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Wrangler Time: Drop-top excursions define memories

All-new 2018 Jeep® Wrangler Rubicon, 1944 Jeep Willys-Overland MB and all-new 2018 Jeep Wrangler Sahara

Jeep owners have always been cut from a slightly different cloth. It’s not about the exclusivity of the club, these are vehicles the masses can afford, it’s far more about the emotion and the adventure a Jeep can deliver. It says something about a person’s ‘fun factor’ – or, at least it says something about their potential for fun.

The Jeep brand has been around for 75 years and the all-new Wrangler builds on the iconic image that delivers off-road capability, drop-top driving and significantly enhanced on-road dynamics.

“Jeep has always represented the ultimate in capability and open-air freedom, and our all-new 2018 Wrangler protects that important legacy and takes it into the future,” said Mike Manley, head of Jeep Brand.

Iconic Design

From its signature rear-mounted spare tire and 7-slot grille to its removable doors and fold-down windshield, Wrangler still manages to reflect the iconic World War II-vintage shape that endears it to millions.

From a more practical side, the Jeep’s elevated fender flares that can handle up to 33-inch off-road, all-terrain tires, to the oft-overlooked skid plates and bars to protect critical vehicle components (transmission oil pan, fuel tank and transfer case), this is a vehicle that says ‘fun’ but means serious off-road business.

Powering Up

Jeep offers three powertrains in a 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6, an all-new 2.0-L turbocharged four-cylinder and the tried-and-true 3.6-L Pentastar V6 engine. Choosing the 2.0-L engine, you get 270 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque. This engine is mated to a new 8-speed auto transmission. It’s a fine combination that has plenty of ‘pop’ and equally easy shifts up and down.

The perennial favorite is the V6 Pentastar that delivers 285 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. This tweaked powerplant has a standard fuel-saving Engine Stop-Start (ESS) technology; a 6-speed manual transmission standard and an upgrade 8-speed automatic transmission. As much as the manual gives you lots of off-road control, I prefer the new 8-speed option for the majority of time spent on the pavement.

If towing is something you need to do with your Jeep, if you sign up for the towing package you will be able to handle a couple Wave Runners or a fishing boat with the 3,500-lb towing capacity.

Softer Side

One huge improvement most Jeep enthusiasts will tell you they very much appreciate is the timely evolution of soft touch materials into the cabin space. For years the dash and interior were a haven of hard plastic surfaces that, while they fit the persona of the Jeep, did not make it a better place to ride.

While testing, I learned to appreciate the standard 12-volt accessory outlets that are located throughout, as well as a 115-volt AC outlet available to power three-pronged home electronics.

From the technology side of things, Jeep is always getting better at offering and integrating new options and 2018 is no exception. The all-new Wrangler is equipped with the Uconnect 7.0 or 8.4NAV systems (depending on trim) and includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.

The Jeep Wrangler and Sahara have captured the look and feel of the iconic WWII Jeep and added in a host of new design enhancements and tech improvements. The best part is the ride on the pavement, it manages to be smoother than previous models and backs across the nation will be thankful.

This auto review was researched and written by SteinPro Content Services and provided to the Sun-Times for publication