The Jeep Wrangler is one of North America’s most iconic vehicles. Way before sports utility vehicles (SUV) ruled the road, the Jeep Wrangler was the top four-wheel-drive passenger vehicle to own. And if you’ve ever wondered if a Wrangler is a “truck” or an “SUV,” it’s technically neither. It belongs to its own species. But whatever you do, never refer to it as a “car.”
If you’ve always dreamt of owning a Jeep Wrangler, then this article is for you. What many potential buyers want to know is what model is better: the Jeep Wrangler JL or the Jeep Wrangler JK? What’s the difference between the two?
The difference between a Jeep Wrangler JL and JK?
The Jeep Wrangler is synonymous with off-roading and the great outdoors in general. This is for good reason: its original function was as a workhorse for the United States military. The first “jeep” (with a lower case “j”) first entered service in 1940 during World War II, according to Motor Authority.
Initially, the jeep was used by the U.S. Army’s Quartermaster Corps Ordnance Technical Committee as a sturdy four-wheel reconnaissance vehicle. For this reason, the jeep was designed to be simple to operate—an uncomplicated, irreplaceable design that has passed the test of time.
The fourth-generation (JL) appeared in 2018 and has wowed owners and reviewers alike. But should you purchase the already able Jeep Wrangler JK or JL?
The JK series saw growth in every dimension
The third-generation Wrangler (JK) may be the most frequently seen model year on the road. It was manufactured from 2007 to 2018. The Jeep Wrangler JK grew and matured in many ways: it’s taller, longer, and wider than the Jeep Wrangler TJ. While it might not be as nimble off the beaten path as the TJ model, it gained significant advancements in engine technology. Other advancements included the drivetrain and interior technology upgrades, as well as a hugely improved soft-top mechanism.
Even though Jeep had to go through more rigorous safety standards, the JK model retained its removable doors, folding windshield, and removable top. The Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited became the first-ever four-door Jeep Wrangler, which added to its popularity. On top of that, the Unlimited edition offers a rear-wheel-drive option; all two-door models and the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon remained four-wheel drive, nonetheless. Trims included the Sport (also known as the “X”), Sahara, Unlimited and Rubicon.
Other great innovations that came with the JK
The Jeep Wrangler JK received a few more nifty roof options that included the Sunrider soft top that featured a sliding front panel and a hardtop with removable panels. The third-generation interior is more luxurious. For example, the seats offered driver and passengers with better padding in the seats and added luxury features equipped on base models: power locks, power windows, and cruise control. Buyers were also happy to see numerous tech upgrades such as traction control, electronic stability, Bluetooth, and touch-screen audio system. Adding to its appeal was the addition of side-impact airbags.
What makes the JK a better-used buy than the JL
While the Jeep Wrangler JL boasts improved engine performance over the JK model, the latter is still way better than most SUVs—new or used. This holds especially true when going off-roading, according to CarFax. The Jeep Wrangler JK Rubicon trim models starting from 2014 up to 2017 feature removable front-bumper end caps. Being able to remove those caps allow you to do extreme rock crawling without fear of damage.
The JK Rubicon features plenty of robust off-road hardware, including a disconnecting front sway bar, a 2-speed transfer case, and extra heavy-duty axles. Purchasing the Wrangler Rubicon means you can tackle the wilderness without having to invest extra money on a four-wheel-drive kit, much like any pickup or SUV would require.
Beyond the various special edition models available, one thing that Wrangler owners love is the vast market of aftermarket accessories. It’s almost like the Jeep Wrangler JK was designed to be pimped out. Depending on how deep your pocket goes, you’ll be able to have some real fun customizing your third-generation Jeep Wrangler JK. Furthermore, the JL doesn’t really feature too many new upgrades worth the extra $5,000 or so you would have to spend. If you’re looking to buy a four-wheel-drive vehicle for having a great time, the JK models are a great affordable option.