2018 Jeep Wrangler: Monthly Update for June 2018
by Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing
Where Did We Drive It?
June was a strong month for our 2018 Jeep Wrangler. We drove it 3,335 miles, more than triple the previous month's total. Much of that — 2,539 miles, to be precise — was the result of a single road trip to Colorado and back.
My wife had business over the weekend in Denver, and she's not fond of flying. So I grabbed the keys to the Jeep and we headed out after work. We made a late-night stopover in Las Vegas, then completed the drive the following day.
I had pre-loaded the back with camping equipment with an eye toward overnighting in the mountains while my wife stayed in a Denver hotel. But when we arrived, weather forecasters were talking about powerful storms threatening heavy rain and hail. I decided on day trips out of Denver instead.
During my meanderings, I climbed two "fourteeners" in the Jeep, one to the summit of Mt. Evans (14,265 feet) and another to the top of Pikes Peak (14,114 feet). I didn't get as far off the grid as I had first imagined, but you don't have to get your tires dirty to find stunning vistas in Colorado.
What Kind of Fuel Economy Did It Get?
Slightly more than 2,000 of my there-and-back road-trip miles were pure freeway cruising. But Nevada and Colorado post their rural freeways at 75 mph, while Utah goes with 80 mph. We covered a lot of ground in a short time, but our pace was too brisk to expect mpg miracles.
At first, my best tank of 22.3 mpg (a new record for us) looks pretty decent next to the 2018 Wrangler's EPA highway rating of 23 mpg. But many tanks were worse than that, with fully half of them in the teens. The overall average of these 10 fill-ups was 19.6 mpg, a figure that only just rounds up to our Jeep's EPA rating of 20 mpg in combined driving.
The tanks that took me to two mountaintops can't be blamed since both of them met or exceeded the average. Sightseeing speeds are relatively low, and the drive to each summit represented no more than a dozen or so miles of the tank they were part of. And then there's the part where you get to come back down. In reality, the trip up Pikes Peak was part of the tank that set a new best-range record of 357.3 miles. That tank's 21.6 mpg was the second best of the trip as well.
Speed kills fuel economy, as do headwinds. We had plenty of both on the open road and the timing of the passing storm seemed to result in headwinds in both directions. The trip's worst tank of 15.5 mpg came on Utah's 80 mph interstates while heading home into a particularly fierce gale. Because of its upright boxiness, headwinds are especially damaging to a Jeep Wrangler's fuel economy.
But that tank did not represent this month's worst performance. The 800 or so miles that fell outside my trip were mostly L.A. city tanks driven by other staffers, and during this period it earned 12.9 mpg at the hands of someone with a particularly terrible commute. That's not just the worst tank of the month — it's the worst tank we've recorded so far.
It's worth pointing out that the Wrangler's rated fuel economy doesn't distinguish between Sport, Sahara and Rubicon. Compared to the others, our JL Rubicon is a hiked-up version with more prominent fenders, wider axles and fatter, knobbier tires. You'd pick the Rubicon as the thirstiest of the three just by looking. Our lifetime average of 17.6 mpg (up from 17 mpg last month) may seem like a big miss, but I frankly don't think matching the 20 mpg EPA combined rating is in the cards. I'd be disappointed if this was a Sahara, but I'm more philosophical because we opted for a Rubicon.
Average lifetime mpg: 17.6
EPA mpg rating: 20 combined (18 city/23 highway)
Best fill mpg: 22.3
Best range: 357.3 miles
Current odometer: 7,704 miles
Maintenance and Upkeep
Nothing this month.
"We had strong head- and crosswinds during a big portion of our trip, and it took effort to keep the Wrangler headed straight due to its antiquated steering — a necessary evil that enables the solid front axle and gives it off-road excellence. These conditions revealed a lot of slop around center. After time, I got used to steering it like a boat: Let it squirm and meander without applying too much correction. Thankfully this tendency subsided as the wind died down, although I still believe [this Wrangler] has a worse sense of straight-ahead than my own JK Wrangler. The effect all but disappeared on winding mountain roads, where the steering seemed responsive, predictable and fairly confidence-inspiring despite a lack of feel." — Dan Edmunds, director of vehicle testing
"Because the Jeep sits so high, I was a little nervous about the winding hills on California 178 along the Kern River. My instinct initially was to go really slow (probably too slow), but as I got more comfortable I picked up my speed and it handled the curves really well. Coming back down was a breeze and a lot of fun." — Laurel Carden, social media manager
"The long road to Denver revealed much that was good about the Wrangler's ride and a bit I could do without. My wife is prone to carsickness, but after a short time we both realized that the Wrangler's body motion was nicely damped, neither too busy nor too floaty. It also rolls quite gradually in corners (and in response to wind gusts), which is usually what sets her off in a high-riding vehicle. There's a steadiness here that neither of us quite expected. The negative points were more predictable for a Jeep with solid front and rear axles; it'll shiver over potholes and twitch over midcorner bumps. All in all, I came away more impressed than I expected." — Dan Edmunds
"Unlike most of our drivers, I found the Wrangler surprisingly comfortable and, for the most part, the noise wasn't an issue. The seats are so plush I really didn't mind or even notice the shaking that most non-Jeep lovers complain about. Even with the soft top, the noise wasn't a problem for me. I enjoy music while driving and the sound system was enough to drown out exterior noise, except the sound of motorcycles and large big rigs. It was a bit unsettling when they would zoom by and sound like they were in the car with me." — Laurel Carden
"I spent some time driving our Rubicon around with the hardtop before we switched to the soft top, and the difference isn't massive. The hardtop isn't as quiet as you'd think, and the newly redesigned JL soft top isn't as noisy as any JK owner might expect. Is the JL soft top louder than the JL hardtop? Sure, a little. But it's miles quieter than my own JK's soft top.
"We spent a lot of time in crosswinds at 80 mph, and in those conditions the JL Wrangler was quieter than my JK Wrangler at 60 mph in still air. The main difference, I think, is the greater number of lateral support bows in the roof. The new JL's soft top has five of them. It's a much more rigid structure up top, and this benefit also helps to stabilize the upper edges of the removable rear windows." — Dan Edmunds
"I'm a big fan of Apple CarPlay because plugging in eliminates the need to pair your phone with Bluetooth. And the Apple Maps app has gotten so good lately that I no longer care that Google Maps doesn't get a CarPlay icon. But there's a limit to smartphone-based navigation, and that limit is cellphone data coverage.
"The journey across Utah and into western Colorado is full of 'No Service' dead spots where such maps simply disappear. You can follow an existing route you established before losing the signal, but you can't search for any services or create a route from in there. That's why I'm glad we bought the enhanced 8.4-inch Uconnect system, which also has a traditional navigation system with an onboard database. I see this as a must for an off-grid, off-road vehicle such as the Wrangler, not to mention for regular folks who live and work in the rural areas we passed through." — Dan Edmunds
"As soon as I turned on the Jeep, Uconnect recognized I had a new device and prompted me to sync. I accepted the prompt and the syncing process was really easy. Halfway to my destination, however, it disconnected Bluetooth, saying there was no signal in range. Because I had so easily bypassed the process with the prompt, and I was driving, I was unable to reconnect until I stopped. From there I plugged in using my cable and stuck with Apple CarPlay." — Laurel Carden
"My own JK Wrangler is plagued by hood flutter at freeway speeds, especially when crosswinds appear. I often see the corners of the hood wobble as the rubber-band hood latches stretch. But we saw none of that in this new JL Wrangler in far more challenging conditions than my JK has ever been exposed to. The new 'lunchbox-style' positive hood latches and authentic fender vents really do the trick. They say the hood is stronger, too, but I'm thinking the latches and the pressure-relief vents are the big factors here." — Dan Edmunds
Dan Edmunds, director of vehicle testing @ 7,704 miles