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Auto review: 2018 Jeep Wrangler is a rough rider, on and off the pavement

Charles Fleming, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Automotive News

The Jeep Wrangler is an American favorite and is the spiritual spine of the Jeep brand. Almost a quarter of all Jeeps sold last year were Wranglers.

But the Wrangler is as much a lifestyle choice as a transportation tool. This is a vehicle that validates the rugged individualist who, ready for adventure and desperate for authenticity, may never leave Highland Avenue for the high chaparral.

The Wranglers are infectious. I borrowed an entry-level Wrangler Sport 4X4, and within a week, I had purchased Redwing work boots and a Carhartt jacket. If I hadn't given it back, I'd almost certainly have started wearing chaps and developed a taste for smokeless tobacco products made by Red Man.

When the refreshed 2018 model was introduced at last year's Los Angeles Auto Show, it was heralded as a return to old-fashioned Jeep values. Wrangler fans who had been waiting since 2006 for a redesign applauded parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles for retaining the Wrangler's classic, rugged looks and capabilities while incorporating some modern amenities.

Those fans rewarded FCA with record-setting February sales levels for the brand. Jeep sales rose 12 percent from the same period in 2017, while Wrangler sales were up 17 percent, the company said this week.

Still present in the new Wrangler are many off-road-ready aspects, such as the fold-down windshield, removable doors and top and full roll cage, all deemed necessary for the rock-climbing and cliff-crawling that all Jeep owners believe they are going to do, someday.

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But inside were standard features such as a 5-inch infotainment display, integrated voice command and a tilting and telescoping steering wheel. With Bluetooth and available Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the Wrangler had entered the modern age.

Standard features on the Sport 4X4 I drove were skid plates protecting the fuel tank, transmission and transfer case, a special tool kit, electronic roll mitigation, traction control and stability control, and a tire pressure monitoring system.

Also standard was Jeep's ParkView rear-view camera, which delivers an image so crisp and clear that I backed up for a full city block just to enjoy the view.

Upgrades on the model I drove included a beefier sound system, bigger infotainment screen, a heavier-duty rear axle, plus air conditioning and power windows -- yes, those are upgrades.


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