JK vs JL WranglerLast Updated June 12, 2023 | Alison Smith
After years of patiently waiting, the Jeep community can finally celebrate the release of the all-new 2018 Jeep Wrangler! With so much anticipation surrounding its arrival, the fourth-generation JL Wrangler has not disappointed Jeep fans yet. In fact, it’s done the complete opposite. Many Jeep enthusiasts were worried that Jeep would cut corners or stray away from the typical Wrangler aesthetic that so many have come to know and love. Instead, Jeep released a new and improved Wrangler that still maintains that classic Jeep vibe.
When comparing the JK vs JL Wrangler, it’s clear to see that Jeep has been working very hard to make the Wrangler better than ever while staying true to its roots. Jeep's 75 years of history have established it as the leading producer of off-road vehicles. With the new JL Wrangler dubbed “the most-capable SUV currently on the market” by Jeep CEO Mike Manley, the claim is certainly validated when take a closer look at the JK vs JL Wrangler. Other than the visual updates to the new Wrangler, there are several performance-related updates to account for as well. With better off-roading performance than ever before, Jeep has really stepped up its game with the JL Wrangler.
2018 Jeep Wrangler JL Review: Is It Better Than The JK?
Check out our new 2018 JL Wrangler on the CJ Off-Road YouTube channel! We opted for the JL Wrangler Sport Unlimited edition in Granite Crystal, which is the four-door base model, with an automatic transmission. At CJ Off-Road, we like to modify our vehicles, so you can bet that we will be adding our own special touches! Learn all about the new features of the JL Wrangler and how it compares to the previous JK generation in this informative video.
JK vs JL Wrangler: Exterior
When looking at the 2018 JL Wrangler, the first thing you notice is the exterior of the vehicle. While it may look similar to the JK Wrangler at first glance, there are several unique characteristics that help distinguish the JL from the JK. If you’re a Jeep lover, then you probably already know that Jeep Wranglers can usually be identified by their grille designs. Just like the previous generations, the new JL Wrangler has received an updated grille that makes it easy to differentiate it from the JK. When comparing the grille for the JK vs JL Wrangler, the fourth-generation Wrangler has a slightly kinked grille with headlights that cut into the signature seven slots. The JL Wrangler grille resembles the first civilian Jeep that was released to the public, the 1941 Willys Jeep. Originally featuring nine slots in the grille, the Willys Jeep was forced to increase the headlight size due to regulations, which meant they had to remove a slot from each side but the headlights still cut into the grille in order to fit. Thus, the signature seven-slot grille was born.
Another new design for the front end includes LED daytime running lights and turn signals embedded into the front fenders. Vents located behind each front fender allow for more air circulation and reduce wind noise. The JL Wrangler features a raked windshield that is both easier to fold down and safer. The hood is also reminiscent of the TJ Wrangler generation, which featured a power bulge hood. The cowl panel was redesigned to feature a black plastic piece and easier windshield wiper removal. Another prominent feature of the JL Wrangler is the body line that runs down the side of the Jeep, giving it a bit more structure. Along with those updates, the door handles, mirrors, and door hinges have been redesigned as well. Jeep was able to refresh the front end of the Wrangler while keeping the relatively same structure of the past generations.
Regarding the rear of the JL Wrangler, there is a new reverse camera located on the spare tire mount. Besides the new location of the license plate and the adjustable third brake light, the taillights have been updated and include a blind spot monitoring system. The swing gate is now made of lightweight magnesium, which makes things easier when loading and unloading cargo. With a stronger steel frame and aluminum body panels, the JL Wrangler is more lightweight but just as heavy duty. For the 2018 JL Wrangler colors, there are a few classic favorites available such as Firecracker Red, Billet Silver Metallic, Granite Crystal Metallic, Bright White, and Black. However, several new additions have been added to the list: Nacho, Mojito!, Punk’n Metallic, Ocean Blue Metallic, and Sting-Gray.
Also new for the fourth-generation 2018 JL Wrangler is three additional top options that are both easier to use and offer more flexibility. The first option is a hardtop, which can come in either the body color or black, and has panels that can be removed individually, letting air flow freely through the Jeep while still maintaining a bit of protection. So not only is the hardtop improved, but Jeep has two more exciting top options including a convertible soft top and powertop.
With the soft top convertible, you just flip up the bottom part, peel off the sides, and slide the back window out — no need to worry about zippers as there are none! You can remove the side windows in the same fashion, then you can either keep the top part on or simply unlatch it and lift it up to allow more air in. Now while the soft convertible top is pretty sweet, nothing can top the new sky powertop. While this does cost extra, the expense is well worth it if you want a completely hassle-free top.
With the powertop, there are additional painted rails on top of the Wrangler that the top slides into in order to retract. So this top isn’t completely removable, but it will allow you to get more airflow at the push of a button, even at speeds up to 60 mph! You can also remove the back windows, which basically gives you the same feel as having no top on. The doors on the JL Wrangler are also made out of aluminum, which makes them more lightweight for easy removal. The half doors have a porthole, which allows you to have better visibility while off-roading.
JK vs JL Wrangler: Interior
Along with the exterior changes for the JL Wrangler, several changes have been made to the interior. A label located on the tailgate contains detailed information regarding water fording depth limits, approach and departure angles, and specifications regarding the wheelbase. An updated instrument panel and infotainment center with fourth-generation UConnect technology, as well as an optional nine-speaker stereo system with a waterproof subwoofer are just some of the extra technology features for the JL Wrangler. The steering wheel is completely updated in comparison to the JK as well but has the same overall feel and controls. For the JL Rubicon, built-in auxiliary switches make it easy to connect aftermarket lighting solutions, air compressors, or other gadgets you might need while off-roading. For the JK Wrangler, you would have to install switches separately, which usually required drilling in order to mount them.
Rubberized storage cubbies, rubber around the infotainment screen, and rubberized cup holders make it safe and easy to spray down the JL Wrangler when, not if, it gets dirty. In the back of the JL Wrangler, there are rear air vents for dual climate control with a foldable middle seat that contains cupholders. As a special touch for the JL Wrangler, you will find little emblems of classic Jeep models scattered about that pay homage to the history of the brand. Jeep really was able to update the interior of the JL Wrangler to add a more luxurious feel without sacrificing the heavy-duty qualities that make it a great off-roading vehicle.
JK vs JL Wrangler: Performance
While it’s clear to see the JL Wrangler is a good-looking rig, what’s going on under the hood? Don’t be fooled by the new Wrangler’s more luxurious interior and redesigned exterior — the JL performs just as well as it looks. Not only does the fourth-generation Wrangler look more aggressive, but it also performs even better both on and off the road. From the JL Wrangler's new engine options to the updated transmissions, the JL Wrangler will not disappoint when it comes to mechanics. For the JK Wrangler, there’s only one engine to choose from: The Pentastar V6. Now, in addition to the Pentastar, there will be three new engine options available for the JL Wrangler.
JL Wrangler Engines
Along with an updated version of the classic Pentastar V6 that has been a mainstay for the JK Wrangler since its introduction in 2012, the Wrangler JL will have three additional engine options. A 2.0L turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine dubbed the “Hurricane” will be added to the lineup for the all-new Jeep Wrangler. The 2.0L turbocharged engine will be equipped with “eTorque,” which basically means that it is a mild hybrid system. If that’s not exciting enough, a 3.0L EcoDiesel six-cylinder engine is also expected to be available in 2019. But that’s not all! Jeep revealed that they are coming out with a full plug-in electric Wrangler JL. Expected in 2020, the new electric engine is definitely a first for the Wrangler, typically known as a gas guzzler.
|3.6L Pentastar V6||285 hp||260 lb-ft|
|2.0L Turbocharged I4||270 hp||295 lb-ft|
|3.0L EcoDiesel V6
|260 hp||442 lb-ft|
Even though the Pentastar is competing with all the new engines available, there have been improvements made that make the 3.6L engine even better. Featuring Engine Stop-Start (ESS) technology, the Pentastar V6 is more efficient than ever before. The 2.0L turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine has auto stop/start technology, electric power assist, intelligent battery charging, regenerative braking, and transmission shift management. With a twin-scroll, low-inertia turbocharger, the 2.0L engine offers both efficiency and performance.
Expected in 2019, the 3.0L EcoDiesel V6 engine will offer massive amounts of torque and great fuel economy. The EcoDiesel, like the Pentastar and turbodiesel, comes standard with Engine Stop-Start capabilities and an eight-speed automatic transmission to keep up with the high torque output. Not much information has been released about the full plug-in electric Wrangler, except that it is expected to debut in 2020.
An upgraded six-speed manual transmission will only be available for the Pentastar engine, along with an optional brand-new eight-speed automatic transmission. If you want a manual transmission, the only option is the Pentastar V6. All the other engines are equipped with the eight-speed automatic transmission.
The class-exclusive automatic transmission is designed to improve highway fuel economy, optimize engine output, as well as reduce noise, vibration, and harshness. With an improved crawl ratio of 77.2:1, a 4.7:1 first gear ratio, and a 4.1:1 final drive ratio for the automatic JL Wrangler Rubicon, rock crawling and off-roading is a breeze. However, the new six-speed manual transmission is just as capable for traversing rocky patches and bumpy trails. Equipped with a new gear pattern, 50% shorter shifter, and a revised shift pattern, shifting is both more accurate and more comfortable. Reduced shifter vibration and enhanced sound isolation are due to the manual transmission’s cable-operated design.
A manual transmission JL Wrangler Rubicon boasts a 5.13:1 first gear ratio, 4:1 low-range gear ratio, 4.10:1 axle ratio, and a crawl ratio of over 84. Boasting smooth and precise shift quality, an improved crawl ratio, and quick acceleration, the upgraded six-speed manual transmission is a welcome improvement to Jeep enthusiasts and purists.
How Does the JL Wrangler Drive?
So now that we know what’s going on under the hood, there’s one important question left to be answered — how does it drive? Well, Jeep flew several experts out to Arizona to test the new JL Wrangler’s performance both on and off the road. Not surprisingly, the JL Wrangler received raving reviews by Jeep enthusiasts and industry experts alike. If you’re planning on getting a JL Wrangler as your daily driver, then have no fear. The all-new 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL may be trail rated, but it also provides a pretty comfortable ride on the main road, something the JK Wrangler didn’t exactly excel at. While the JK Wrangler is great for off-roading, the JL Wrangler has even better off-road capability than its predecessor.
Of course, the Rubicon will be the most capable model for off-roading, with a best-in-class approach angle of 44 degrees, a departure angle of 37 degrees, and a breakover angle of either 22.6 degrees or 27.8 degrees, depending on if you’re driving a Wrangler vs Wrangler Unlimited. Also equipped with an electronic front sway-bar disconnect, the Rubicon has 10.9 inches of ground clearance and 30 inches of water fording capability. With 33-inch BF Goodrich all-terrain tires, the Rubicon is ready for the great outdoors straight from the factory.
When driving on the main roads, the JL Wrangler is smoother and quieter than the outgoing JK. Of course, there is still some wind noise because after all, it’s a Wrangler. The upgraded interior offers a more comfortable ride but is still not going to be the most luxurious of SUVs since the Wrangler is built to withstand rugged terrain. Increased visibility and safety features make driving the new JL Wrangler on the highway easier than before.
Another improvement for the JL Wrangler is the three new tops, which make driving on the road better than ever with reduced wind noise and simpler removal. No matter which top you choose, cruising down the highway in a Wrangler has never been so good. The main consensus seems to be that the JL is a new and improved Wrangler, which is exactly what a new generation model should be. With a smoother and quieter drive on the main roads and enhanced off-roading performance on the trails, the JL Wrangler can do just about anything.
JK vs JL Wrangler: Price
As with most new releases, the JL Wrangler will be more expensive than the previous generation JK Wrangler. Ranging from an additional $2,600 to as much as $3,350 in relation to the JK Wrangler, the increase in price for the JL Wrangler is well worth it. With all the additional features, better driving performance, and enhanced visual appearance, you can’t go wrong with the fourth-generation Wrangler. These are the prices that Jeep has announced, not including a $1,195 destination charge.
2018 Wrangler JL Prices (2-door)
- Sport: $26,995
- Sport S: $30,195
- Sahara: Not available
- Rubicon: $36,995
2018 Wrangler JL Unlimited Prices (4-door)
- Sport: $30,495
- Sport S: $33,695
- Sahara: $37,345
- Rubicon: $40,495
JL Wrangler Parts
If you’re not totally head over heels for the JL Wrangler, the great thing about Jeeps is that they are easy to customize to your liking! Perhaps you are already in love with your JL Wrangler but want to make it even more aggressive than it already is coming straight from the factory. Whether you want to increase your ride height, install aftermarket bumpers or fender flares, add some lighting fixtures, or get a fresh set of new wheels, CJ Pony Parts has all the aftermarket JL Wrangler parts you need to make your JL Wrangler even better!
Sources: Buying a Used Jeep Wrangler, Everything You Need to Know, Autotrader | The 2018 Jeep Wrangler Didn't Get Soft, It Got Much Better, Jalopnik | Jeep Wrangler JL vs JK: What's the Difference Between New and Old, MotorTrend | JK vs JL- My Evaluation, JL Wrangler Forums
Image Credit: Jeep