ST. GEORGE, UTAH
- There was another shuddering crunch, as the iron-laden red rock of Utah met the tubular steel rock rails and skid plates of the 2024 Jeep Wrangler. I don’t know how many rocks and ridges there are along the Sand Hollow trails but I seemed to be bumping and grinding over most of them.
Only blue sky was showing through the windshield as we climbed, except for two hands raised into eye-line and pointing out my driving directions. All you can do then is steer and trust.
Faith is a belief in the unknown. Trust is built on experience.
I knew that the trail guides had that knowledge and experience. And the Jeep I was driving has earned a lot of trust in its 80-plus years of off-road journeying through a pain-staking progress of evolutionary changes following Jeep’s four pillars of forward-focused design - capability, safety, technology and refinement.
That trust has just been rewarded with the introduction of the latest 2024 Jeep Wrangler.
The Wrangler is the iconic military descendant you think of when you hear the Jeep name, and you can’t help but wonder how they can continue to find things to improve upon. There’s a lot to cover here with two new trim additions (Sport S 4xe and Rubicon X) adding to the slate of now 18 different Wrangler models - five two-door versions and thirteen four-door configurations including six trim levels of 4xe electrified plug-in hybrid models.
Yes, the new Wrangler looks pretty much the same as the old one with only slight size and detail changes made to the classic seven-slot grille, with the floppy antenna replaced by a stealth antenna built into the top of the windshield, and with 10 new wheel designs. There are new colour choices inside and out and some of the other changes and additions for 2024 include:
- New structural side impact improvements and new standard first- and second-row side-curtain airbags added to the 85 available active and passive safety and security features.
- In Sport S and above trim levels, standard forward collision warning and standard advanced cruise control with automatic braking.
- A new available factory-installed 3,628 kg (8,000 lb) Warn winch for Wrangler Rubicon, along with an up to 100:1 crawl ratio and new Dana 44 HD Full Float solid rear axle that allows for tire upsizing and up to 2,268 kg (5,000 lb) maximum towing. Normal towing for other models including 4xe is 1,587 kg (3,500 lb)
- A refined interior treatment with more tech and amenities, including new available 12-way power adjustable front seats (not that easy to do with up to 34-inch water-fording capabilities).
- An all-new instrument panel featuring a best-in-class 12.3-inch touchscreen utilizing Uconnect5 infotainment and standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
- First factory application of a Trails Offroad package that delivers comprehensive off-road trail guides (mostly U.S. trails) loaded directly into the Uconnect 5 system.
- A new Jeep 4xe Power Box for Wrangler Willys and above 4xe models, featuring four 120-volt 30 amp outlets to power external devices.
The 2024 Wrangler 18 model lineup offers a wide range of pricing and performance choices, ranging from a $43,770 entry-level two-door Sport model, through higher trims and electrified PHEV 4Xe models, culminating with a fully-loaded $114,270 four-door V8-powered 392 model that sounds and feels pretty much like a muscle car stuffed into a Jeep shirt.
Powertrain choices include:
- 3.6-litre Pentastar V-6 with 285 hp and 260 lb-ft via 6MT or 8AT
- 2.0-litre turbocharged I-4 - 270 hp and 295 lb-ft via 6MT or 8AT
- 2.0-litre turbocharged I-4 plus two electric motor PHEV 4xe -375 hp, 470 lb-ft via 8AT
- 6.4-litre V-8 - 470 hp and 470 lb-ft via 8AT
And, realizing the scope of demands from a broad customer base ranging from Jeep fans wanting just a little all-weather security in an iconic package, to the die-hard off-roaders looking to squeeze out every ounce of rough trekking advantage, those Wrangler power level choices can be further tailored through four varying 4X4 systems:
- Command-Trac part-time transfer case
- Rock-Trac part time transfer case
- Rock-Trac full-time transfer case
- Selec-Trac full-time transfer case
Pushed to the furthest limits of Jeep abilities, the Wrangler offers capability levels that include unmatched crawl ratios of up to 100:1 (which feels like idling up and over obstacles), along with up to 34 inches (86 cm) of water fording ability in a package with up to almost 13 inches (32.8 cm) of ground clearance, a 47.4 degree approach angle, 40.4 degree departure angle and 27.8 degree breakover angle.
Okay, enough with the lists.
Canadian journalists travelled to Utah to attend this launch of the latest version of this 5th generation JL Wrangler model and we put different versions of the 2024 model through its paces on highway runs, urban roads, a trailering demo pulling a 19-foot 1,950 kg (4,300 lb) Airstream and across gruelling off-road trails to prove its well-rounded abilities.
Sure, if you’re looking for a silky smooth cruiser or grand tourer, you are shopping in the wrong aisle, buddy. You will still feel the bumps, lumps, and road expansion joint thumps in the Wrangler but the ride and handling behaviour is mainly the result of customer tire choice and the specific off-road potential of the model selected. It’s more civilized than ever. But when it comes down to the crunch, literally, of off-roading demands, the Wrangler can still surprise with its eye-raising abilities.
Inside, the four-door Wrangler, the main seller of the lineup, always feels a little smaller than it looks from the outside, courtesy of a high floor raised for ground clearance, but there is enough comfortable accommodation for five, a lot more than the tight configuration of the two-door with its limited space for four passengers and maybe a case of beer in back.
Up front, the new 12.3-inch touchscreen with Uconnect5 looks like it always should have been there, a vast improvement over dated 5- and 7-inch predecessors, and it is loaded with all the mod cons, driver infotainment, and apps needed.
Open-air options include a new standard premium soft-top, two available hardtops, the exclusive Sky One-Touch powertop, the Sunrider for Hardtop and dual-door group with half doors to customize any off-road adventure.
Forced to choose, I would probably go for the lower-priced but not rock bottom Sport S, or stroke my eco-consciousness with a 4xe plug-in hybrid with its up to 40 km of electric-only drive and overall improved fuel economy without sacrificing off-road abilities.
More than 30 percent of consumers are choosing the 4xe and that number is growing steadily, keeping in mind that all Jeep products will attain some level of electrification by the end of 2025. By 2030, half of all Jeeps sold in Canada will be fully electric.
But, in the meantime, I’m squirting through another plume of sand and dust, thumping over boulders and my trail guide spotter is gesturing the Rubicon forward to the edge of yet another precipice . . .
2024 Jeep Wrangler
: two-door four-passenger compact SUV, four-door five-passenger mid-size SUV
: 6MT or 8AT with part-time or full-time 4WD depending on model
: 3.6-litre Pentastar V-6 (285 hp, 260 lb-ft), 2.0-litre turbo I-4 (270 hp, 295 lb-ft), 2.0-litre turbo I-4 plus two electric motor PHEV 4xe (375 hp, 470 lb-ft) , 6.4-litre V-8 (470 hp, 470 lb-ft)
: (behind 2nd row/behind 1st row) - 2 dr 365/898 litres; 4dr 897/2,050 litres; 4dr 4xe 784/1,909 litres
: 1,587 kg (3,500 lb) or 2,268 kg (5,000 lb) with Dana 44 HD Full Float solid rear axle
: $43,770 - $114,270