Jeep is such a worldwide icon that even countries that don’t sell them refer to just about any off-road truck with that single syllable. Be it a banana republic, Caribbean island or landlocked African kingdom, if it goes off-road and gets dirty it’s a Jeep. Not that there’s many places left without them, as Jeeps are presently sold in some 150 countries across the globe.
Now for 2019 the Wrangler, the model with Jeep’s purest DNA, gets one of its most profound updates in its nearly 80-year history. Since the bloodline debuted in 1941 as the Willy’s MB, the Wrangler has matured from a crude machine of raw utility into a fun, capable off-road toy into now a truly modern machine, with better driving dynamics, greater fuel economy, more rear legroom and countless engineering improvements. This JL generation welcomes a new high-strength steel frame, power steering, retuned shocks and a vastly improved suspension. Ground clearance, approach and departure angle have all been increased; skid plates are placed strategically throughout the vehicle’s underbelly; and even with its longer wheelbase (+2.4” on the 4-door Unlimited model), turning radius has improved by more than a foot.
Keep in mind this is a truck that didn’t even get doors standard until 1983, or a glove box until the 90’s, so pardon if they’re still catching up and figuring out how to get civilized. Of course, you don’t want your Wrangler getting too civilized.
Because what makes the Wrangler unique in the automotive space is the vast number of customized parts you can bolt, wrench and strap on, transforming the boxy utility vehicle into a personalized weapon of outdoor hooliganism. And while countless aftermarket brands offer innovative products, Jeep’s in-house Mopar team is the only one offering parts that won’t invalidate your warranty.
Sure, you could drive a top-of-the-line Rubicon ($36,995) right off the showroom floor bristling with superlative off-road capability — such as 33” tires, the largest ever on a Jeep. But we’re going to throw a curveball and actually suggest selecting the base Sport model ($26,995), and then dropping another ten grand or so kitting out your Wrangler with all the Mopar aftermarket products you can find to make your 4x4 as bespoke as the Savile Row suit in your closet.
Because the ideal Wrangler is the one you build yourself — creating something so wild, so capable, so modified it looks like a shiny toy for the unleashed and mud-splattered. As soon as the Wrangler hits showrooms this month, it will debut with over 200 aftermarket products ready to purchase — tools that have undergone more than 100,000 hours of factory-backed development and testing.
There are 5- and 7-inch LED off-road lights beaming with a military grade 8,000 lumens of sun-like illumination. New beadlock-capable 17-inch aluminum or five-spoke off-road wheels, and a 2-inch Lift Kit that, when paired with high-top fender flares, can accommodate massive 37-inch tires. For the first time ever a Mopar roof rack allows the easy mounting of ski, snowboard and bike carriers. Bolt on a steel tailgate table to the Trail Rail system, and fill it out with emergency first aid and roadside assistance kits. There are mesh and solid bikini tops, and new screen protectors to block dust and debris from the 8.4-inch dashboard display screens. Die-cast construction winches with wired remote controls, all-weather floor mats, grab handles, countless tire covers and satin black and brushed aluminum fuel doors for further customization.
While some of the above are purely aesthetic upgrades, most will help transform your Wrangler into a petrol-fueled, mountain-conquering barbarian. In Rubicon trim we climbed over boulder-littered Arizona desert trails that would frighten a mountain goat, but the newest Jeep toppled over them without breaking a sweat. Straight out of the box the Wrangler is one helluva toy — but with Mopar, you can make it your toy.
For all Wranglers you can select from the base 285-hp / 260 lb-ft. of torque 3.6-liter V6 — the same engine found in the Grand Cherokee — or the upgraded 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder with 270-hp and 295 lb-ft. of torque. A diesel option will debut in 2019, with both a 6-speed manual and an 8-speed automatic transmission available at launch.
Wranglers have featured a folding windshield since they debuted, making the military Willys easily shippable (just remove the wheels, flip down the glass, and voila! it’s ready to crate). But in the last JK gen it could take up to 90 minutes and 5 Advils to get the job done. Now it’s possible to do in less than four minutes, with only four bolts between you and fresh dust in your teeth. No, customers didn’t exactly request it, but Jeep engineers demanded to keep the option for heritage sake.
MORE, BETTER ROOF OPTIONS
The Wrangler can be had with a bolt-on hardtop, or the standard convertible soft-top. But the latter has been made much easier on the 4-door Unlimited models — no more zippers! As you remove the back window and quarter panels the D-pillars disappear altogether, and then you can simply roll the rest of the cloth back like an old VW cabriolet. But best of all, for the first time ever the Wrangler is available with a power hardtop — so you no longer have to get out of your Jeep to switch between closed and open sky motoring. (Power top is available only on Sahara and Rubicon Unlimited models.)