It’s hard to think a vehicle that can traverse the toughest trails in the world would be at home in an urban environment.
But such is the case for the 2019 Jeep Wrangler. That is if you can get over the fuel economy.
During the test week, the Wrangler proved to be a comfortable cruiser with up-level amenities and cushy leather seats. It also turns on a dime, provides amazing visibility over the hood and tackles rough-hewn road surfaces with ease.
The JL Wrangler was all-new for the 2018 model year, and the design pays homage to the classic CJ series.
In a world where swoopy aerodynamic designs rule the day, Jeep has remained true to its roots with Wrangler, and the upright stance and classic 7-slot grille are immediately recognizable.
The removable canvas top and doors as well as the windshield that folds down are also classic Wrangler attributes.
Plus, Jeep continues the time-honored tradition of “Easter eggs” hidden throughout the vehicle – the most obvious and classic is the little Jeep climbing up rocks on the windshield.
The interior is simple and militaristic with upright lines and old-school buttons for HVAC and audio controls. But with available conveniences, the Wrangler enters the 21st century with a push-button start, 8.4-inch infotainment touch screen, heated seats and steering wheel and adaptive cruise control.
Ride & Handling
Even with its upright stance, the Wrangler does a good job of being nimble with the ability to zip in and out of urban traffic easily. The squared-off edges and backup camera also make it easy to parallel park.
The test vehicle was a 4-door Unlimited Sahara trim equipped with the up-level 2.0-liter I-4 turbocharged engine that delivers 270 horsepower 295 pound-feet of torque.
I liked the power equation of this engine, which had fast, off-the-line starts as well as the nice low-end torque for passing maneuvers. The only complaint here is the turbo whine with hard acceleration.
The base engine is a V-6, which is a second-generation Pentastar and delivers 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. It can be matched with either the 6-speed manual or the 8-speed automatic transmission. In previous tests, I found this engine to be fine. However, it’s a little loud and sluggish.
Something to note: Just because this vehicle can be nimble, that doesn’t mean it’s a perfect urban vehicle. First, with the canvas top, the outside noise is very present. In fact, there were several times I checked to see if I had windows open. Second, the big blocky tires don’t provide the cushiest ride.
During my test period, 90 percent of my driving was in the city of Chicago. That means stops signs, slow traffic and low speeds.
Thus, though the EPA estimates 22 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway, I averaged a dismal 14.8 mpg.
Tech & gadgets
Some of the coolest features on the Wrangler are more low- than high-tech. Since this is meant to be one of the toughest off-road vehicles out there, it also has the ability to bring the outdoors inside the cabin. That means the canvas top is removable, the side doors come off and the windshield flips down.
Outside of that, rugged though this vehicle is, it still has a nice complement of available luxuries including push-button start, passive entry, navigation, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, Uconnect, 5 USB ports, WiFi connectivity and Alpine premium audio system.
The Wrangler comes in both 2- and 4-door variants, and there are three trims available in the former and seven in the latter. When pricing is listed below, if there is a 2-door version, that pricing will be first. The breakdown is as follows:
- Sport ($29,540/$33,040): Includes the 3.6-liter engine, manual transmission, 17-inch black-styled steel wheels, Uconnect with a 5-inch touch screen, back-up camera, tow hooks, skid plates, push-button start and Zipperless Sunrider soft top. An automatic transmission is available for $2,000. The 2.0-liter engine is available for $1,000 and must include the automatic transmission.
- Sport S ($32,740/$36,240): Adds 17-inch tech silver aluminum wheels, heated power exterior mirrors, power locks and power windows. Available at this level: Uconnect with a 7-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and the Safety Group.
- Sport Altitude ($37,935): Adds 18-inch gloss black wheels, black cloth seats with black accent stitching, a black Freedom Top three-piece hardtop and gloss black accents. Also available at this trim is the Alpine premium nine-speaker audio system.
- Sahara ($39,890): Adds 18-inch polished aluminum wheels with tech gray spokes, tubular side steps, body-color fender flares, Uconnect with the 7-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and dual-zone automatic climate control. Available features at this trim include the Sky One-Touch power top and Selec-Trac full-time 4X4 system.
- Rubicon ($39,540/$43,040): This off-road trim includes 33-inch off-road all-terrain tires, high clearance fender flares, Dana 44 wide track heavy-duty axels, Rock-Trac two-speed part-time 4X4 system, electric front sway bar disconnect, steel off-road rock rails and steel skid plates. Available on this trim are winch-ready steel bumpers.
- Sahara Altitude ($43,185): This trim builds off the Sahara and adds 18-inch gloss black wheels, black leather seats, body-color Freedom Top Hardtop and gloss black accents. Available on this trim is the Alpine premium nine-speaker audio system and the advanced safety group.
- Moab ($52,795): Adds 17-inch low-gloss black aluminum wheels and BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A Tires, steel front bumper, Jeep performance parts rock rails, gloss black accents, McKinley leather-trimmed seats and body-color fender flares and hardtop.
At a standard level, the Wrangler includes basic safety equipment such as front and side airbags, rearview camera and anti-lock brakes. Available equipment includes rear park assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, advanced brake assist and full-seed forward collision warning.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety hasn’t crash tested Wrangler or given it any safety ratings.
The National Highway for Traffic Safety Administration has only tested the 4-door Wrangler in frontal and rollover crashes, giving it a 4-Star and 3-Star rating, respectively. There is no overall rating for Wrangler.
Not sure what the safety ratings mean? We break it down for you here (INSERT LINK: /news/auto-matters/what-do-safety-ratings-really-mean).
New for 2019
Because Wrangler was all-new for 2018, there aren’t a ton of updates here. But there are a couple changes to note: The advanced safety group now includes adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning, and Bikini exterior paint joins the lineup.
A few of my favorite things
The Wrangler is an icon, and I love that Jeep hasn’t messed with the design too much. It’s an evolution not a re-invention, and that’s just fine with me.
I also fully appreciate the excellent front visibility, and the blind-spot monitoring was invaluable since side visibility is compromised with chunky B pillars.
The sound quality for phone calls with my phone wired in through Apple CarPlay was excellent. Often, I have a hard time making the sound loud enough to hear the person on the other line, but with the Wrangler, I found myself turning the sound down. This is a big deal, especially considering the fact that the canvas top doesn’t exactly create a quiet environment.
What I can leave
I hate to admit failure, but I had a tough time removing the canvas top. There were panels at the back I couldn’t unlatch by myself, and to push the Sunrider roof back, I had to stomp all over the front and rear seats.
While this is infinitely easier than previous Jeep soft-top operations, it’s not as easy as pressing a button or simply pushing the top back.
I also wasn’t a fan of the thin canvas. In addition to the aforementioned sound issues, I could see this being very cold during the bitter Chicago winters. Though the vehicle did have the cold weather package with heated front seats and steering wheel, this wouldn’t be enough to keep sub-0-degree temperatures (aka January and February) at bay.
The bottom line
The 2019 Jeep Wrangler is an interesting and iconic vehicle. But it’s not for everyone. It would be tough to make this your daily driver if you have kids and car seats. And for those in northern climes, you’d probably want the hard top rather than the canvas one.
For those who do a lot of city driving, you’d also have to give serious consideration on how important fuel economy is.
But if you’re an off-road enthusiast, love the outdoors and want a vehicle that makes a statement, the Wrangler is perfect.