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Wrangler: True Off-Road Mountain Goat

By Arv Voss, January 27th, 2018

Jeeps have been treading off-road trails since 1941. The all-new 2018 Jeep Wrangler continues the adventuresome tradition by serving up increased legendary 4x4 prowess along with a more modern and sophisticated design that doesn't forsake the brand's original appeal and DNA.

Manufacturer photo: The 2018 Jeep Wrangler delivers off-road capability with legendary four-wheel drive
Manufacturer photo: The 2018 Jeep Wrangler delivers off-road capability with legendary four-wheel drive

Whenever I'm asked what's the best vehicle for serious and abusive off-roading, my answer is always the Jeep Wrangler. After all, you wouldn't want to scratch your luxury Range Rover would you? The Rubicon is the obvious best choice, but the other models are capable as well for wilderness adventuring.

The entire stable of the latest Jeep Wrangler is not only better looking, but has an updated styling treatment that doesn't abandon traditional heritage cues, and all models are vastly improved in terms of performance both on and off-road. No more dodging and darting on washboard surfaces, and it offers increased stability over challenging, twisty back roads.

Three combinations of fuel-efficient powertrains are available: a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with an all-new eTorque technology system that improves fuel economy and that mates to a new eight-speed automatic transmission; a 3.0-liter EcoDiesel engine is available on Wrangler four-door models, also mated to the new eight-speed automatic transmission starting in 2019; and finally, as standard fare, a 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine with a new six-speed manual gearbox and an available eight-speed automatic transmission.

My on-road driving was done in a Jeep Wrangler Sport four-door model powered by the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 coupled to the eight-speed automatic overdrive transmission. The base price was set at $30,495.

Manufacturer photo: The 2018 Jeep Wrangler delivers off-road capability with legendary four-wheel drive

Off-road driving and rock crawling was done first in a four-door Rubicon with the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-banger with the eight-speed automatic with the Sky one-touch power top, and next in a Rubicon Wrangler sans top and doors. Both were base-priced at $40,495.

Acceleration is quick and responsive and handling characteristics overall are much more satisfying with both the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and 3.6-liter V-6. Seats are firm, but comfortable.

As for severe rock crawling, the new Wranglers are probably the closest you can get to approximating the ability of a mountain goat, and easy removal of the doors and top along with folding the windshield flat makes for an entirely different perspective with enhanced terrain visibility. It also allows for a quick emergency exit should you happen to lose faith in your off-road piloting prowess. On the other hand, professional spotters with their expert guidance help to alleviate one's apprehension in "hairy" scenarios.

Three variants of transfer cases find their way into specific trim level Wranglers: the NV241 COMMAND-TRAC part-time system does duty in both the Sport and Sahara models; another part-time system, the NV241 ROCK-TRAC serves as the standard unit for Rubicon and diesel models; and finally, the MP3022 Selec-Trac, a full-time system is standard for Rubicons with the manual gearbox and is optionally available for Saharas and Rubicons with an automatic transmission.

Axles consist of an open Dana 30 or a Tru-Lok electronic locking Dana 44 up front with Dana 35 and 44 in the rear on Rubicon models, Sport and Sahara models have open differentials with available Trac-Lok anti-spin, and Tru-Lok electronic locking on Rubicon models. Ratios are 3.45:1, 3.73:1, and 4.10:1 for both front and rear axles.

Manufacturer photo: The 2018 Jeep Wrangler delivers off-road capability with legendary four-wheel drive

Suspension componentry consists of a solid axle forward with link coil, leading arms, track bar, coil springs, and stabilizer bar; an electronic sway-bar disconnect system is standard for Rubicons. Front shock types are gas-charged twin-tube shock absorbers with full displacement Multi-Tuned Valve technology on Sport models and high-pressure gas-charged monotube shock absorbers with MTV technology on Saharas and Rubicons, while Rubicons add a hydraulic rebound stop. A solid axle in the rear includes link coil, trailing arms, track bar, coil springs, and stabilizer bar. Shocks are the same setup in the rear as in the front.

Crawl ratios are impressive and vary from model to model, with the Rubicon ranking as the best. Approach, breakover, and departure angles as well as ground clearances also vary from model to model, again with the Rubicon being the shining star. Figures vary between two- and four-door models. Water fording capability is up to 30 inches and the towing capacity for Wranglers is 3,500 pounds.

All that's left to do is choose the model that best suits you, decide on the number of doors and type of propulsion, and select a color and wheel style. Oh, a myriad of accessories are available to dress up your Wrangler, while enhancing its functionality and versatility.

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