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Silvios Ride Nov 02, 2018

2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4x4


Finally, some civility—but only some


Plus: Off-road toys, mild-hybrid torque and fuel efficiency, go-anywhere Rubicon almost can.

Minus: Loud, still not ready for the interstate, pricey

 

2018 Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon eTorque $41,445; as tested $54,700
Sport, Sport S and Sahara trim levels also available (with 4- or 6-cylinder engines) from $27,495

 

Right—it’s a Jeep. You know that. Your old granny knows that. Everyone knows what this is. Jeep Wranglers are like Porsche 911s—people think they haven’t changed in, oh, 50 years. But they certainly have, especially this one. See the LED lights in the front fenders? They’re just a hint of the modernization that’s taken place on this dinosaur. In fact, there’s a list of all the modern amenities on our Web site, and it’s a long one.


The Wrangler used to be called the CJ—for civilian Jeep—and it’s descended, in spirit more than in fact, from the GI vehicles that helped win WWII. As a result, even in Europe the Wrangler is an automotive icon; Enzo Ferrari once called it “America’s only sports car.” (That was before the modern Corvette, of course.) Wranglers come in two sizes: the Unlimited—this one—has four doors, can seat five people, and is 22 inches longer than the standard version. On the highway, longer is better because it’s more stable; off-road, shorter is better, as it’s more maneuverable.


Our sample Wrangler has Jeep’s new mild-hybrid eTorque system. It’s a 4-cylinder gas engine with a small electric “helper” motor that adds power and also serves as the gas engine’s starter and generator. The extra electric torque does three things: It smooths out the throttle for finicky off-road driving; it adds muscle when pulling away from a stop; and it improves the highway mileage to a reported 24 MPG. That’s not bad for something as aerodynamic as a cinderblock. The eTorque powerplant is a thousand-dollar option, but it’s more powerful than the Wrangler’s available 6-cylinder engine.


The steering, the brakes and the suspension are about what you’d expect from a military vehicle, but Jeep has put lipstick on its famous pig with options such as a premium Alpine sound system with Sirius XM, a Web interface with a computer touchscreen and satellite navigation, heated front seats and steering wheel, LED headlights, rear parking sensors, leather seats, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Oh, and pop-top roof panels too, which are very easy to remove. (I wonder if they’ll eventually rattle?) There’s a price for all this, of course: $54,700, as equipped.


There’s no point in comparing even the 4-door Wrangler to any other sport-utility vehicle, as every other SUV is a good deal more highway-friendly. Its closest competitor is the Land Rover Defender, but that’s gone out of production while the Brits engineer an entirely new one, which will surely raise the bar in on-road drivability. This Wrangler, the Rubicon variant, is Jeep’s hard-core boonie-basher, and it seems less road-worthy than the Sahara-model Wrangler, but that may be due to the wriggly off-road tires on the Rubicon. Either way, Wranglers are just as limited in their all-around usefulness as last week’s AMG Mercedes roadster—and just as much fun, in an entirely different way.

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