arcane and dated. All that has changed with a fully updated system that makes the Jeep Wrangler a modern SUV.
Infotainment System: Uconnnect shows up well here in the 8.4-inch screen with nav via an optional package. It's responsive, attractive, and easy to use. It's one of the best-looking systems that also happens to be a breeze to handle while driving.
Controls: All HVAC controls are well-laid out buttons and knobs, and the on-screen controls for infotainment are lined up at the base of the screen.
No one wille ver say that the new JL Wrangler (JK was the previous generation) doesn't look like a Jeep. Go figure that FCA can redo the Wrangler so much without affecting the famous Wrangler ethos.
Front: The grille is the same with the exception of the outer slats that accommodate the headlights. The fascia now has LED halo daytime running lights and fender-mounted LED turn signals that come standard.
Rear: The biggest change are the offset taillights that protrude from the body in order to house the blind spot monitor. It looks innocent enough, but if you go off-roading, be careful not to scrape it off.
Profile: It's a classic Jeep Wrangler shape, but the fenders seem less obtrusive. We like the fact that it retains its unique look.
Cabin: Jeep modernized the interior without making the interior un-Jeeplike. The flat dash stays, but the instrumentation and gauges have all been fully updated. The look is clean and rugged. The nods to Wranglers of the past in the gauges, controls, and windows are brilliant.
The two biggest changes are the rear legroom, and the way the Wrangler Unlimited drives. Combined, it makes for a very good driver and passenger experience.
Front Seats: The front seats feel more supportive and less mushy than before. We like the seating position, which makes you feel like you're sitting in the seats rather than on them.
Rear Seats: The additional two inches of rear legroom thanks to the longer wheelbase is a welcomed change.
NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): Though there's still some noise at highway speeds, the wind that made the front end loud and rattly is mitigated by the functional front fender vents that help air circulation by reducing turbulence.
Visibility: With the hard top on, the pillars are thick in the back, and the rearward view is also compromised by the rear-mounted spare tire.
Climate: The climate system works well, and the heated seats are excellent.
The Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited have not been tested for the 2018-2019 model years quite yet. The previous generation didn't score especially well, but the new Wrangler gets safety updates, which count for something.
IIHS Rating: Not tested.
NHTSA Rating: Not tested.
Standard Tech: ParkView rear backup camera is now standard on the Wrangler Unlimited.
Optional Tech: Our tester came with the Jeep Active Safety Group which packages the ParkSense Rear Park Assist System and Blind Spot and Cross Path Detection.
Though there's not a ton of overall space in the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, but there are some smart storage options in the cabin that render the interior quite useful. The three roof choices (freedom hardtop, soft top, and body colored hardtop) are all excellent and easier to operate). The freedom top is a targa of sorts, allowing you to remove two front panels individually.
Storage Space: Door pockets and storage options are good, but the rubberized bin at the top of the dash wins for best storage feature. It's moderately deep and very long, so it can keep small items in place without them sliding around when you take a turn.
Cargo Room: There's 31.7 cubic feet behind the second row and 72.4 cubic feet with the second row folded flat. It's smaller inside than the Toyota 4Runner, its closest competition.
The Wrangler Unlimited's weight savings (about 200 lbs overall) helps in this department, but the Jeep is by no means efficient. We pretty much got what we expected. If you want better mileage, you'll have to compromise on the Jeep's off-road abilities.
Observed: 18.9 mpg
Distance Driven: 137 miles
Driving Factors: We drove on pavement the entire time with an even split between highway driving and local roads.
The upgraded audio system came with the Infotainment System Group for $1,295 is pretty good. It won't blow your socks off, but it works very well for the big off-roader. Bass and clarity are pretty good, and there's no distortion that we could notice.