It might look like a mere facelift, but the JL Wrangler is all-new from the ground up, and promises more off-road ability, fuel efficiency, power, tech, and refinement than ever, while also reducing weight.
When the first official pics emerged at the start of November, picking the depth of changes made to the new Wrangler required serious trainspotting skills. This matters little, as Jeep is well aware of the fanatical anticipation among the Wrangler’s loyal fan base for even the tiniest of design tweaks.
Aside from the visible bolt-ons like new headlights and grille, wheels, fenders and extra body vents, the Wrangler development team’s deliberate restraint actually hides an all-new body and chassis, with new drivetrains and improvements in every key area.
Speaking with CarsGuide at a private media preview on the eve of this week’s Los Angeles motor show, Jeep executives explained the painstaking process in developing an all-new model with the weight of the entire Jeep brand on its shoulders.
Given its role in defining Jeep’s core values since the first Willys Jeep served US troops in World War II, developing a new Wrangler is akin to replacing the Porsche 911 or the likes of Mazda’s MX-5, but arguably more of a challenge.
As Jeep design boss Mark Allen puts it: ““We’re moving small pieces here.”
Non negotiables like the solid axles at each end, characteristic profile and seven-slot grille and circular headlight face were defined early in the program, all of which aren’t an obvious fit with ever-tightening requirements for safety, efficiency and refinement.
Nearly 11 years after the current JK model appeared at the 2007 Detroit motor show, both the two-door Sport and four-door Unlimited versions ride on longer wheelbases to create room for the addition of the 850RE eight-speed auto from the Grand Cherokee and 300 sedan. The Sport grows by 34mm to 2458mm, while the Unlimited adds 60mm to also benefit rear seat occupants to now measure 3007mm.
The all-new body uses weight-saving aluminium for the doors, hinges, fenders, windscreen frame, and tailgate skin, with the latter also boasting a magnesium frame.
Watch our 2018 Wrangler walkaround with Senior Designer Steve Goodrich: