Review: 2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4X4
THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Best: Go anywhere capability, instantly recognizable, everything comes off.
- What’s Worst: Wind noise prevalent at highway speeds. Susceptible to cross winds.
- What’s Interesting: This is the first Wrangler to get an optional power soft top.
There’s something undeniably cool about a Wrangler. Any Wrangler. Each one no matter the generation can trace its heritage all the way back to the original Willys military vehicle that played an instrumental role for the Allies during WWII.
Through the decades the Jeep Wrangler has become much more than a truck, it has become a brand. A powerful one, that is as recognizable worldwide as Pepsi or Tide. You can buy Jeep cologne, Jeep T-shirts, Jeep camping chairs and Jeep Hammocks. You can even buy Jeep stuff for your dog. Because why not?
The Wrangler has made the Jeep brand so recognizable that when it came to this redesign they didn’t even bother to put the Jeep emblem on the front. The Jeep’s face is the logo and it’s more than enough. And really, they’re right. Besides the cleaner look, you’re not mistaking a Wrangler for anything else on the road.
And that’s one of many reasons why this is a cool car, something that you’d actually want to own. There are a lot of amazing cars out there: faster cars, more comfortable cars, cars with more tech and leather and wood, cars that are more refined in every way. But many of them are ideal candidates for a 3-year lease, a perfect amount of time before that vehicle becomes hopelessly boring and you’ll want to get rid of it anyways.
You’d be hard-pressed to spot the differences on the 2018 Jeep Wrangler, but it really has been completely redesigned.
The first thing you’re likely to notice is the LED headlamps (standard on Sahara and Rubicon models) with their distinctive LED rings for DRLs and wheel flares that neatly integrate the turn signals. The edges have been softened everywhere, the trademark grille has been swept back slightly and intersects with the headlamps like it did on the original CJs. The windshield’s rake has been optimized for better aerodynamics and there’s a redesigned front bumper with integrated tow hooks.
Subtly scalloped front fenders are now the new home of the Jeep logo. New rubber bumpers on the hood with integrated windshield washer nozzles serve as a spot for the windshield to rest when it’s folded down, an action that is now much easier than before. How many vehicles even let you do this?
And how many vehicles out there allow you to remove the doors? Without voiding the warranty. Those doors are now fashioned from aluminum making them lighter and easier to take off. There are integrated carry handles under the armrests to make life even easier.
Even cooler is the little socket set that you get with all the correct sized bits to do exactly this. And if you’re out in the rough and worried about losing the torx screws that hold in place things like the doors, windshield, and optional freedom top (more on the tops in a bit) don’t be, ‘cause Jeep has provided little neatly labeled slots under the rear cargo area to store all that hardware. Nifty.
On the inside everything is new. The redesigned dashboard features an optional 8.4-inch infotainment screen that’s loaded with Uconnect 4.0. It remains one of the better systems on the market with high-resolution graphics, a very responsive touchscreen interface, and an ultra-fast processor that powers through screen transitions and displays minimal lag times. Drag and drop functionality allows you to drag any function you would like to access quickly and add it to a menu bar that stays fixed at the bottom of the screen.
Big buttons and knobs, easy to use with gloves, are provided to control all the important stuff and being a Jeep, everything is waterproof and protected from the elements.
This is also the first time the Jeep comes standard with a backup camera that pokes through the rear mounted spare, thankfully shrouded within a metal jacket that should offer ample protection when taking the wheel on and off. The tailgate itself is a magnesium aluminum hybrid for lightness and is affixed with a handy metal plaque outlining the wheelbase dimensions and water fording capabilities.
The JL now comes with a few different top options, but the new soft top and premium soft top are a hundred times easier to open. The side and back windows are held on by simple tabs and are easily pulled off and stowed away. The top itself can be raised or lowered with one hand after undoing a couple latches by the sun visors. Gone are the zippers and with it the headaches that came with the previous generation’s top.
The freedom top (hard top) that my tester was equipped with happened to be the body coloured (more money) version and it did look great. Classy almost, in a rugged Jeep sort of way, but the black plastic version looks good too.
Freedom tops have panels over the driver and front passenger that can be easily removed, for a targa-esque feel, by undoing a few latches and popping them off. The rest of it requires the removal of six screws around its perimeter and two more above the b-pillars. Luckily the bit you need is in that toolkit. You’ll need a hand to lift that top (especially on the 4-door Unlimited models) and a spot to stash it. A garage would work well.
A first for any Wrangler is a new fabric power top. It opens like an accordion as it slides back on its roof-mounted rails. The rear quarter windows come off but the roof rails don’t. While it’s a pretty cool roof, the $4000 they ask for it is uncool (especially considering how good the soft top is). And don’t forget—Wranglers are cool!
The 3.6 L Pentastar V6 is the standard motor here, my Wrangler was equipped with it and it’s a refined powerplant that puts out 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, enough to get the job done.
This is a Wrangler, it doesn’t have to be a fast vehicle and it isn’t. A 2-litre four cylinder with a mild hybrid system is also available as an optional extra.
It’s almost comical how the 4-cylinder costs extra here. I remember a time when 6 cylinders earned bragging rights, but not anymore.
Whether this Wrangler cuts a cleaner path through the air at speed is up for debate, but it rides better, steers better, and handles better than the old JK. Wind noise is still prevalent, heavy crosswinds can be an issue, and high speeds are still not this vehicle’s forte, but it easily displays the best road manners of all the generations.
I didn’t take this Wrangler off-road even though its natural stomping grounds begin where the road ends, but for most Wrangler customers a light, slightly dusty trail or gravel path are all the action they’re likely to encounter.
For a vehicle this capable it might seem like a waste. But sometimes just knowing that you can tackle any terrain or be fully prepared for a zombie apocalypse is good enough.
And if those pesky zombies did come you’d have the perfect vehicle to plan your survival with and you’re always gonna look cool doing it.
2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4X4
BODY STYLE: Four-Door, Five-passenger, Sport Utility Vehicle
CONFIGURATION: Front-engine + 4WD (Selec-Trac Full-time 4WD)
ENGINE: 3.6 L V6; Power: 285 hp @ 6400 rpm; Torque: 260 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm
TRANSMISSION : 8-speed automatic
CARGO CAPACITY: 897 litres; 2050 litres with rear seats folded
FUEL ECONOMY: (Premium Gasoline in L/100km) 12.9 city, 10.2 highway, 11.7 combined
OBSERVED FUEL ECONOMY: 12.7 L/100 km
PRICE: Base: $45,745 As-Tested: $59,310
WEBSITE: Jeep Wrangler
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