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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 Wrangler is powered by a 3.6-liter V-6 engine, found in many FCA products, that makes 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. (For now, that's the only engine available, though a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine will be available later this year, with a 3-liter version being offered in 2019.)

The 2018 line comes in several trim levels, and in two-door and four-door formats. The Sport model is the entry level. Stepping up from that are the Sport S, the Sahara and the Rubicon.

In the base model format, the engine is mated to a six-speed manual transmission, with the option of an available eight-speed automatic. The 4X4 functions are manipulated via Jeep's standard Command Trac system, and are linked to solid front and rear axles.

Though some now-common driver aids such as forward collision warning and adaptive cruise control aren't available on any Wranglers, this is more of a 21st century vehicle than previous iterations.

But the Wrangler has lost none of its off-road capabilities. Judging from what experienced Wrangler wranglers have said, the new model is still ready to bust a Moab move, despite additions such as power heated mirrors and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

But that means this SUV is just as clunky when it's not hitting the dirt.

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The first day I drove it, navigating a tricky stretch of road, I was really impressed by the Wrangler's off-road abilities as I executed a steep descent that ended in an off-camber right-hand turn.

But I wasn't off-road at all. The stretch of road was a potholed section of Effie Street, in Silver Lake, which the Wrangler bumped along as if it were a set of desert whoop-de-doos.

For the next few days, I was increasingly aware of how physically challenging it is, and what an automotive throw-back it is, to drive this most modern of Wranglers.

The wide, tall tires delivered feedback on every crack in the asphalt. The canvas top flapped like a tent in a windstorm. On the freeway, the combined noises rendered the upgraded Alpine sound system, and casual conversation, entirely useless.


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