After 10 years in production, the ‘JK’ generation Jeep Wrangler is now receiving a successor. Not that it’s immediately obvious: the new ‘JL’ Wrangler takes a crowd-pleasing, rather evolutionary design approach, in that it doesn’t look hugely different on the outside.
But don’t let that fool you: this is a very different beast indeed, firstly due to what it’s made from. The doors, bonnet, wings and windscreen frame are now all made from aluminium to save weight, and - as ever - if you want to drop the bulk even more, the doors are removable.
The interior has been radically overhauled, and now features FCA’s fourth-generation ‘Uconnect’ infotainment system with either a 5.0, 7.0- or 8.4-inch touch screen. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come as standard.
Jeep is also keen to point out that the 2018 Wrangler has no less than “75 available active and passive safety and security features,” and although all (thankfully) aren’t listed, we are told there’s blind-spot monitoring, ESC with roll mitigation and ‘Rear Cross Path’ detection available among many other things.
A 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 is still available, putting out 281bhp and 260lb ft of torque. The 2.0-litre inline-four is new, though, and potent: it’s good for 266bhp, and 295lb ft of torque. A 3.0-litre V6 diesel will be joining the range in 2019 “in response to overwhelming consumer demand.”
It will - of course - be an utter badass off road. The 44 degree approach, 27.8 degree breakover and 37 degree departure angles are - Jeep says - industry-leading, and the ground clearance is 277mm. It’ll happily ford through water up to 762mm deep.
There are skid plates, tow hooks at the front and rear for when it all goes wrong, and on the Rubicon version, ‘Tru-Lok’ locking differentials and 17-inch off-road rims shod in chunky 33-inch all-terrain tyres.
While the Wrangler retains an old-school body-on-ladder-frame construction, on-road handling should be better this time around. The five-link front and rear suspension setup has been extensively re-engineered to improve ride and handling when you’re away from the trails, as have the shock absorbers.
The car will be built in the north plant of Jeep’s Toledo, Ohio facility, where FCA has splashed out $700 million to refit the factory ready for production. The 2018 Wrangler will be arriving in North American dealerships early next year, and is on display now at the LA Auto Show.