What's New for 1998
Jeep has improved off-road capability by increasing the axle ratio offered with the 4.0-liter engine and revising the torsion bar for better steering. Optional this year on the 1998 Jeep Wrangler are a tilting driver seat, automatic speed control, a combination CD/cassette stereo, a new Smart Key Immobilizer theft-deterrent system and two new colors.
We were a little concerned last year when we heard that Jeep was giving its bad-boy mud-machine an overhaul. Luckily, the Wrangler hasn't received the leather interior, cellular phone makeover that has recently emasculated so much of the sport-utility segment. No, the Wrangler remains the drive-me-hard-through-the-slop beast of yesterday, with a few appreciated improvements.
Jeep Wranglers have long been the standard for those valiant explorers who truly wish to go where no one has gone before. The go-anywhere ability of the Wrangler has been improved by the Quadra-coil suspension which allows an additional seven inches of articulation over the old leaf spring set-up; thus resulting in increased approach and departure angles. Jeep boasts that the Quadra-coil suspension, as well as improved shocks and tires, also greatly improves the Wrangler's on-road manners.
The Wrangler receives minor adjustments to the powertrain by combining the Dana 44 rear axle with a 3.73 axle ratio, replacing the 3.55 axle ratio with the 4.0-liter engine. And Jeep claims that a revised torsion bar provides improved steering response. Nobody, however, will mistake this vehicle for a smooth-running family sedan; the Wrangler is very much a truck. A five-speed manual transmission remains standard and a three-speed automatic is available for those who don't plan on doing any serious off-roading.
For 1998, most people will not notice any changes to the Wrangler other than the new Chili Pepper Red and Deep Amethyst exterior colors. Front bumper guards have been added and a new underhood lamp will aid in finding the wiper fluid reservoir in the dark. A TLEV (Transitional Low Emission Vehicle) 4.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine is available for states adopting California emission regulations, so Jeep owners can feel even closer to nature: they make less smog.
Over the past two years, Jeep has done a great job improving the Wrangler. Gone are some of the nagging complaints we had about safety, wind noise and engine roar; what remains is a solid truck with hard-core capabilities and rugged good looks. This is obviously not the truck for everybody, but those willing to put up with a cloth interior and a little road noise will be rewarded with an amazingly fun vehicle. Hey, they even brought back those snazzy round headlights ... what's not to like?