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All About the JL Wrangler & JL Sub-Models

Written By: Connor MC

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The Jeep Wrangler is the original American off-road SUV. No matter the trim or year model, a Jeep Wrangler has always been a highly capable off-road vehicle. It possesses has an honest-to-goodness and rugged demeanor that never seems to go out of style. The newest 2018 Jeep Wrangler is the JL. The JL Wrangler is the fourth-generation model and is still using a rugged ladder-type full frame. It is longer, wider, and taller than previous models of the Jeep. But unlike the older Jeeps of yore, the new JL is considerably more refined. It is great as a daily driver, but it won’t back down when faced with rugged and mountainous terrain.

A Brief History of the Jeep Wrangler

For all intents and purposes, the original Jeep Wrangler YJ (manufactured in 1986-1995) is not a direct descendant of the WWII-era Willy’s CJ civilian Jeep. Although the CJ and the first-generation YJ Wrangler are both equipped with rigid live axles in the front and rear, flared fenders for added wheel clearance, a fold-flat windshield, and body-on-frame construction, the production Wrangler YJ is engineered to be safer and more comfortable in urban driving. 

The YJ Wrangler is the first generation model. It came with leaf spring suspension and live rigid axles in the front and rear. It also features the trademarked rectangular headlights and part-time 4WD. 

The TJ Wrangler is the second-generation Jeep which is sold in 1996-2006. It is the first production Jeep to be equipped with front coil springs from the factory. Furthermore, the Wrangler TJ came with the familiar round headlamps similar to the classic CJ Jeep. 

The third-generation JK Wrangler was sold from 2006-2018. It is considered an all-new model even though it retained the familiar rugged styling of the TJ and YJ. The Wrangler JK came with upgraded and modern amenities to keep up with the competition.

The all-new 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL is the fourth-generation model. It may still look the same as the previous JK, but it is miles ahead in terms of refinement. And since the new JL is larger and longer than the JK, it also offers more room for passengers and cargo.

The First 5 JL Wrangler Mods You Should Do

Differences Between the Wrangler JK and JL

If parked next to each other, it is tricky to discern the differences between the previous model JK and new Wrangler JL. Although the new JL is bigger and wider (JL overall length: 2-door 166.8"; 4-door 188.4", overall width 73.8", overall height 73.6") than the JK, here are the telltale signs that you’re looking at the brand new Jeep Wrangler JL:

  • The new JL Wrangler has a more angular front grille. Unlike the previous JK with a straight bar grille design and narrow spaces between each opening, the new JL has wider gaps and a more modern appearance.
  • Look for the side fender vents. The new JL Wrangler is equipped with fully-functional vents behind the front fenders. The vents allow for better airflow and ventilation under the hood.
  • Signal lights in the fenders. The new JL also comes with new light strips on the face of each front fender. Previous models of the Wrangler had the signal lights under the headlights.
  • Push button start and touchscreen multimedia system. The new JL comes with a new touchscreen multimedia system and a push-to-start system. No need to turn the keys when starting your new Wrangler JL.

Which Jeep is Better? Our JL vs JK Comparison

Jeep Wrangler JL Powertrain

The new Jeep Wrangler JL is still available in two-door and four-door body styles. Both configurations can be fitted with a hardtop or soft top. The standard engine is a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 motor producing 285-horsepower at 6,400 RPM and 260 pound-feet of torque at 4,800 RPM. The3.6L V6 Pentastar uses an aluminum block (60 deg, V-type,) dual overhead cam design (chain driven) with a compression ratio of 11.3:1 and features sequential multiport fuel injection working with unleaded 87 octane fuel. This engine is mated to a D478 six-speed manual while an eight-speed 850RE automatic is optional. Fuel economy with the D478 6-speed is rated at 17/23/19 (city/highway/combined) whereas the automatic gets slightly better fuel economy at 18/23/20 miles per gallon, respectively. 

You can also choose the new 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which is optional across all trim levels. This hi-tech motor comes with a mild hybrid ​eTorque system to produce 270-horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque with a combined EPA rating of 24 mpg. It is an all aluminum (block and heads) direct injection design that runs with a compression ratio of 10:01, capable of using unleaded 87 octane (however for best performance and fuel economy, Jeep recommends using 91 octane or higher). The smaller motor is equipped with a 48-volt starter-generator system, a 700 Amp maintenance-free battery pack, a delete alternator system, and a non-locking fuel filler cap. This motor is strictly mated to an eight-speed automatic. 

Towing capacity for the 2018-2019 JL Wrangler is rated at 3500 lbs for all submodel, engine, transmission, and rear end drive ratio configurations. 

JL Wrangler Dyno Comparison: 4-Cyl Turbo vs V6

JL Transmissions

The manual transmission available is an all-new D478 six-speed design with overdrive. It is synchronized in all forward gears and reverse and features a multi-rail shift system and a top-mounted shift lever. Rear end ratio with this transmission is 3.45 (standard) or a lower 3.73 is available as an option. This transmission is only paired with the 3.6L V6 engine. Wranglers that are equipped with the D478 6-speed have a Hill Assist mode that simplifies starting forward when on an incline.

The automatic transmission available is an 850RE electronic unit with 8 forward gears. Jeep has integrated an adaptive electronic controller with Electronic Range Select, which is a driver-interactive manual control mode. Power transfer is controlled via an electronically modulated torque converter clutch. 3.45 is the standard rear end gear ratio with this transmission.

JL Transfer Cases

Jeep has integrated 3 different transfer cases into the new JL, dependent on trim model. The NV241 'Command-Trac' is a part-time shift-on-the-fly transfer case operating in 2WD high, 4WD high, Neutral and 4WD low. It features a low range ratio of 2.72:1. This transfer case is standard equipment on Sport and Sahara trim levels.

Next is the NV241OR 'Rock-Trac' transfer case. Intended exclusively for the Rubicon, this is a part-time shift-on-the-fly transfer case with 2WD, 4WD high, neutral and 4WD low. Low range is very low (good for crawling!) with a 4.0:1 ratio. 

Sahara model Wranglers can be upgraded from the NV241 to an MP3022 'Select-Trac' unit, which is a full time transfer case featuring 2WD, 4WD high, neutral and 4WD low. Like the NV241OR, the MP3022 has a 4.0:1 low range gear ratio. 

JL Trims Compared - Sport S, Sahara, & Rubicon

JL Wrangler Sport

The base model Wrangler JL is the Sport. It comes well-equipped with skid plates, tow hooks, 17-inch low gloss black steel wheels with P245/75R17 Bridgestone Dueler or Michelin LTX on/off-road tires, fog lamps, keyless entry, cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, and a folding rear seat. The Sport also comes with a 5-inch Uconnect 3 touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth connectivity and a rearview camera. The JL Sport Unlimited adds two extra doors, standard air conditioning, and a 60/40 split-folding rear seat. Approach angle and departure angle (stock wheels and tires) for this submodel is 41.4 and 35.9/36.1 degrees (2-door/4-door), respectively. Ground clearance measures in at 9.7 inches. Sport model Wranglers are built with an NV241 Command-Trac transfer as standard equipment. Open 3rd-gen Dana axles are used front and rear, however an available Tru-Lok anti-spin package can be added to the rear axle. 

Suspension wise, Sport models utilize gas-charged twin-tube shock absorbers with MTV (multi-tuned valve) technology for both front and rear. Brakes are powered-assisted (with ABS) and use a 12.9x.94-inch vented rotor in the front and a 12.9x.47 solid rotor in the rear. The front caliper is a 48 mm twin-piston floating design whereas the rear is a single 45 mm piston floating caliper.  

Next up is the Sport S and comes with (on top of everything above) new polished 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, air conditioning (which is optional in the 2-door version of the base JL Sport), power locks with power windows, power heated mirrors and a leather steering wheel.

JL Wrangler Sahara

The Jeep Wrangler JL Sahara is only sold as a four-door model and comes with larger 18-inch alloy wheels with larger P255/70R18 Bridgestone Dueler or Goodyear Wrangler tires, automatic climate control, and 115-volt power outlet. This trim model also includes a bevy of USB ports, a larger 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and satellite radio. 

On the standard tires, approach angle becomes  41.4 degrees and ground clearance increases marginally to 10 inches. Departure angle remains unchanged. Like its lower trim Sport brother, the Sahara uses the NV241 Command-Trac transfer case but can be optioned with the MP3022 Selec-Trac transfer case instead.

The shock absorbers on Sahara models are upgraded to a high-pressure gas-charged monotube type with MTV technology. The brakes also get an upgrade to a thicker 12.9x1.1-inch rotor in the front and a 13.4x.55-inch disc in the back. Calipers are bigger as well, with the front still a twin-piston design with larger 51 mm pistons and the rear upgraded to a 44 mm single piston caliper.

JL Wrangler Rubicon

The Rubicon is the one to choose for rock crawling and wilder off-road adventures. The JL Rubicon comes with 17-inch alloys with off-road LT285/70R17 BF Goodrich KO2 all-terrain tires, an improved Dana M210 front and M220 rear axle with shorter 4.10 gearing and electronic front and rear locking differentials, 4.0:1 low-range gearing, and an electrically-operated front disconnecting sway bar. Further pushing the off-road style is a set of black heavy duty rock rails that is part of the standard Rubicon package. 

Ground clearance for this model is 10.8 inches with an approach angle of 44 degrees for a 2-door and  43.9 degrees for 4-door Rubicon trim models. Departure angle is rated at 37 degrees for both 2 and 4-door models. Rubicon models exclusively use an NV241OR Rock-Trac transfer case. 

Rubicon models get another shock absorber upgraded, also using a high-pressure gas charged monotube shock absorber with MTV technology and an additional hydraulic rebound stop. Brakes are the same as the Sahara edition.

The interior of Rubicon models get an upgraded 7-in Uconnect 4 infotainment system alongside a one year trial-subscription of SiriusXM Satellite Radio, dual-zone climate control, premium cloth seats, and an integrated universal garage door opener.

All JL Wrangler Models

All trim models can be upgraded with additional options such as LED headlights, LED taillights, LED fog lamps, sumptuous leather upholstery, heated seating, blind spot monitoring, a 552-watt Alpine audio system with nine speakers, 8.4-inch Uconnect infotainment system, active blind spot monitoring, heavy duty tow package and much, much more.

Fitment includes: 2018, 2019, JL, Sport, Sahara, Rubicon, Sport-S