2018 Jeep JL Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon Long-term Review with Video
The all new 2018 Jeep JL Wrangler is an impressive off-roader that promises much better daily drive-ability than past models. But does questionable reliability hold it back? Read on to find out.
The purpose of this site is to explore more of the story of a vehicle rather than analysis of its performance or pricing. What does it feel like to drive? What are some first impressions? What is it like to own? Who is it meant for? Will it fit your lifestyle? Will it make you happy? These are questions to pursue together moving forward. That said, here are two ways to look at the new Jeep JL Wrangler, an SUV I’ve owned for approximately 14,000 miles.
If you love the outdoors and hate being trapped inside for any amount of time, the new Jeep Wrangler is for you. The JL promises a relaxed ride through the summer sun, heading toward the beach or hiking trail, creating the best “Jeep Hair” along the way. With the help of your friends or a hoist, it’s easy to go topless, yank the doors off, and enjoy the weather as you cruise. My young son and I love to drive around like this and to get the Jeep dirty every weekend on the trails. It is even easier–and strangely even more gratifying–to remove the Freedom Panels and toss them in the back before leaving work on a long commute. It offers a somewhat stiff and noisy ride, but the Rubicon’s leather interior and upgraded Alpine stereo make driving much more comfortable. Having heated seats and a heated steering wheel is nice as well. Storage is pretty generous for a purpose-built vehicle; you can cram a lot under the seats as well as in the center console, glove box, trunk tub, door netting, and on the Molle panels that line the seat backs. Overall, the JL Wrangler strikes a nice balance between an open-air and plush-interior drive not found anywhere else. The freedom to change your experience at will is an nice option to have.
Off road the 2018 Wrangler is still king. Sport and Sahara trims can tackle most of what weekend warriors will throw at them. Even more capable is the Rubicon model, which I’ve put through its paces on admittedly easy to moderate local trails. With the diff lockers engaged and sway bar disconnected, it feels like that with enough throttle and some careful steering, I can climb anything. Remember that Super Bowl commercial a few years back? That’s not hyperbole. The Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon can literally go just about anywhere. The BF Goodrich KO2s are a little rough on the road and lack the kind of grip you would need for any real cornering maneuvers. But they are tires for the trails, really, and they come to life when clawing through dirt, sand, and snow. The JL Wrangler’s capability isn’t just fun, it’s really useful. A Jeep not only gives you the freedom to enjoy recreation but to complete most tasks a truck can, like towing and hauling and getting dirty. A Wrangler can also be an excellent bug-out vehicle, granting you and your family a measure of mobility and safety not otherwise had in a crisis. (My wife and son think I’m crazy, but whatever.) Freedom to reach nearly any destination is powerful and reassuring and not attainable by most cars or crossovers.
“It’s a Jeep Thing” is the standard euphemism masking Chrysler’s historically bad build quality and reliability. In the review video, I share some of my impressions about what makes a Wrangler a Wrangler, including all the challenges I’ve faced since owning it. Here is a list of issues my Jeep has had since buying it new about eight months ago.
- transfer case would not stay engaged
- marker light condensation
- Carplay disconnecting and navigation bugs (sort of, can’t use USB2)
- roof rack whistle (thanks, Gorilla Tape!)
- tailgate rattle (thanks, bulb grease?)
- tailgate leak
- freedom panel creak
- occasional clatter when hard steering
You either love your Jeep enough to tolerate stuff like this, or you don’t. I don’t know if my JLUR will withstand my many, many miles of commuting and road trips each year (25k-30k on average). Another off-roader’s adage is “A Jeep will get you there, but a Toyota will get you back”. Coming from a beloved FJ Cruiser, I can’t say that I trust my new 4×4. I like my new ride, but I worry my feelings are unrequited. As in actual personal relationships, this emotional stress can wear you down until you need to just let it go. Constantly worrying about what might go wrong next is exhausting and severely detracts from ownership enjoyment. Needless to say, frustration has unfortunately hallmarked my experience, and I don’t know if I will keep my Wrangler another 14,000 miles.
Overall, I have had a rocky start to my time with my 2018 Jeep JL Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon. I intend to keep daily driving it and having fun on the weekends, but I am getting back into the market. As my warranty repairs are completed, I am contemplating a trade. I’ve been told the Connecticut lemon law is not quite comprehensive enough to warrant a buyback in my case. Maybe I’ve been misled by Jeep Customer Resolutions? Anyway, I’m researching my options. What do you think I should do? Please leave your own tales of Jeep ownership in the comments below. Also check out my video review on YouTube; it covers some different content. Thanks!