2018 Jeep Wrangler: Monthly Update for December 2018
by Calvin Kim, Road Test Engineer
Where Did We Drive It?
After a tepid November, we were looking forward to the long December break for an excellent opportunity to get our 2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited out of the city and out on the open road. A long road trip around California involved a variety of conditions, including plenty of highway miles, a few high mountain passes, some light off-roading, and even some snow. How do the Rubicon's BFGoodrich KO2s perform in the snow? How good is the soft top when the outside temperatures dip below freezing? How comfortable are the seats for eight-hour stints? Read on to find out.
What Kind of Fuel Economy Did It Get?
Thanks to a lot of highway miles, we were able to bring the average back up to October numbers. During my 1,553-mile road trip around California, I filled up six times. That's a total of 85.5 gallons of gasoline, which means the Wrangler achieved 18.2 mpg, a tick above the EPA city rating. Probably two-thirds of that distance was spent on the highway, and that's precisely when I got the best fill average of 20.9 mpg. But the many sections of mountains and twisties and bouts of traffic brought down the average. Overall, it's easy to achieve the Wrangler's rated fuel economy when you're just on the pavement.
Average lifetime mpg: 17.6 mpg
EPA mpg rating: 20 combined (18 city/23 highway)
Best fill mpg: 32.7
Best range: 357.3 miles
Current odometer: 16,504 miles
Maintenance and Upkeep
The Wrangler gave us a Christmas Day present of an oil change request at 16,428 miles, toward the end of the road trip. We've got the oil change scheduled, but otherwise the Wrangler has been free of issues.
"The V6 is punchy off the line and can get through an intersection in a hurry, but it drones at higher speeds and lacks top-end power. The transmission calibration is about right for average driving, though it's usually late to downshift when you want just a little more power. Manual mode helps in this sense since you can shift it yourself. It responds well, though it's just a predictable beat behind." — Calvin Kim, road test engineer
"With its solid front and rear axles and large all-terrain tires, there was no way the Rubicon was going to be quiet and comfortable on the road. After 1,600 miles, my opinion of it hasn't really changed. However, I can say the ride isn't punishing, and you do get used to it. I know handling has improved somewhat compared to Wranglers of old, but it still felt sloppy going over the many twisty mountain passes between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe. If you really want a Wrangler, you'll just have to adjust your speeds in the curves."
"As we started heading east and up the mountains from the Pacific Coast, weather alerts let us know to expect freezing temperatures and snow at our destination in Lake Tahoe. We had chains (which are very pricey for the 33-inch-diameter tires, by the way), but we never needed them thanks to the Rubicon's standard BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2s' M+S mud and snow rating. Once in 4-Hi, driving on the mixed conditions of slush and fresh snow proved no problem for the KO2s, and all the noise and ill-handling complaints on the highway were long forgotten." — Calvin Kim
"Even though I knew there would be some cold weather ahead, I opted to leave the soft top on our Wrangler to experience what it's like when the outside temperature drops below freezing. When it wasn't below freezing, the ability to easily push back the roof and see the splendor of the redwood trees in Mendocino and then pull it back on again to regain some warmth was well received. But if you live in the snowbelt, I think it would be best to leave the hardtop on and deal with the Freedom panels instead. The soft top increases wind noise, but it's the lack of insulation that you have to consider. Not only that, strong crosswinds sent chilling drafts into the cabin. We suspected the culprit was the flaps by the tailgate, and try as we might, we just couldn't keep them in place.
"The lack of insulation means freezing temperatures are easily felt inside the cabin. Once the outside temperature drops below 15 degrees, the heater can just barely keep up. Again, most previous Wrangler owners already know this sort of thing, so new buyers, be aware." — Calvin Kim
"I wish our Wrangler had the Cold Weather package. It comes with seat and steering wheel heating, which would've probably reduced the impact of the fabric top's lack of insulation. If you're on the fence about this package, and you live where it gets cold, don't hesitate — just get it.
"Another matter regarding seat comfort: The Wrangler's seats aren't uncomfortable, but the upright seating position means a lot of your weight is square on your butt and thighs. The seats are bolstered, but very lightly, so take advantage of it and squirm around every hour or so to keep the blood flowing. There's definitely a comfort curve, where after about four hours I just had to get out and stretch." — Calvin Kim
"While the front window is narrow, it's close to the driver, so you still have an adequate field of view. The windshield pillars and large side mirrors can get in the way, but you start getting used to moving your head around at intersections. The body is narrow, so while the side windows aren't particularly big, the proximity to your head means it feels like you have a large field of view. There are some blind spots on the passenger side, but the large mirrors do help you avoid driving over curbs and parking blocks. And even if you do, the chunky sidewalls on the tires protect the rims." — Calvin Kim
"Another point for new buyers to be aware of: Hardtop Wranglers have a two-part rear cargo door; the glass part flips up like a traditional hatch, while the lower part swings out from the passenger side with the spare tire. But when you convert to the soft top, you lose the upper glass part. In its place, you get a flexible panel that slides in and out and is affixed with a lug on top and friction fit tabs on the sides and at the edges. For cargo loading, you have to essentially disassemble the rear upper panel to get taller gear in the back. Thankfully for our trip, all the luggage fit by sliding it underneath the panel." — Calvin Kim