2018 Jeep Wrangler First Drive: Evolving Legend

– Tucson, Arizona

There’s no vehicle – not even the legendarily slow-to-change Porsche 911 – that has a more immediate visual connection with its long history than the Jeep Wrangler. The average American may be clueless when you mention “CJ-7” or “YJ,” but show them any of the company’s two-door off-roaders from the last 60 years, and even at distance they’ll be able to tell you, “that’s a Jeep.”

It’s a brand identity that other companies can only dream of and the Wrangler is still the touchstone; the most basic visualization of the of what it means to be an off-road vehicle.

In addition to being as recognizable as they come, the Wrangler spans a gigantic range of use cases and budgets, these days, thanks in no small part to the mainstream-skewing, four-door Unlimited trim. But let’s leave that more prosaic model for just a moment; on the driving event I was compelled to grab the keys to a two-door Wrangler Sport to start the day, and I haven't yet fallen out of love.

2018 Jeep Wrangler: First Drive
2018 Jeep Wrangler: First Drive
2018 Jeep Wrangler: First Drive
2018 Jeep Wrangler: First Drive

There’s no vehicle that has a more immediate visual connection with its long history than the Jeep Wrangler.

Starting in the first part of 2018, $26,995 (with a beefy $1,195 in destination fees) will buy you the most-basic, and in many ways still best, Wrangler Sport. Here you find two-doors, an easier than ever to fold soft top, a six-speed manual transmission, and a 285-horsepower, 260-pound-feet, 3.6-liter V6 that you’ll love.

The Sport is perhaps the most analog new car one can buy; it has manually...