LA LIVE: 2018 Jeep Wrangler

The Wrangler gets a major overhaul.

The long-awaited 2018 Jeep Wrangler made its public debut on the eve of the Los Angeles Auto Show.

We'll start with the most drastic update: the Wrangler goes hybrid -- sort of. Its optional engine is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 270 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. It's equipped with a belt-driven starter/generator that draws electricity from a 48-volt system. The mild hybrid setup improves fuel economy and performance at lower engine revolutions.

If the thought of once again seeing a four-cylinder in a Wrangler upsets you, rest assured Jeep also offers an evolution of the outgoing model's 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine. It makes 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, but it benefits from minor tweaks that boost fuel economy.

Two more engines are in the works. A 3.0L turbodiesel producing 260 horsepower and 442lb-ft of torque will be made available for the 2019 model year, but the real story is the confirmation of an upcoming PHEV, slated for release in 2020. Jeep was mum on potential performance of the PHEV.

The six-cylinder comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission and it's available with an eight-speed automatic at an extra cost. The four-cylinder is automatic-only. Both variants get a standard four-wheel drive system; it's a Wrangler we're talking about, after all.

The Unlimited returns 18 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway with the V6 and the automatic. Get a stick and you'll see city mileage drop to 17. In comparison, the outgoing model posts 16/21 with the automatic and 16/20 with the manual. Jeep has not yet finalized numbers for the 3.0L turbodiesel, but expects 30 mpg.

So far, every rumor pertaining to the Wrangler's specifications sheet was true. What about the diesel? That one was accurate, too. It's not available at launch, but Motor1 reports the Wrangler will come with a 3.0-liter turbodiesel engine "at a future model year." That's all we know at this point.

What does it look like?

As previously reported, the Wrangler gets evolutionary design changes that keep it in line with everyone's definition of a Jeep. The grille is more upright and the headlights are recessed into the outer slots, a design feature last seen in the 1980s on the CJ-7. The turn signals have moved from the grille to the fenders, and if you squint you'll notice the rear tail lights are bigger than before.

The windshield continues to fold down, the doors are still removable, and the spare tire still adorns the rear fascia. In short: the new Wrangler hasn't gone soft like many feared it would.

Buyers can choose from three top options: a hard top with lighter panels, a soft top that's easier to install, and a new power-operated top that's essentially a large sunroof. The latter option is similar in concept to what's offered on the Fiat 500C.

And on the inside?

The evolutionary path continues inside. There is a large screen for Jeep's Uconnect infotainment system, a second screen baked into the otherwise analog instrument cluster, and more USB ports than ever before. The dash remains tall and shallow, with round air vents and a grab handle for the front passenger.

The Unlimited's longer wheelbase clears up more space for the passengers traveling in the back. It's a little bit wider than before, too, but an electro-hydraulic power steering system actually reduces its turning radius.

The fine print

Jeep has already started production of the 2018 Wrangler in its Toledo, Ohio, assembly plant. Sales will begin soon after the Los Angeles show, and the first examples will seep into showrooms early next year. Look for a pricing announcement before then.

It's not too late to buy the current-generation model. It soldiers on for 2018 without the slightest modification, though the model year will be shorter than usual. The two off-roaders will be sold side-by-side until about halfway through next year.

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