2018 Jeep Wrangler JK

2018 Jeep Wrangler JK Review

It's the old model, but the 2018 Wrangler JK is still vastly capable and a lot of fun off-road.
7.1 / 10
Edmunds overall rating
author
by Travis Langness
Edmunds Editor

Edmunds expert review

You might have heard there's a new Wrangler for 2018. This is not it. The Wrangler JK — the JK part refers to Jeep's name for this Wrangler generation — carries over from the previous year unchanged. But it should appeal to the Jeep purists who lust after the old Wrangler in all its authentic and impractical glory.

Ignoring the more modern and redesigned 2018 Jeep Wrangler, the Wrangler JK makes a good case for itself as an entertaining off-road vehicle. It's more capable than any other SUV, and its relatively low price is hard to beat. It has, however, sacrificed modernity along the way. The Wrangler JK isn't very comfortable, its safety scores are worryingly low, and most modern tech that is standard on other cars isn't available on the Wrangler JK.

You'll likely be interested in the 2018 Wrangler JK if you're dissatisfied with the new Wrangler design or if you value off-road capability above all else and you're willing to sacrifice creature comforts for a price discount.



What's new for 2018

The 2018 Wrangler JK is essentially a carryover of the previous year's model. The regular 2018 Wrangler has been fully redesigned.

We recommend

The level of customization on the Wrangler JK is rather dizzying at first, but once you sort through the details you'll find a number of trim levels to fit a variety of lifestyles. For a balance of off-road capability and city drivability, we recommend the base Wrangler JK Sport with one of its many specialty packages. The Willys Wheeler, for example, adds to the base Sport with items such as off-road-focused tires and off-road rock rails. The midrange Willys is a decent middle ground before you hit the all-conquering Rubicon.




Trim levels & features

The 2018 Jeep Wrangler JK is an off-road-focused SUV available in a pair of body styles: the two-door, four-passenger Wrangler and the four-door, five-passenger Wrangler Unlimited. Each is available in three core trim levels: Sport, Sahara and Rubicon. A vinyl convertible roof is standard on both, and a hardtop with easily removable front panels above is available. All Wrangler JKs are powered by a 3.6-liter V6 engine (285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque) and come with four-wheel drive as standard. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and a five-speed automatic is optional.

Other than a few work trucks out there, it doesn't get much more basic than the base Wrangler Sport trim level. The two-door Sport includes 16-inch steel wheels, on- and off-road tires, a full-size spare tire, skid plates, tow hooks, foglights, removable doors, a fold-down windshield, manual mirrors and locks, full metal doors with manually operated windows, cruise control, a height-adjustable driver's seat, cloth upholstery, a tilt-only steering wheel, a one-piece folding, tumble-forward back seat, and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack. The Unlimited (four-door) version gets a bigger gas tank, air conditioning and a 60/40-split folding, tumble-forward rear seat as standard.

The Power Convenience Group adds power windows and locks, keyless entry, heated power exterior mirrors, an alarm and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The Cold Weather package adds the Power Convenience Group's equipment plus remote start and heated seats. Also available for the Sport are 17-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning (for the two-door) and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

The Sahara adds the Power Convenience Group items, 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic LED headlights, LED foglights, additional painted exterior body panels and trim, hood insulation for reduced noise, air conditioning, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and satellite radio. The Sahara Unlimited differs only with tubular side steps and grab handles for rear passengers.

The Rubicon Wrangler leads the pack with a host of off-road goodies. It starts with the basic Sport equipment and adds 17-inch alloy wheels, special tires, a heavy-duty Dana 44 front axle (matching the standard-spec Dana 44 rear axle), shorter 4.10 axle gearing (standard with the manual transmission; optional with the automatic), an extra-low crawl ratio, electronic front and rear locking differentials, an electronically disconnecting front anti-roll bar, rock rails, automatic LED headlamps and the underhood insulation. Inside, you get standard air conditioning plus the leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a 115-volt outlet and satellite radio. The above-mentioned Power Convenience Group is an optional extra on the two-door Rubicon, but it's standard on the Rubicon Unlimited.

Even though you can only get the 4.10 gearing with a Rubicon, the Sport and the Sahara are eligible for an upgrade to a 3.73 ratio, which gets you much of the way there. The standard ratio is a modest 3.21. Also optional on the Sport and the Sahara is a limited-slip rear differential, and the Sport and the Rubicon can be equipped with half doors that include plastic side windows and manual locks.

Optional on every Wrangler is a nine-speaker Alpine sound system and the Connectivity Group, which adds a tire-pressure monitor display, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth phone connectivity, a trip computer, and an upgraded version of the Uconnect touchscreen that includes a USB port, media player interface and navigation. All trims are also available with a higher-quality soft top as well as a black or a body-colored hardtop.

On top of all the optional equipment to sort through, there are several special-edition packages (Willys Wheeler, Golden Eagle, Freedom Edition, Altitude, etc.) that include items such as the limited-slip rear differential, various wheel and exterior trim choices, unique badging, privacy glass, mud terrain tires, rock rails, varying crawl ratios and specialized seat embroidery. Even before you include the vast suite of available aftermarket parts in the equation, the Wrangler is one of the most customizable vehicles on the road today.



Trim tested

Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2016 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited (3.6L V6 | 5-speed automatic | 4WD).

NOTE: Since this test was conducted, the current Jeep Wrangler has been completely redesigned and is now referred to as the Jeep Wrangler JL. This test, however, refers to the Jeep Wrangler JK, which is still on sale as a new model but is essentially the same as the 2017 model. As a result, our findings remain applicable to the 2018 Jeep Wrangler JK.

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall7.1 / 10

Driving

7.5 / 10

Acceleration7.5 / 10
Braking7.5 / 10
Steering6.0 / 10
Handling6.0 / 10
Drivability7.5 / 10

Comfort

6.0 / 10

Seat comfort6.0 / 10
Ride comfort6.0 / 10
Noise & vibration5.0 / 10
Climate control7.5 / 10

Interior

6.5 / 10

Ease of use7.5 / 10
Getting in/getting out4.5 / 10
Driving position6.0 / 10
Roominess6.5 / 10
Visibility9.0 / 10
Quality8.0 / 10

Utility

6.0 / 10

Small-item storage6.5 / 10
Cargo space6.0 / 10

Technology

6.0 / 10

Audio & navigation7.0 / 10
Smartphone integration5.0 / 10
Voice control6.5 / 10

Driving7.5

This is a tricky one. Most Wranglers are optimized for off-road performance. Highway civility is secondary, so it's a below-average performer on the pavement. But when the road ends, there is no other production SUV that can keep up. And somehow its weaknesses are part of its charm.

Acceleration7.5

Acceleration from 0 to 60 mph took 6.9 seconds for the two-door and 8.1 seconds for the four-door, which translates to sufficient power to merge onto the freeway without fear. The 3.6-liter V6 builds revs slowly but deliberately due to the inertial mass of its big tires.

Braking7.5

The pedal stroke is long and progressive, and it's excellent for low-speed maneuvers off-road and easy to modulate on the road. The four-door stopped in 123 feet from 60 mph, and the two-door needed 133 feet, a prime example of an all-season versus an off-road tire.

Steering6.0

The steering is direct but requires attention because the short-wheelbase two-door moves around and requires slight but frequent adjustments. The four-door is far more relaxed, but a slow ratio makes for busy hands on tight mountain roads with no real straight-ahead feel.

Handling6.0

Off-road and big all-season tires offer little lateral grip, and the soft suspension makes for lots of body roll. On the street, where it will spend the most time, this Jeep is no ballerina. In the unpaved expanses, the tires and suspension work wonders.

Drivability7.5

The six-speed manual is fairly easy to shift, and there's a rollback feature for steep hills. But the gear lever is long and tends to shake on rough roads, and the throw of the clutch pedal is long. The automatic, by comparison, performs well, shifts smoothly and provides easy drivability.

Off-road10.0

The Wrangler is one of the most capable stock vehicles available, whether it's a two-door Rubicon, with upgrades such as 4.10 axle ratios, locking differentials, rock rails and suspension upgrades, or a more family-friendly four-door Unlimited model, which is still more capable than any other SUV.

Comfort6.0

Let's face it: Comfort is not what the Wrangler is all about. It's OK compared to some trucks, and it's more refined than the previous-generation Wrangler. But compared to most other SUVs, it is louder, rides busier, has a smaller interior, and has less comfortable seats.

Seat comfort6.0

Both two- and four-door models offer identical front-seat space. The seatbacks are a little upright, and taller folks might find the bottom seat cushions short. The four-door rear seats are unusually upright, and rear space in the two-door is for children and adults you don't like.

Ride comfort6.0

A relatively soft suspension does not always equate to a soft ride. The Wrangler's solid-axle front and rear suspension is great off-road, but this Jeep can be busy and bouncy on the pavement. The large tires, however, help absorb harsh impacts.

Noise & vibration5.0

The soft-top Wrangler is quieter than any before it, which doesn't say much. Noise is ever present, be it from tires, wind or fellow motorists. Both radio and conversation require a high volume. Get the optional hardtop or the upgraded audio if the noise will bother you.

Climate control7.5

The climate control is effective at both cooling and heating, and when set to max, the fan doesn't sound as if you're in a wind tunnel. The optional seat heaters get warm quickly, and we didn't experience any hot spots. Air conditioning, however, is optional.

Interior6.5

A compact cabin puts all controls comfortably within reach of the driver. But these proportions are also a disadvantage. Footwell space and hiproom are limited. The tall stance hampers accessibility. Lockable storage with the top down is minimal. But visibility is generally excellent.

Ease of use7.5

A smaller cabin has its advantages, including that everything is easy to reach. The controls are simple to work, and the instrumentation has all the information you need and nothing you don't. This is a straightforward machine with few surprises.

Getting in/getting out4.5

Two feet of step-in height is a tall order, even for 6-footers. The removable doors are lightweight and open wide but have limiter straps instead of detents, so you have to be careful as they swing freely. For two-door models, the anti-roll bar hampers backseat access.

Driving position6.0

With a cabin that's so upright, it isn't too difficult to find a seating position that works. However, the steering column doesn't telescope, and the seats have just the basic manual adjustments.

Roominess6.5

There's plenty of space for people of all shapes and sizes up front, but the seating position is upright with little surplus footwell room for tall folks to stretch their legs. The four-door model gains rear passengers a couple of inches of much-needed legroom.

Visibility9.0

The high seating position, a boxy greenhouse and large windows make for a good 360-degree visibility even though the anti-roll bar and spare tire are in the way a bit. You can roll down the top or keep it up for shade and zip off the rear and side windows.

Quality8.0

Our test vehicles exhibited no detectable build quality issues of note. The panel gaps and paint quality were up to snuff. It's hard to call out any squeaks or rattles as build quality issues because the Wrangler is generally noisy on a good day.

Utility6.0

Stuck between the compact and midsize SUV segments, the Wrangler is a hard vehicle to place. Since its closest off-road competition sits a class size up, the Wrangler falls a tad behind in the utility category. A lack of cargo space and towing capacity are the main shortfalls.

Small-item storage6.5

Not a ton of storage options. There's a small, lockable center console. Even smaller is the glovebox, which struggles to contain the owner's manual. A couple of cupholders up front and in back and elastic webbing for door pockets round it out.

Cargo space6.0

You'll find 12.8 (two-door) or 31.5 (four-door) cubic feet of storage behind the second row, and the rear seat either comes out (two-door) or folds forward while spring-loaded headrests cleverly retract. The SUVs that line up best with the Wrangler offer more space.

Child safety seat accommodation5.5

There are two pairs of LATCH anchors and two overhead tethers. The anchors on the right behind the front passenger are a little hard to access; they're buried between the seat bottom and the backrest. Those on the driver's side are more exposed and easier to get to.

Towing5.5

With a maximum tow capacity of 3,500 pounds, the Wrangler isn't designed for pulling heavy loads. Slightly larger but less off-road-capable competitors will offer higher limits.

Technology6.0

There's nothing technologically advanced in the Wrangler as far as electronics are concerned. The infotainment system is about as basic as it gets. The USB phone connection was often spotty. No driving aids, such as blind-spot monitoring or even a rearview camera, are offered.

Audio & navigation7.0

The nine-speaker premium Alpine audio system produces great sound, but the navigation interface looks as if it's more than a decade old. It's more likely to be useful to find your general location off-road than it ever will be navigating city streets.

Smartphone integration5.0

The Bluetooth phone connection works as it should, and it streams music and places calls. We experienced frequent issues with the USB connection not working or not playing back correctly. It feels like a last-generation system because it is.

Voice control6.5

The voice control system executes commands with respect to phone and radio selection, but there's no navigation function. Bluetooth pairing through voice prompts works well and can be done on the move.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.