Jeep Wrangler V-6 4×4 Manual
While the four-door Jeep Wrangler is credited with making the Jeep lifestyle more accessible and more profitable, it’s the two-door 2018 Wrangler Sport tested here that hews the closest to the spirit of the original. With a standard soft top, a naturally aspirated V-6 engine, and a six-speed manual transmission, it’s currently the purest way to get into the new JL Wrangler.
Although its spirit may hark back to simpler times, the Wrangler Sport’s $28,940 base price does not. Jeep raised the price by $750 within months of the model’s debut at the 2018 Detroit auto show in January, but it’s still the least expensive Wrangler in the showroom (aside from any lingering previous-gen JK Wranglers that might still need a home). Despite its price-leader status, the base 2018 JL’s feature content is light-years ahead of that CJ parked in your memory bank—or any previous-generation Wrangler, for that matter. Standard kit includes push-button start (but manual locks so no keyless entry), a tilting and telescoping steering wheel, adjustable lumbar support for the driver’s seat, and hill-start assist, as well as an eight-speaker stereo working in conjunction with a Uconnect 3 5.0-inch display with voice commands and Bluetooth.
Skid plates reside under the transmission, transfer case, and fuel tank, and the manually shifted Command-Trac part-time four-wheel-drive system doles out torque to the live front and rear axles supplied by Dana. The optional limited-slip rear differential is an absolute steal at $595, especially when you consider the added benefit of ditching the standard all-season tires for a burly-looking set of 245/75R-17 Bridgestone Dueler A/T RH-S tires. Air conditioning ($1295) and tinted windows ($495) keep interior temps in check, while a one-year SiriusXM satellite-radio subscription ($295) ensures the tunes are flowing. At $31,620 out the door, this Wrangler is not cheap, and dilettantes may be put off by the presence of manual window cranks and the lack of power door locks. We think it’s a nearly perfect blend of features for a modern Wrangler, especially one potentially headed for heavy mods down the road.
This quintessential Jeep model may be built for the type of off-road adventures usually reserved for the National Geographic channel, but Wranglers generally spend more time completing suburban voyages. Yet a big part of the Wrangler’s charm is knowing that when the mood strikes you have the capability to head for the dunes or the woods without hesitation. With that in mind, we tested this 2018 Wrangler to lend some insight on what to expect when you’re not chasing adventure.
Wranglers have never excelled in on-road ride and handling, but the JL continues to chip away at the inherent dynamic deficiencies of a short, stiffly sprung vehicle with live axles and a high center of gravity. In terms of sheer grip, the 0.69 g that the Wrangler JL pulled on our 300-foot skidpad is unimpressive; what that number doesn’t tell you is how dramatically its behavior has improved in terms of in-town agility and highway stability. Turn the wheel and the vehicle reacts with the good-natured eagerness of an Olympic shot-putter with a two buzz. The last 2018 four-door Wrangler JL we tested fared better, posting a still Jeep-like 0.73 g.
Inducing a little wheelspin is the quickest way to reach 60 mph, the mark coming up in 6.1 seconds. The quarter-mile took 14.9 seconds, with the Wrangler clearing the traps at 90 mph. While not rapid, it’s swifter than the 6.8- and 15.2-second times we recorded from the heavier, four-door 2018 Wrangler JL Sahara with the same engine but paired with an eight-speed automatic. It was also quicker than a stick-shift Wrangler JK with the V-6 we tested four years ago, which required 6.6 and 15.3 seconds to complete the same tasks. You’ll need to row the stick to keep your place in heavy traffic, however.