• Pinterest

The 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL is here (finally), and its big LA Auto Show reveal necessarily focused on the big-ticket items. Output and ground clearance are all very important things, to be sure, but there’s much more to this adventuremobile than approach and departure angles (44 and 37 degrees for a two-door Rubicon, respectively).

Here are a handful of little things that are worth separating from the sea of impressive specs. Some of them will make it easier to wring maximum enjoyment out of your new Wrangler; others demonstrate just how much thought and attention to detail went into the JL’s design and engineering.

2018 Jeep Wrangler JL two-door top and windshield down

Ragtop removed, doors yanked, windshield folded: It’s easier than ever to make your Wrangler look like this.

The soft top: Now free of zippers

One of the best parts about the Wrangler is that it’s a convertible. One of the worst parts is that Wrangler convertible tops have, historically, sucked when it comes to ease of use. Sure, when everything is new and clean and temperatures are optimal, they work, if only just barely, but raising or lowering the ragtop has never been a joyful operation even under ideal conditions. Mis-feed one zipper and you’re gonna get real frustrated, real fast (keep those needle nose pliers handy).

And good luck wrestling with the contraption when cooler morning or evening temps stiffen the canvas and vinyl. From personal experience, the tops get to be such a pain in the ass that after a while, you either leave them up despite the sunshine or leave them down despite the rain. No bueno.

On the 2018 models, Jeep has banished the accursed zippers entirely; a series of channels and retainers now keeps side windows attached, and built-in clock springs make lowering and raising the soft tops easier and faster. To anyone who as has ever wrangled with a Wrangler soft top as storm clouds approach, on a two-door or especially on an Unlimited, this is a big deal.

2018 Jeep Wrangler JL door hinges and logo

“T50” is stamped right on the hinges — that’s the size of the Torx bit you’ll need to liberate the doors.

The door hinges and pins

A theoretical benefit of Wrangler ownership is that you can drive around with the doors off … except that, just like the soft top, removing and especially reinstalling the doors is easier said than done, particularly solo. Enter staggered pin lengths on the doors, an obvious-in-hindsight development that makes it easier to align doors and hinges during reinstallation.

Plus, the doors are now made of aluminum; this reduces overall vehicle weight and thus helps fuel economy, but also makes it easier to heft the doors off and on the vehicle. Determined Wrangler owners never let something like this deter them from going doorless, but if it makes easier for the average person to use their vehicle to the fullest, I’m all for it.

Stampings right on the hinges remind you what size Torx bit you’ll need to free the doors (it’s a T50, for the record), but this is more of a fun detail than anything useful on a day-to-day basis.

Speaking of hinges, those on the tailgate have been freed of their plastic cladding — part of an effort to reduce clunky plastic bits all over the truck. I’m probably going to sound like Gustav Stickley here, but honesty in materials is important to me in any vehicle — and especially in something as honest and essential as the Wrangler. The less cheesy plastic covering things, the better. The decision to ditch the cladding and let those metal tailgate hinges stand alone as metal hinges might not make or break the JL, but it does add something to the overall experience.

New Legend Scout II restomod

2018 Jeep Wrangler JL Unlimited Rubicon front on road

Take a close look at the grille — there’s no “JEEP” logo above the slats.

Logo placement

This is the kind of thing you don’t notice until someone points it out, after which you can’t unsee it. From the CJ-5 right up to the Wrangler TJ, the “JEEP” logo was on the side of the body. On the JK, it moved up to the top of that seven-slot grille. Perched there, it looks dainty and tacked-on — because it was.

Purists, I imagine, were furious, but did anybody else notice? I didn’t for a long time, but once I thought about it, it seemed weird; that signature Jeep grille speaks for itself, after all. The JL corrects this admittedly minor shortcoming by moving the logo back to the side — just, designer Mark Allen told us, as God intended.

To be clear, this isn’t going to make the Wrangler better off-road, unless I have a very poor grasp on the factors that go into that “Trail Rated” judgment. But it does reveal the sensitivity to Jeep’s heritage that permeates the JL’s design from grille to tailgate.

2018 Jeep Wrangler JL Rubicon on trail windshield down

The 2018 Wrangler keeps the folding windshield, but this time around dropping the glass leaves the A-pillars in place.

The fold-down windshield

There was some debate about whether a fold-down windshield would make it to the JL Wrangler at all. It’s an old-school feature that few actually took advantage of, or, I’d venture, even knew about. It didn’t help that folding down a JK Wrangler windshield was tricky: it took 28 (!) bolts to do the job, and because the vehicle was painted with the windshield up, you had to crack the factory finish to get the wind-in-your-face experience. Owners reported trouble getting windshields to align properly once they’d been lowered, to boot.

On the JL, it takes just four bolts to fold down the windshield and frame. Even better: Those four bolts are all inside the cabin, where they (ideally) won’t become corroded and frozen into place by the elements. And the vehicle is painted with the windshield frame angled forward, so you won’t have to break the paint finish to fold it the first time. If you buy a JL, there’s really no excuse not to at least try this out at least once.

A caveat: On JK and older Wranglers, folding the windshield meant folding down the truck’s A-pillars as well. Not so on the JL — the windshield drops, but the A-pillars remain in place. It’s safer, sure, and makes more sense from a structural rigidity perspective, but it doesn’t look as cool.

Even so, and as with the reworked soft top, this is an example of Jeep taking a look at a feature that sets the Wrangler apart from the competition — and one that hard-core Jeep fans, at least, demanded — and figuring out how to make it more accessible and easier to use.

2017 Jeep Renegade Desert Hawk

2018 Jeep Wrangler JL front wheel angle position indicator instrument cluster

Sometimes, it’s nice to know exactly which direction your front wheels are pointing.

The front wheel angle indicator

For the first time, you can get a front wheel angle indicator built in to the Wrangler’s instrument cluster. On an old CJ-2, or any Wrangler with the doors off, this might be unnecessary — you can just stick your head out and see where the wheels are pointing. Today’s Wrangler is bigger, and with the doors on at least, there’s no way to see what’s going on up front.

Expert off-roaders might not need an indicator to know what’s happening in the wheel wells, but a relative novice like myself will take all the information he can get. The available “Off Road Pages” app displays all this information (and more) on the center stack’s screen. But I like it right there in the instrument cluster, where you barely have to take your eyes off the trail to get a front wheel status update. This isn’t a feature unique to the Wrangler by any means, but it’s a welcome update.

Bonus: This nifty vehicle info plate

There probably aren’t going to be many times when you find yourself out there in the wilderness, far, far beyond the reach of cell networks, desperately needing to know the wheelbase and overall length of your Jeep. And you should probably have a good grasp of your truck’s water fording capabilities before you contemplate plunging into a river (it’s 30 inches at 5 mph for the JL, by the way).

Still, this data plate, which you’ll find riveted to the tailgate jamb, is a nice nod to the informational plaques found on the dashboards of the Jeeps of yore and a cool little detail in its own right.

2018 Jeep Wrangler JL tailgate data plate

Vital Wrangler JL specs, right there on the inside of the tailgate.

Graham Kozak

Graham Kozak – Graham Kozak drove a 1951 Packard 200 sedan in high school because he wanted something that would be easy to find in a parking lot. He thinks all the things they’re doing with fuel injection and seatbelts these days are pretty nifty too.
See more by this author»