While the four-door Jeep Wrangler is credited with making the Jeep lifestyle more accessible and more profitable, it’s the two-door 2018 Wrangler Sport tested here that hews the closest to the spirit of the original. With a standard soft top, a naturally aspirated V-6 engine, and a six-speed manual transmission, it’s currently the purest way to get into the new JL Wrangler.
For even deeper coverage of the Wrangler, view our Buyer’s Guide in-depth review.
Although its spirit may hark back to simpler times, the Wrangler Sport’s $28,940 base price does not. Jeep raised the price by $750 within months of the model’s debut at the 2018 Detroit auto show in January, but it’s still the least expensive Wrangler in the showroom (aside from any lingering previous-gen JK Wranglers that might still need a home). Despite its price-leader status, the base 2018 JL’s feature content is light-years ahead of that CJ parked in your memory bank-or any previous-generation Wrangler, for that matter. Standard kit includes push-button start (but manual locks so no keyless entry), a tilting and telescoping steering wheel, adjustable lumbar support for the driver’s seat, and hill-start assist, as well as an eight-speaker stereo working in conjunction with a Uconnect 3 5.0-inch display with voice commands and Bluetooth.
Skid plates reside under the transmission, transfer case, and fuel tank, and the manually shifted Command-Trac part-time four-wheel-drive system doles out the torque to the live front and rear axles supplied by Dana. The optional limited-slip rear differential is an absolute steal at $595, especially when you consider the added benefit of ditching the standard all-season tires for a burly looking set of 245/75R-17 Bridgestone Dueler A/T RH-S tires. Air conditioning ($1295) and tinted windows ($495) keep interior temps in check, while a SiriusXM satellite radio with a one-year subscription ($295) ensures the tunes are flowing. At $31,620 out the door, this Wrangler is not cheap, and dilettantes may be put off by the presence of manual window cranks and a lack of power door locks. We think it’s a near perfect blend of features for a modern Wrangler, especially one potentially headed for heavy mods down the road.
The quintessential Jeep model may be built for the type of off-road adventures usually reserved for the National Geographic channel, but Wranglers generally spend more time completing suburban voyages. Yet a big part of the Wrangler’s charm is knowing that when the mood strikes you have the capability to head for the dunes or the woods without hesitation. With that in mind, we tested this 2018 Wrangler to lend some insight on what to expect when you’re not chasing adventure.
Wranglers have never excelled in on-road ride and handling, but the JL continues to chip away at the inherent dynamic deficiencies of a short, stiffly sprung vehicle with live axles and a high center of gravity. In terms of sheer grip, the 0.69 g the Wrangler JL pulled on our 300-foot skidpad is unimpressive; what that number doesn’t tell you is how dramatically its behavior has improved in terms of in-town agility and highway stability. Turn the wheel and the vehicle reacts with the good-natured eagerness of an Olympic shot putter with a two-beer buzz. The last 2018 four-door Wrangler JL we tested fared better, posting a still Jeep-like 0.73 g.
Inducing a little wheelspin is the quickest way to reach 60 mph, the mark coming up in 6.1 seconds. The quarter-mile took 14.9 seconds, with the Wrangler clearing the traps at 90 mph. While not rapid, it’s swifter than the 6.8- and 15.2-second times we recorded from the heavier, four-door 2018 Wrangler JL Sahara with the same engine but paired with an eight-speed automatic. It was also quicker than a Wrangler JK with the V-6 and six-speed manual we tested four years ago, which required 6.6 and 15.3 seconds to complete the same tasks. You’ll need to row the stick to keep your place in heavy traffic, however.
Braking remains a weak spot, with our 2018 JL requiring 191 feet to stop from 70 mph. While actually an improvement over the 205-foot distance we recorded with a previous-gen two-door Wrangler JK, it is a far cry from the 176-foot stopping distance posted by the 2018 JL four-door. Blaming the long stop on the all-terrain tires would not be misguided, but the rugged potential of two-door Wrangler means that these tires for most buyers are just part of the experience.
Open-air driving also is part of the genuine Jeep experience, and the process of stowing the soft top has been streamlined to the point that the chance of severing a digit or offending bystanders with profanity in the pursuit of sun worship is now nearly eliminated. When raised, there’s reduced wind noise due in part to the entirely new framework and attachment strategy. Registering 73 decibels at 70 mph, the cloth-roofed Wrangler won’t be mistaken for anything nicer than a covered wagon, but the near elimination of flutter, whistle, and moisture penetration is impressive. We were also mildly surprised to find the Jeep returned 22 mpg on our 75-mph highway fuel-economy test. That’s not too shabby for a high-riding all-terrain vehicle with a shape just slightly more aerodynamic than the average commercial dishwasher. The four-door Wrangler with the automatic earned just 20 mpg in the same test; that version’s 430-mile range tops the two-door’s 400 miles, however, thanks to the four-door’s larger fuel tank (21.5 gallons versus 18.5).
The 2018 Jeep Wrangler two-door does a commendable job of blending off-road chops with day-to-day livability while still providing a direct connection with its past. There’s no mistaking it for anything else, and it’s not for everyone despite Jeep’s attempts to soften its edges. If you are in the market for one, you already know what you’re getting into, or you will within the first 60 seconds of the test drive. Opportunities to experience that level of purity are getting rarer by the day, and that’s why we remain Wrangler fans despite its on-road foibles.
You Might Also Like