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Old 05-09-2018
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Default 2019 Jeep JL Wrangler Review

2019 Jeep JL Wrangler ReviewThe 2019 Jeep Wrangler is refreshingly honest. Its throwback underpinnings may belie the newly updated and tech-heavy interior, but the Wrangler’s rugged looks cut checks its sturdy body will cash.

This year, Jeep offers an advanced safety package that adds forward-collision warnings and adaptive cruise control for extra money on some trim levels, but that’s it. No amount of money will add automatic emergency braking or active lane control. Did we mention its shape hasn’t changed since the 1940s?

While the looks haven’t evolved much outside, the interior is a nicer place to be thanks to more sound deadening and a lower dash. The Wrangler is available in two- or four-door configurations, the latter being the most comfortable for families.

Sport, Sport S, Sahara, and Rubicon trims all get a 3.6-liter V-6, 6-speed manual transmission, and four-wheel drive as standard equipment. An 8-speed automatic will be a popular add-on, and we advise looking at the 2.0-liter turbo-4 for better fuel efficiency. (And perhaps off-roadability.)

There are multiple off-road configurations available for the Wrangler, including different axle ratios, differentials, and transfer cases among the trim levels—consider needs carefully. The base Sport is a stripper, right down to the manual windows. The top-level Rubicon is an adventure—and its price requires a leap of faith, too.

The middle of the road Sport S trim is best value for money for middle-of-the-road buyers, complete with power features, air conditioning, power door locks, remote entry and keyless ignition, a 5.0-inch display for infotainment. More optional packages are available on the Sport S including heated seats, upgraded infotainment, or convenience features.

If the 2019 Jeep Wrangler could run for president, it’d win by a landslide. Its popular, boxy exterior is so honest it’s practically marriage material, and its interior is smoothed over and groomed so well it should be a stump speech.

We give it an 8 for good looks inside and out, with preference for the out. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The new Wrangler isn’t just retro, it’s better. All the main elements are there: boxy shape, seven-slot grille, round headlights, and fender flares, but they’ve been improved. The grille now cants rearward at the top, which is a nod to the YJ era. The headlights push into the grille, a nod to the CJ era.

The rear tailgate still gets a good-looking side-hinged door, which isn’t hugely practical but neither are throw pillows.

The interior received the lion’s share of updates. The dash is lower and controls are placed higher, which is helpful for both usability and visibility. The climate controls are a little too overstyled, but the big-buck 8.4-inch touchscreen is an impressive feature once riders climb aboard.

Have your mud and your mud masks, too. The 2019 Jeep Wrangler is more capable off road and more refined on road. Although the basic formula hasn’t changed, Jeep has refined the Wrangler.

Starting from an average score of 5, the Wrangler earns points for its exceptional ability off road, but takes one back for its choppy ride. Two-door versions, which have a shorter wheelbase and still-bumpier ride, are a shade better than shopping carts. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Most Wranglers will leave the factory with a corporate 3.6-liter V-6 and 8-speed automatic transmission. The 285-horsepower V-6 is enough to power the Jeep Wrangler around town, but lacks some of the low-end grunt we’d like to see during rock-crawling adventures. Sticking with the standard 6-speed manual only exacerbates that condition; it’s not our pick for most off-roaders. (Even-numbered shifts are a little hampered by the bulky center console, too.)

Have your mud and your mud masks, too. The 2019 Jeep Wrangler is more capable off road and more refined on road. Although the basic formula hasn’t changed, Jeep has refined the Wrangler.

Starting from an average score of 5, the Wrangler earns points for its exceptional ability off road, but takes one back for its choppy ride. Two-door versions, which have a shorter wheelbase and still-bumpier ride, are a shade better than shopping carts. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Most Wranglers will leave the factory with a corporate 3.6-liter V-6 and 8-speed automatic transmission. The 285-horsepower V-6 is enough to power the Jeep Wrangler around town, but lacks some of the low-end grunt we’d like to see during rock-crawling adventures. Sticking with the standard 6-speed manual only exacerbates that condition; it’s not our pick for most off-roaders. (Even-numbered shifts are a little hampered by the bulky center console, too.)



The optional engine for now is a 2.0-liter turbo-4 mated to a mild-hybrid system that adds the low-end twist we’d like in our off-roaders and better fuel economy to boot. It’s rated at 270 hp so the overall power is a wash, but it’s only mated to the 8-speed automatic.

The 48-volt mild-hybrid system can keep accessories running at stoplights or coax the Wrangler’s turbo-4 to take a nap during long highway drives to save gas, but it’s not enough power to get the Wrangler moving. Notwithstanding, purists who’d scoff at the idea of a hardcore turbo-4 off-roader: you’re wrong.

Both engines are rated to tow up to 2,000 pounds in two-door configurations, or up to 3,500 pounds in four-door versions.

The Wrangler’s basic formula hasn’t changed since we liked Ike. The Wrangler rides atop a separate ladder frame, with solid front and rear axles. Coil springs absorb undulations in the road, and Wrangler Rubicons add a little more height and 33-inch tires to soak up more road—or hopefully, more rocks.

Two-door Wranglers have 22 fewer inches between the wheels and feel predictably more nervous on the road. No Wrangler is quiet on highway drives, but the 2019 Wrangler features more insulation to keep the road and wind noise outside.

The 2019 Wrangler’s steering system gives us enough feedback to feel connected to the wheels and has enough slack at highway speeds to track straight.

Off-road

The 2019 Wrangler Sport and Sahara versions are equipped with a two-speed, part-time four-wheel drive system. Skid plates are standard, but a limited-slip differential is optional. The simple system, combined with the Wrangler’s tall ride height should be enough to conquer any small mountain.

Jeep says the Sport is ripe for customization and the Sahara is for weekend warriors who prioritize a smoother ride around town, thus the simpler setup.

The Sahara offers an upgradeable automatic four-wheel-drive system that operates more like all-wheel drive and could be a boon to buyers looking for “rugged and rough,” but whose daily drive is more like “shaggy and soaked.” It’s a good mix of capable in all weather and easy to use.

The Wrangler Rubicon is for the unfazed set, looking for the toughest Jeep that (a lot of) money can buy. It’s equipped with 33-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A tires, beefy Dana 44 axles with locking differentials and sway bars, a part-time transfer case, and tall flares that can accommodate 35-inch rubber without a lift.

Short of a Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen (too much money) or a side by side (too not allowed on highways), the 2019 Wrangler Rubicon is the most capable off-roader available.

“Comprise” isn’t in the 2019 Wrangler’s vocabulary. That’s good news for capability, but perhaps not for comfort.

The Wrangler lacks interior storage, despite offering 90,000 feet of vertical space with the top off. The back seat isn’t where we’d put friends for long rides—perhaps in-laws? The Wrangler earns a 4 out of 10 for comfort on our scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The cabin is shod in cloth, upgraded cloth, or optionally available leather hides. The upgraded cloth is convincingly wash-and-wear, but we haven’t yet sampled the base material—nor have we ground mud into its seats.



The front seats are supportive and comfortable, made better last year with standard lumbar support. The seat adjustment lever is a thin strap way behind driver’s reach, which makes on-the-go adjustments difficult.

The rear seats aren’t easily accessible in two-door models, but are roomy once riders climb aboard. Rear seat leg room measures 35.7 inches in two-door models, which expands to 38.3 inches in four-door versions. That means the rear seats in the four-door version are not only easier to access, they’re also more spacious. We suspect that’s why the four-door Wrangler has surpassed the two-doors in sales—just a hunch.

Both Wranglers feature good rear cargo room, too. With both rows of seats upright, the Wrangler two- and four-door boast nearly 32 cubic feet of cargo space. With the second row down, the Wrangler opens up to 72.4 cubes. Not impressed? A Wrangler pickup is due soon that should offer more cargo-carrying capacity. We’re saving our pennies.

The new Wrangler’s dash is low, which is a boon to outward vision and helping the cabin feel open and bright. (Eds note: Take the doors off for the best effect, really.) The controls are easily reachable, but hard to read because they’re a little overstyled.

At base trim levels—Sport and Sport S—the Wrangler’s hard plastics and rugged surfaces don’t feel up to snuff for an SUV that starts north of $30,000. Add leather and soft-touch surfaces in Sahara and Rubicon versions and Jeeps efforts to take the Wrangler upmarket seemingly pay off.

Crash tests on the 2019 Jeep Wrangler aren’t yet complete. Without official crash-test ratings from the NHTSA or the IIHS we can’t rate it here. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Although the Wrangler’s looks haven’t changed much since the last century, its safety equipment has. Joining the available blind-spot monitors and parking sensors this year are optional forward-collision warnings and adaptive cruise control. A rearview camera is standard, and four airbags are included too.

That’s still well behind many SUVs that have automatic emergency braking as standard—no amount of money will make it appear on a Wrangler. The news doesn’t get much better; history and physics aren’t on the Wrangler’s side either. Tall, boxy SUVs like the Wrangler struggle on crash tests—particularly the calculated rollover score—and the outgoing Wrangler last year was among the poorest performing new cars available for sale.

The 2019 Jeep Wrangler will go down many roads in its lifetime, but shopping for one requires a choice between two roads. For new owners, the Wrangler should either be a hardcore off-roader or a throwback SUV with a few available creature comforts. Looking to the Wrangler for opulence or bare-bones affordable transportation will result in disappointment.

The Wrangler is available in Sport, Sport S, Sahara, or Rubicon trims, starting at about $30,000. Top-of-the-line Rubicons rival some luxury SUVs in price—but are far more capable.

We give the Wrangler 5 points out of 10 for features thanks to its plentiful options and trim packages. Base trims are truly throwbacks—with hand-crank windows and no air conditioning—but not in a good way. The Wrangler’s overall value is debatable in many trim packages, too.

The two-door Wrangler Sport trim serves as the base and it’s a rolling contradiction. It’s equipped with cloth seats and a USB charger; hand-crank windows and a rearview camera; keyless ignition and no air conditioning. For about $30,000 to start for that Wrangler Sport, we’d almost turn to the classifieds.

The top trim is the Rubicon (in two- or four-door configuration) and it gets heavy-duty off-road gear like beefy front and rear axles, knobby tires, power windows, LED interior lighting, premium cloth seats, power outlets, a 7.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment, and air conditioning for well more than $41,000 to start. (Cresting $50,000 in a four-door Rubicon is shockingly easy.) As a tony Wrangler for the street and suburbia, the Rubicon is a fool’s errand. As a budget crawler or overlander, the Rubicon’s a compelling value.

The Sport S is where the smart (and likely our) money would be. The Sport S is equipped with the basics including power features, air conditioning, power door locks, remote entry and keyless ignition, a 5.0-inch display for infotainment. The Sport S trim is more valuable for its multiple option packages that can add heated front seats and a heated steering wheel, active safety features (we cover those above), upgraded driver information cluster, and remote start.

Other upgrades include an 8.4-inch infotainment system, heavy-duty winch, and upgraded exterior and interior lighting for Rubicon- or Sahara-equipped Wranglers.

Updated powertrains have vaulted the 2019 Jeep Wrangler into the 21st century for fuel efficiency. Unfortunately its shape is still firmly rooted in the 1940s, which means it can only go so far—literally and figuratively—with a gallon of gas.

The most popular configuration for a Wrangler—four doors, V-6, and 8-speed automatic—is rated by the EPA at 18 mpg, 23 highway, 20 combined. That’s good enough for a 4 on our fuel-economy scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)



There’s better news, at least for fuel economy. A turbo-4 and mild-hybrid powertrain can do better by the EPA’s calculators: a two-door Wrangler with a turbo-4 is rated at 23/25/24 mpg, and a four-door is rated at 22/24/22 mpg. A 6-speed manual is available only with the V-6, and it’s rated at 17/25/20 mpg in the two-door, 17/23/19 mpg in the four-door.

The Wrangler has few direct competitors, if any. Rough-and-tumble Toyota 4Runners are rated at 18 mpg combined by the EPA and the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 pickup is rated at 17 mpg combined with a gas engine. M1 Abrams tanks are not rated by the EPA.

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