2024 Jeep Wrangler First Drive Review: Still the Standard for Factory Off-Roaders
Jeep made the new Wrangler better, not by scrapping the proven formula but by making small upgrades in almost every area.
Almost everyone has a Jeep story. Whether they owned a YJ way back when, rode shotgun in a TJ on some backroad, or attempted to cram into a two-door JK’s back seat with a couple of buddies, people remember their first encounter with the American off-roader. It's an icon thing—there aren't many other vehicles like it—and the 2024 Jeep Wrangler aims to continue that tradition by upgrading the JL platform in almost every area without taking anything too far.
Me personally, I mastered driving stick behind the wheel of a friend's dad's ‘86 Wrangler in high school. Years later, a couple of us rented a Jeep for a trip to the Eastern Sierra and almost bit off more than we could chew on a handful of sketchy trails. I had almost zero off-roading experience at the time. But the Wrangler didn't care. It just crawled around in low range and did what the nameplate has always done best: provide point-and-shoot capability that gets you where you want to go.
Jeep has moved the ball forward and crafted the 2024 Wrangler into the most capable one yet. It’s done so incrementally across all trims, especially the top-level Rubicon, with a solid loadout of exterior, interior, and chassis changes. And while other models from other manufacturers seek to steal drivers away from their Jeeps, the Wrangler still feels like the top choice when it comes to harnessing sense-of-occasion in a genuinely useful package.
2024 Jeep Wrangler Specs
- Base price (Rubicon four-door as tested): $33,690 ($60,350)
- Powertrain: 2.0L turbocharged inline-four | 2.0L turbocharged inline-four with hybrid assist | 3.6L naturally aspirated V6 | 6.4L naturally aspirated V8 | six-speed manual (3.6L only) or eight-speed automatic transmission | four-wheel drive
- Horsepower: 270 (2.0L non-hybrid) | 285 (3.6L V6) | 375 (2.0L hybrid) | 475 (6.4L V8)
- Torque: 260 lb-ft (3.6L V6) | 295 lb-ft (2.0L non-hybrid) | 470 lb-ft (2.0L hybrid and 6.4L V8)
- Max ground clearance: 12.9 inches
- Max tow capacity: 5,000 pounds
- Quick take: The legend gets a host of updates and trail-ready upgrades.
- Score: 9/10
If you're taking a look at these photos and having a hard time figuring out what's different for 2024, you're not alone. The biggest is the grille, which varies in color and design by trim level, and is a tad shorter in height compared to before. Jeep says it’s partly because of the 8,000-pound Warn winch that’s optional on Rubicon rigs. It’s also slightly sleeker as the antenna is now integrated into the windshield frame. Outside of those, plus some changes in wheel design, it's still the same JL-generation Wrangler, only with a little modernization mixed in.
Inside is where the more substantial design decisions were made. The dashboard features a slick throwback design complimented by contrast stitching, and in the middle is an all-new 12.3-inch infotainment screen running Stellantis' Uconnect 5 software. Besides the screen, there are still plenty of buttons to push, most notably for everything regarding off-road duty. It still has analog gauges, too. A small screen sits in the middle of the cluster, but it’s nice to see needles indicating speed and RPM in the year 2023.
I spent a good chunk of time in a four-door Rubicon V6, and it’s honestly a nice place to be. Its cloth seats are comfortable and allowed plenty of legroom, the driving position is upright and equally comfortable, and my six-foot-three self has just enough headroom—a tad more would be nice, but I can’t complain. Bolstering the Wrangler's safety is the introduction of side curtain airbags, which integrate fairly seamlessly into the upper frame along its roll bar. Storage is sufficient with the truck sporting a fairly small glovebox, but massive dual-level armrest compartments that'd be great to stash a large water bottle or two, or, in my experience, a dusty Canon 6D and some snacks. Overall visibility is great—no surprise there—thanks to its boxy design and stilted ride height.
Jeep seems over the moon about the new 12.3-inch infotainment screen, which I was skeptical of at first. Big screens usually mean big glare, so open-roof motoring might mean brutally annoying glare. But I was stoked to find that glare was virtually non-existent in all conditions. Uconnect 5 infotainment was also among the easiest, most straightforward and quick-thinking systems I've ever used. Not only that, but despite being Android-based, connecting wireless Apple CarPlay was quick and breezy.
Driving the Jeep Wrangler
On the road, I spent most of my time behind the wheel of the aforementioned four-door Rubicon. I opted for a Premium Sunrider soft top—standard on most trims—that already had its canvas coverings peeled away, end-of-Terminator style. Wranglers have always had immense charm, with most of it rooted in such a unique open-air driving experience.
Lazily rolling up and down I-15 around St. George, Utah, plus a handful of nearby scenic country roads was a pleasant experience at its helm. Even with most of it unbuttoned to the elements, wind noise wasn't unbearable at around 70 mph on the highway. Its nine-speaker Alpine stereo cut right through it with excellent overall quality and clarity, providing a solid SiriusXM accompaniment to the day.
I was pleasantly surprised by the '24 Wrangler's electro-mechanical steering. It didn't have that typical busy movement that solid axle trucks often have, and despite wearing 33-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 tires, it relayed a decent amount of information about the road. Considering Mercedes-Benz ditched the solid axle up front entirely a few years back in the G Wagen to give it a better overall steering experience, this is a strong compliment to what Jeep's achieved. To top it all off, its 14.9:1 steering ratio and 38.8-foot turning radius made u-turns and three-pointers easy to pull, though the two-door's is obviously neater at 32.7 feet.
I think it’s fair to say the 2024 model offers good ride quality overall… for a Wrangler. It's just accepted that these body-on-frame brutes will always ride at least a little rough, especially at low speed across bumpy asphalt. Though, the Rubicon's suspension travel and big sidewalls rolled over anything larger with ease, and completely defeated the point of any speed bump.
My tester's 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 and eight-speed automatic transmission wouldn't help the 4,604-pound four-door win any drag races, but its 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque was plenty for smoothly revving up to highway speed and getting out of the way around town. With a heavy right foot it'll reportedly put down a mid-seven zero-to-60 time.
I briefly took a Rubicon 392 for a spin—you know, the one with the 6.4-liter Hemi making 470 hp under its dual-latched hood—and that'll sprint to 60 in just 4.5 seconds. The noise was glorious and ever-entertaining, but the sensation was a little lackluster, possibly due to the Jeep's suspension soaking up a lot of the Gs.
Off-Roading the Jeep Wrangler
Not to kick off this crucial portion of the review with hyperbole, but I’d argue that the Wrangler remains the undisputed king of factory off-road ability. In this scenario, staff directed me to an entirely doors-off, open-top Rubicon 4XE and I was elated.
When set to hybrid mode, the Jeep ripped through most of the trail solely with its integrated transmission traction motor, which made for a bizarre yet seriously neat experience. When both the motor and 2.0-liter turbo-four worked in harmony, output peaked at 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft, of which 134 hp and 181 lb-ft came from the battery and motor combo. With the push-button sway bar disconnect, front and rear locking differentials, low range, and a few psi taken out of the BFGoodrich KO2s, this thing was un-freaking-stoppable.
Jeep Jamboree dispatched a fun bunch of off-road driving instructors to lead groups through one hell of a route around Sand Hollow State Park outside of St. George, Utah. This included some menacingly steep climbs and descents to highlight my tester's 43.8-degree approach, 22.5-degree breakover, and 35.6-degree departure angles. Having the top off made it easier to receive spotting instructions during some brutal downhill grades, which I didn't expect to do when I woke up that morning, but man—what a wild experience, especially in a stock truck. Then, its 10.8 inches of ground clearance and excellent articulation worked with its big KO2s to put the passenger side's wheels on top of boulders, making steep climbs a non-issue. We scrambled over some of the gnarliest rocky formations I'd ever driven on, and the Wrangler just didn't care as long as my throttle and brake inputs were smooth and steady. The 4xe's engine only kicked on twice, briefly, during the entire session. Its regenerative braking didn't feel awkward or get in the way, either, regardless of the gearset I was in.
The Rubicon's low range ratio of 4.0:1 makes crawling a breeze. Jeep's is among the easiest to engage thanks to its more traditional approach; all you do is shift to neutral and then move the left stick between 2WD High, 4WD Auto, 4WD High, Neutral, and 4WD Low. Disconnecting and reconnecting the swaybars and toggling the lockers is as easy as pressing a button and waiting no more than a second or two for the dash to tell you you're good to go. It was an overall painless process that let me focus on my inputs, respond accordingly to spotters' precise instruction, and enjoy a beautiful day in one of our country's most breathtaking settings.
Jeep Wrangler Features, Options, and Competition
To hop into the most basic new Wrangler, the Sport, it'll cost you $33,690 including a $1,790 destination fee. This gets you the Pentastar V6, a six-speed manual transmission, a 12.3-inch infotainment screen with Uconnect 5, Dana solid axles, an eight-speaker audio system, 17-inch steel wheels with 32-inch all-season tires, Command-Trac 2.72:1 part-time transfer case, two doors, and a soft top. From there the price increases steadily over the Sport S, Willys, Sahara, High Altitude, Rubicon, Rubicon X, and Rubicon 392, as well as between two-door and four-door.
Along the way, a locking rear differential becomes standard on the Willys, as do 33-inch tires and 10.8 inches of ground clearance. As the price increases, the nine-speaker Alpine audio system shows up in the High Altitude trim, as do power-adjustable front seats for the first time ever in a Wrangler.
The Rubicon is the place to be for the most off-road-ready setup. Some of the trick equipment that's present here is a Dana 44 HD full-float rear axle, which expands towing capacity as the axle shaft is only transmitting torque, not also bearing the brunt of the vehicle's weight. It then gets a sturdier Rock-Trac 4:1 part-time transfer case, TruLok front and rear locking differentials, rock rails, electronic swaybar disconnect, and available steel bumpers as well as an optional Warn winch for $3,495.
As far as direct competition shakes out, its most direct since 2021 is the Ford Bronco. It too features a host of off-road-ready trims, manual or automatic gearboxes, several different powertrains, high and low range, a rear stick axle—though independent front suspension—and a very healthy catalog of optional upgrades. To park an option-free example in your driveway it'll cost $36,685 for a two-door Base trim, and top out at $70,990 before options. I had the opportunity to rip a two-door Black Diamond off-road and it was immense fun; the two-door Wrangler Willys with the 2.0-liter turbo engine would be a formidable match.
The Early Verdict
The 2024 Wrangler maintains the mantra of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it.” It doesn’t shy away from meaningful upgrades, though, like freshened-up looks and a modernized interior, especially when it comes to safety and tech. It then takes the JL chassis and introduces some significant factory options to make it the most capable Wrangler off the factory floor, period. And, for those after a more old-school feel, crank windows are the only way to get some fresh air in the Sport trim.
It's also expanded the availability of the 4XE powertrain to five trim levels to make the most out of battery-sourced propulsion, which is a legitimately fun way to tackle an off-road trail. Sounds weird to say, but trust me. You won’t know until you try.
Jeep has done a great job pushing the Wrangler forward, helping the icon maintain its relevance in our tech-heavy world. Chrysler, er, Stellantis interiors used to be a bit of a punch line, but up against Jeep's rivals that are heavily dependent on interior screens and electronic actuation, they're killing it for the 2024 model year. This is everything a mid-cycle refresh should be as it actually adds enough content to make it worth buying new, and if I were in the market, I wouldn’t think twice about scooping one up.
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