Jeep officially took the wraps off the next-generation Wrangler at the LA Auto Show, following a tease and catalog showcase of customization parts at the recent Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) convention in Las Vegas.

To be offered in two-door, four-door, and crew-cab pickup truck configurations, the Wrangler will have up to four engine options. It promises gains in fuel economy, ride, conveniences, and safety, while seeming to address its upgrade-loving loyalists.

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Two Wrangler generations will be produced concurrently for a period, Jeep says. The outgoing model has been renamed the Wrangler JK, adapting its internal designation; the new Wrangler carries the new JL name. The simultaneous sales are to ensure that dealerships can meet demand, but it's guaranteed to create some marketplace confusion.

The supply concern is genuine, because the Wrangler has historically been a very popular and profitable model for its parent automaker, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

2018 Jeep Wrangler JL

The essential Wrangler hallmarks remain, with its distinctive silhouette (that traces back to World War II), seven-slot grille, round headlamps, square tail lamps, and removable top and doors. Based on spy photos, the pickup seems to be based on the four-door (aka JLU, for JL Unlimited). The longer cargo section effectively transforms the JLU into a crew-cab pickup truck, making it decidedly different from the much smaller Jeep Comanche and Scrambler of yesteryear.

A key objective with the new Wrangler was improving fuel economy. The last four-door we tested, with a 3.6-liter V6, returned just 17 mpg overall. In the city, that heavy machine got just 12 mpg.

The new Wrangler Unlimited with the V6 and automatic transmission is officially rated at 18 mpg city, 23 mpg highway, and 20 mpg overall—two mpg better than the outgoing version. The manual gets 19 mpg overall. Other configurations have not received ratings, yet.

Jeep honed the Wrangler's aerodynamics to bolster fuel economy while retaining its essential styling elements. Jeep tells us that the Wrangler dropped about 200 lbs., with half coming from the frame and the other half from aluminum body pieces.

2018 Jeep Wrangler JL interior

The updated V6 produces 285 hp and 260 lb.-ft. of torque, and it can be paired with a standard six-speed manual transmission or optional eight-speed automatic transmission.

An all-new turbocharged four-cylinder joins the ranks, producing 270 hp and 295 lb.-ft. of V6-embarrassing torque. That engine benefits from a 48-volt mild hybrid system that assists with start/stop operation, power retention, and regenerative braking. A Jeep spokesman explained to us that the eTorque system uses an electric motor to send power to the crankshaft, positioned where the alternator would be. It ties-in with a battery pack positioned under the vehicle.

The real torque king will be the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 for 2019. Available on four-door models, the turbodiesel boasts 260 hp and 442 lb.-ft. of torque. A plug-in hybrid will be available for 2020.

2018 Jeep Wrangler JL

The Wrangler continues to use a five-link coil suspension, tuned to better balance on- and off-road needs, according to Jeep. Four skid plates help protect the fuel tank, transfer case, and automatic transmission pan from trail impacts. The off-road-focused Rubicon adds steel rock rails to protect the body.

Among its off-road claims, when properly equipped:

  • 44-degree approach angle
  • 37-degree departure angle
  • 10.9-inch ground clearance
  • 33-inch tires (Rubicon)
  • Up to 30 inches fording depth
  • 3,500-lb. maximum tow capacity
The Wrangler does offer some advance safety systems on higher-trim models, such as blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, roll mitigation, and a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines. However, forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking will not be available for 2018.
2018 Jeep Wrangler JL
Parts display at the SEMA Show.

Jeep says there will be dozens of door, top, and windshield combinations, including a windshield that can be folded down. There are two hard tops, “premium” soft top, and a one-touch power top. In the past, top removal has been challenging; let's hope this has been improved. Being able to open up panels without removing the entire top has been a welcomed compromise with the current Wrangler.

The interior is evolutionary, looking both familiar and decidedly more modern. Center stage is the latest Uconnect system, available with 7- and 8.4-inch screens, that is Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatible. Aiding comfort are bucket seats with adjustable bolsters and lumbar support, standard across the line. Among the other cabin upgrades, enthusiasts will appreciate the options for integrating accessory controls, such as for lights and winches.

The Wrangler was developed with the robust enthusiast market in mind. In fact, the brand showcased more than 200 accessories earlier this month at the SEMA show, demonstrating the customization potential available through dealers when the SUVs go on sale this winter.

There's a huge business in Wrangler aftermarket parts, with a wide range of components available to personalize its appearance and improve its off-road prowess. Jeep aims to satisfy that hunger with a wide range of parts that include lift kits, bumpers, LED lights, rock rails, fender flares, and much more. For lighter fare, there are graphics, fuel doors, tire covers, roof racks, cargo mats, and tailgate tables. Shopping the aftermarket can be fun and lead to a one-of-a-kind Wrangler. But there's an appeal in buying accessories engineered by the factory and backed by a warranty that can be installed by the dealer and whose costs can be rolled into the vehicle financing.

The outgoing Wrangler JK has been a clear hit among off-road enthusiasts, as signaled by impressive sales and active owners’ groups. However, as a pure commuter vehicle, the Wrangler JK doesn’t measure up against more refined, car-based models. In CR road tests, it scored just 26 points (out of 100), making it our lowest-rated SUV. Its unsettled ride, clumsy handling, pervasive wind noise, awkward access, and lackluster fuel economy hurt its score. However, owner satisfaction remains high. For those craving the vehicle’s unique, iconic image and capabilities, the Wrangler has been a hit.

We hope with the redesign it has gained some civility while remaining true to its heritage.

The two-door model will be offered in Sport, Sport S, and Rubicon trims, while the four-door models add an uplevel Sahara choice. Expect the new Wrangler to appear in showrooms in January 2018.