An inner-city dweller with little parking space or use for SUVs, I actually treasure the Jeep Wrangler.
There are two reasons. The longer one: in a world of increasingly generic looking CUVs/SUVs/SAVs/SBDs/WTFs, the Wrangler has preserved its distinctive and original military red-meat vibe. Makers Fiat-Chrysler (FCA) recognize they’re custodians of a brand and experience beloved by generations of buyers for scores of years.
The shorter reason: it’s just fun.
2018 saw the introduction of an “all-new” Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. Fortunately, that didn’t mean less fun or distinctiveness. The baby wasn’t pitched with the bath water — important for a vehicle with a 762mm water-fording maximum.
So, what’s visibly changed? It’s longer and wider with an extended wheelbase. I’m of two minds. More space is great for others, but I’ve always preferred Wrangler’s compact Sport trim over the (still huge fun) Unlimited series. Now the latter’s even bigger.
Then again, I don’t sit in the back.
What’s unchanged? The words Wrangler and Unlimited still describe this vehicle’s signature off-roading characteristics. You just point, shoot and fear not! Despite its expanding girth, the larger 2018 is still capable of taming landscapes recommended only for mountain goats.
Mind, few of us need such off-road grit for commutes to and from the office. Sirius XM radio covers the ride just fine (a 1-year subscription’s included with base price).
So, it was a noticeable and welcome difference when the Wrangler Unlimited’s ride on regular roads proved decidedly fewer bouncy-castle-on-wheels than earlier iterations. It’s comparatively smooth.
Some purists will whine that the new suspension doesn’t feel like the old Wrangler and they’ll be right. But they’ll also require less Gravol after those mundane SUV trips to their daughter’s violin lessons or the chiropractor.
The Wrangler’s throaty 3.6L six-cylinder engine is paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission.
Automatic? Sure, we all miss that old-school school-bus shifter, but why live in the past? Back in the day we couldn’t pre-cool the driver’s seat from behind the shopping cart in the produce aisle.
The Canadian government’s EnerGuide system must assume a monk is driving 55kph in cruise control during 22-degree weather with no wind, stops or traffic. It rates the fuel consumption at 12.9L/100km in the city and 10.2 on the highway. Good stats, but best of luck with that.
Starting at $45,745, this Unlimited Sahara is the Wrangler’s second most expensive trim, but this tester included a grab-bag of goodies. Some were just baubles but several enhanced the experience significantly.
For instance, if you’re one of those Canadians who hates the cold and probably only lives here for the free health care, there’s the $895 Cold Weather Group package: a heated steering wheel; heated front seats; remote start system (see above, reproduce aisle). If that appeals, don’t stop without the Mopar all-weather floormats, just $150 more. They make maintaining your Wrangler so much easier.
But let’s put aside winter. The reason you buy a Jeep Wrangler is to remove the roof and conquer (aka wrangle) rough terrain! Do it. If it rains or you ever do for a river, the $995 extra for leather bucket seats won’t seem quite so pricey. Cloth seats get miffy quick once wet. Besides, FCA stumped for some extra cowhide to cover the shifter and parking brake handle too. (And if branding excites you, you may like that the embossed Sahara logo gently rubs against your upper back.)
Back to the outdoors: the 2018 model makes it easier than ever to strip away the upper level, leaving just the fun — but with roll-bar security in case you become that mountain goat who went too far.
Base price: $45,745
As driven: $59,310