The Legend of the Off-Road

LEGEND: someone or something whose persona is the pinnacle of greatness and extends beyond all space and time.
There are a few names in the hallows of automotive greatness that can be considered legends.  In the automotive, off-road world, that list is even more finite.  Land Rover Defender, Mercedes Unimog, Toyota Land Cruiser and FJ.  Among these names also exists arguably the most iconic of 4X4 vehicles and the father to them all, the venerable Jeep Wrangler.

A purpose built beast dating back to 1941, the Jeep has served as the blueprint for the likes of the Toyota FJ and Land Cruiser and the Land Rover Defender.  It has always been an unapologetic utilitarian vehicle that simply does what it is supposed to do, go places where other cars can’t.  For over 75 years, it has done precisely that.  Its hard-core followers have obediently asked for nothing more.

However, in 2018, 75 years later after the first Jeep rolled into production, model designation JL has arrived.  Despite its following, Jeep has not closed its eyes and ears to the technological and comfort wave hitting the automotive industry.  The new Jeep screams creature comforts.  Take Jeep’s all-new Uconnect, offering an 8-inch touchscreen interface that was extremely user-friendly and intuitive and offering Android Auto.  Combine this with a 7-inch display cluster that provides an umpteenth amount of vehicle data including navigation, vehicle performance and drivetrain information.  Jeep has not left safety second and offers a host of driving aids such as blind spot monitoring, rear cross-path detection and park assist, and the Jeep has you covered from the Mojave desert to the Costco parking lot.

The drivetrain department is where the 2018/2019 Jeep Wrangler really shakes up things.  For the first time ever the Wrangler (Sahara Edition) offers full-time all-wheel drive, called Select-Trac Full Time 4X4.  It allows you to leave the system permanently active and the system will adjust for the road conditions.  Historically, Wrangler owners had to engage 4 wheel drive systems and could do so only in poor or inclement driving conditions.  Select-Trac Full Time 4X4 will allow the Jeep Wrangler to be a real family SUV contender, allowing owners to take the guesswork out of drivetrain management.

Don’t let my comments of creature comforts dissuade you from the Jeeps Legendary off-road prowess. It remains the most accessible and cost-effective 4×4 for the public.  Able to traverse nearly three feet of water and having features like electronic sway bar control allow for the Jeep to increase suspension travel by up to to 25% (exclusive to the Rubicon Trim level).

The Pentastar V6 provides ample grunt, generating 285 bhp and 260 lb-ft of torque.  New for this year is the all-new turbocharged inline 4 cylinder that produces 270 and a surprising 295 lb-ft of torque.  Both motors can be mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission.  The transmission is very intuitive and capable both at low speeds and highway speeds.  It never seemed to be hunting for the correct gear even under hard acceleration.  Overall, road and wind noise was well managed and did not seem intrusive even at highway speeds.  The most enjoyable part of the driving experience was Jeep’s ability to capture the traditional inline 6 drivetrain feel and sound.  They capture enough engine sound in just the right pitch and reverberation to allow you to feel that Jeep Wrangler “je ne sais quoi.”

As tested, the Sahara Edition rings in at $58,910.00 plus taxes.  This places the Jeep Wrangler and one of the most capable 4X4 in the grasp of the everyday SUV buyer.  If you require the full bore Rubicon be prepared to up the anti closer to $62,000.00.  In either case, you are able to experience 75 years of genuine off-road heritage.



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