Jeep Wrangler Generations

2018 - Present (JL)

While retaining the overall appearance of prior Jeep Wranglers, the JL features improved aerodynamics, greater fuel-efficiency and upgraded technology throughout. New engine options, including a turbo-charged four cylinder and a diesel version, headline the fourth generation updates to the Wrangler.

The 3.6L Pentastar V6 gas engine carries over from the previous generation but it’s been revised for improved fuel economy, and a new option is the eight-speed automatic transmission. The diesel will be a 3.0-liter V6 turbodiesel. This new engine, which produces approximately 260 hp and 442 lb-ft. of torque, is the same one that's available in the Jeep Grand Cherokee (WK2) and the Dodge Ram 1500.

Numerous improvements also make it easier to convert both hard and soft top versions for travel without doors or a roof, including lighter doors, a fold down windshield and storage compartments for removed parts. The JL continues to use the UConnect infotainment system, with several different touchscreen displays available and satellite radio standard on most trims.

Some upgrades include retro styling that recalls earlier Wrangler and CJ models, such as the steering wheel and instrument panel. Improved side-impact airbags and strengthened pillars make the JL safer than earlier generations, as does a blind spot monitor built into the taillight housing. As with its predecessor, the JL comes in two- and four-door configurations with a variety of trim and option packages.

2007 - 2017 (JK)

Among the significant changes introduced with the third generation Wrangler was the introduction of a four-door Unlimited model, which provided a longer wheelbase and increased interior space for passengers. Other new features included power windows, remote entry and optional navigation. As with prior generations, soft and hard top versions were available, including both options on the four-door model.

The JK was the first Wrangler designed and manufactured under the ownership of DaimlerChrysler. Several new features were also introduced with the 2009 and 2010 model years, including Hill Start Assist, which improved performance on hills; Trailer Sway Control and Electronic Stability Program, which improved towing control; and UConnect entertainment systems.

Minor changes and updates continued through 2015, such as the introduction of new body colors, a new touchscreen for the UConnect system, new tire options and an eight-speaker stereo system.

The JK retained prominent features of earlier Wrangler models, such as part-time four-wheel drive and a separate body and frame. A 3.8-liter EGH V6 engine was introduced as the base engine on the 2007 model and was replaced on the 2012 model by the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine. Both engines came with a six-speed manual transmission, with a four-speed automatic transmission available through 2011 and a five-speed automatic transmission available starting in 2012.

Numerous editions, trims and option packages were available, including the Islander, Rocky Mountain, Mountain, Moab and Overland editions. The JK was manufactured in Toledo, Ohio.

1997 - 2006 (TJ)

The TJ was the second generation of Wrangler and it was introduced in 1996 for the 1997 model year. The most noticeable exterior change was the reintroduction of circle headlights, which were a distinctive feature of classic Jeeps.

Engines available on the TJ included the 2.5 liter straight-four, the 2.4 liter PowerTech and the 4.0 liter AMC straight-six. The latter was initially paired with a three-speed automatic and five-speed manual transmission, but later in the generation offered a four-speed automatic and six-speed manual.

In the latter part of the generation, the Wrangler Unlimited was introduced, which featured a wheelbase 10 inches longer than standard. This was essentially a preview of the eventual four-door Wrangler that debuted in the next generation.

The TJ came in a variety of trim and option editions, including the SE, X, Golden Eagle, Apex and Sahara. In 2001 a limited 60th Anniversary Edition was released, while a 65th Anniversary Edition was released in 2006.

Numerous technological advances were first introduced during the TJ's production run, including upgrading the sound system options to include first a CD player and then satellite radio. A seven speaker sound system was first introduced on higher end trim lines before becoming standard.

A right-hand driving edition with an automatic transmission was produced for use by United States Postal Service employees. A minor redesign of the TJ occurred for the 2003 model year, which included substitution of a four-speed transmission for the earlier three-speed version. Other cosmetic changes included new fabric colors, transitioning parts from metal to plastic, and the introduction of rounder seats.

1987 - 1996 (YJ)

The original Wrangler looked similar to its predecessor, the Jeep CJ-7, which was first built in 1976. Chuck Mashigan worked as the lead designer on the initial model, and YJ models were manufactured in Brampton, Ontario until 1992. For the remainder of its run, the YJ was built in Toledo, Ohio.

Built for more driver comfort and wider appeal than earlier Jeep models, the YJ featured less ground clearance and improved handling compared to the CJ-7. A leaf spring suspension with trackbar suspension links, a wider base and anti-roll bars improved safety over the CJ-7. The YJ came with standard with a 2.5-liter AMC 150 straight-4 engine. Drivers could choose a 4.2-liter AMC 258 straight-6 engine through 1990. The optional engine from 1991 was the fuel-injected 4.0-liter AMC 242. Part-time 4WD came standard on all engine models.

Several optional changes were introduced during the YJ's manufacturing life. In 1992, for example anti-lock brakes were introduced, and starting in 1994 a three-speed automatic transmission complemented the traditional manual transmission. Jeep offered hard and soft tops in black, white, tan and gray off and on throughout the YJ's run, with rollbar padding matching the top.

Several trim and options packages were available, including the Wrangler Islander package from 1988 to 1993, which feathered bright colors, sunset graphics on the hood. The Wrangler Renegade Decor Package, available from 1991 to 1994, included upgraded wheels and tires, the 4.0-liter engine, fog lamps, a leather steering wheel and an extra fuel tank. Other trims available were the base S and SE trims, Laredo, Sport, Sahara and Rio Grande.

  • Car Review
Review: 2018 Jeep Wrangler
By David Undercoffler | November 20, 2018

Autolist rating: 3/5
But would we buy it? Yes
Price range: $29,440 - $52,695 before options but including destination

Key takeaways

  • All-new, fourth-generation Wrangler was introduced for 2018.
  • One of the most capable off-road vehicles you can buy today.
  • Yet it’s still comfortable for daily, on-road use.
  • Cargo space in the back is limited because of roll bars and interior panels.
  • Can get expensive (topping $50,000 for loaded models).

What is it?

The Wrangler is an iconic SUV that Jeep has been making for decades. Preceded by the CJ models, the first-generation model to wear the ‘Wrangler’ nameplate was introduced in 1987.

The Wrangler has standard four-wheel drive, and it comes in two or four-door configurations with either a removable soft top or a removable hardtop. You can fold down the windshield and remove the doors too, for maximum fun and exposure while you’re off-roading.

2018 marked the debut of the fourth-generation Wrangler, known internally at Jeep (and to Jeep fanatics everywhere) as the JL.

While the JL comes standard with a V6 engine, the big news for this new generation is the addition of two new engine choices: a turbocharged four-cylinder and a diesel.

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The 2.0-liter turbo four is optional, and it makes 270 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. It comes only with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The 3.0-liter EcoDiesel is also optional and won’t be available until 2019 and will only be offered on four-door Wranglers. It makes 260 horsepower and a stout 442 pound-feet of torque. Like the turbo four, this diesel will come only with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The standard Pentastar V6 carries over from the previous generation, and it makes 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired with a standard six-speed manual transmission or an optional eight-speed automatic.

Depending on the trim level, the Wrangler has either part-time or full-time four-wheel drive.

The trim levels are Sport, Sport S, Sahara, Rubicon and the top-of-the-line Moab. The Sahara and the Moab are four-door only. The Sahara is a more road-oriented trim while the Rubicon and Moab promise more off-road capabilities.


What’s good

TLDR: Handles on- and -off road adventures with ease, backed by stout build quality

  • On-road liveability. We weren’t surprised by what the Wrangler can do off-road; that’s been its strong suit for decades. But we were surprised by how easy the Wrangler was to live with for on-road driving. Its ride and handling are smooth and predictable, the cabin is comfortable and spacious for passengers and the engine has plenty of refined power.

  • Off-road chops. As we said, this came as no surprise since it’s a crucial hallmark of the Wrangler. But the model we tested was the more road-oriented Sahara model -- on smoother street tires, no less. Even so, on a rough, off-road course full of heavily modified Jeeps and trucks, our tester held its own and never got stuck or ran out of traction.

  • Build quality. The Jeep not only looks burly and tough, but it’s bolted together well and the interior fit and materials feel solid and high quality. This helped ease the sticker shock of our test model; it actually felt upscale inside.

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What’s bad

TLDR: Too many recalls already, roll bars eat away at cargo space

  • Quality control. This new generation of Wrangler hasn’t been on the market for very long, but already it’s been the subject of six recalls by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That’s a lot in a short period of time. That’s not to say this is an unsafe vehicle, but it is something that buyers need to be aware of to ensure they’re staying on top of all necessary recalls and repairs.

  • Tight squeeze. While there’s plenty of room for passengers, the Wrangler has less cargo room in the back than you might think. Blame those pesky rollover bars hidden underneath the roof. When you look inside, you can see they take up a lot of room that would otherwise be used to haul your stuff.

  • Expensive. Yes, a base, two-door Wrangler starts at under $30,000 and will do nearly anything you want on and off-road. But once you start adding features to the nicer trim levels, the prices get high. Our loaded Sahara test model came in at just over $50,000, and a loaded Rubicon four-door model with the optional turbocharged four-cylinder and nearly every option available hits more than $58,000. Yikes.


5 stars of execution

Safety Features? NO

  • We were disappointed to learn that many active safety features that are becoming common throughout the industry aren’t even offered on the Wrangler.
  • These include pre-collision alerts and braking, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist.
  • Things like blind-spot monitoring, rear parking sensors and rear cross-traffic alert are bundled into a package that’s optional on most trims.

Value? NO

  • As we mentioned, our test model (four-door Sahara Unlimited model) was just over $50,000. Yes, it had options on it, but nothing extravagant or superfluous. That’s pricey.
  • Other trim levels (not to mention the diesel or turbo four-cylinder) push that even higher without any dramatic features.
  • We do like the value on the base Wrangler though. For a tick under $30,000, you can get a manual, two-door Jeep with a soft top that will look good and be plenty capable off-road and plenty comfortable on-road.

Efficiency? YES

  • Surprisingly, the Wrangler isn’t the gas-guzzler you might expect. Our four-door model averaged 19.3 miles per gallon during our week of testing; not bad for a vehicle this size and with this kind of powertrain.
  • Our results were in line with the EPA’s projections, which are 18/23/20 MPG city/highway/combined.
  • The four-cylinder Wrangler is even better: 22/24/22 MPG city/highway/combined. Jeep hasn’t released the diesel fuel economy version yet.
  • Some of the credit goes to the lightweight aluminum Jeep used in the Wrangler’s doors, hood, fenders, windshield frame and other parts.

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Driving experience? YES

  • Pick your poison, the Jeep does it well.
  • On-road, our Sahara test model was more refined than we expected. Yes, some of the credit goes to the optional hardtop, but the interior fit and the quality helped keep wind and road noise at bay. The ride quality on-road was also impressive.
  • Off-road, the Wrangler shines. There’s little it can’t do, and this was the out-of-the-box Sahara edition. Imagine what the more burly Moab or Rubicon model could do -- then add the diesel’s torque.

Execution? YES

  • Jeep has a tough act to follow every time it redesigns the Wrangler. It needs to keep the (large, loud) fan base happy with its off-road capabilities and iconic look. But it also has increasingly tough emissions and crash regulations to keep up with.
  • Add to that Jeep’s goal of expanding the Wrangler’s customer base (which means pulling in more first-time owners who just want the rugged look).
  • With all this at stake, Jeep succeeded; this Wrangler JL toes the line perfectly. It’s rugged, handsome, capable, yet refined, and comfortable on-road.

Total Rating: 3 stars


What’s it gonna cost me?

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The base Sport starts at $29,440 for the soft-top, two-door, manual transmission model. This starter comes with the V6 engine, part-time four-wheel drive, a UConnect infotainment system with a five-inch touchscreen, 17-inch wheels, skid plates, tow hooks, a backup camera, keyless entry and fog lights.

The Sport S starts at $32,640 and adds unique 17-inch alloy wheels, upgraded soft top, a more advanced UConnect infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity and other miscellaneous goodies.

The four-door version of either the Sport or Sport S adds another $3,500, and the eight-speed automatic adds $2,000.

The Sahara model that we tested is four-door only and starts at $39,750. It adds a seven-inch UConnect touchscreen, 18-inch alloy wheels, side steps and body-colored wheel flares, a seven-inch digital instrument panel, dual-zone climate control and more.

The off-road oriented Rubicon starts at $39,440 for the two-door (the four-door model is $3,500 more). It comes standard with 17-inch wheels wrapped in 33-inch off-road tires, heavy-duty Dana locking axles, a more advanced full-time four-wheel-drive system, an electronic front sway bar disconnect and other goodies.

Finally the four-door only, limited-edition Moab version starts at $52,695. It comes with many standard features that are optional on lesser Wranglers.

These include unique steel front and rear off-road oriented bumpers, high-end leather seats, a different (but also sophisticated) full-time four-wheel-drive system, a standard hardtop roof with removable panels, an 8.4-inch UConnect infotainment screen, navigation, a nine-speaker Alpine sound system, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.

Our pick? We’d keep it simple and choose a four-door base Wrangler Sport. Out the door for $32,940 and ready to conquer anything.

Also consider

For a rugged competitor that can handle on and off-road shenanigans, there aren’t many options.

Toyota’s Tacoma midsize truck is an excellent alternative if you don’t mind the longer wheelbase and the bed in the back.

Ditto for Chevy’s Colorado, though we prefer the Tacoma.