Los Angeles Auto Show - As far as balancing acts go, few could be as tough to pull off as a redesigned Jeep Wrangler. After all, how does one retain the ruggedness and utilitarian charm of the current one while packing in all the refinements and technologies expected from a modern vehicle.

The redesigned model that you see before you is Jeep’s attempt at walking that tight rope, and it certainly retains many of the ingredients that will keep traditionalists pleased, including a gently evolved design that stays true to the original, a sturdy body-on-frame construction, a transfer case, folding windscreen and removable body panels.

To reduce weight and thus improve efficiency, many of the 2018 Wrangler’s body components, including the doors, fenders, bonnet and windscreen frame are made from aluminium, as is the engine mounts and steering gear.

A more modern drivetrain option comes in the form of FCA’s 2-litre direct injection turbopetrol engine, tuned to 201kW and 400Nm, and mated to a new eight-speed automatic gearbox.

Those with a “no replacement for displacement” mindset will still be able to opt for Chrysler’s 3.6-litre Pentastar normally aspirated V6, pushing 212kW/353Nm and mated to either a six-speed manual or eight-speed autobox.

And yet the best all-rounder could well be the upgraded 3-litre V6 EcoDiesel engine that’s set to come on stream in 2019. Producing 194kW and 600Nm, the oil burner is paired with the aforementioned eight-speed auto tranny.

As before all Wranglers have genuine ‘Trail Rated’ four-wheel-drive with low range, but this time buyers choosing the Sahara model can also opt for a full-time 4WD system with a two-speed transfer case, including a 2.72:1 low-range ratio.

For the most serious off-roading enthusiasts there’s still a tough-as-nails Rubicon model, featuring heavy-duty Dana 44 axles, a 4:1 low-range ratio, Tru-Lok locking differentials and improved articulation and suspension travel.

But the most fun part for many Wrangler owners is the open air freedom brought by the myriad removable parts and the 2018 Wrangler continues that tradition with dozens of different door, top and windshield combinations, as well as a new Sky One-Touch powertop option that allows owners to retract the full-length canvas roof at the push of a button. 

Jeep will also offer a more traditional soft top option, as well as two hard top variants.

The new Jeep’s redesigned cabin panders to the times with modern trappings such as push-button start, and three touch-screen infotainment offerings, up to 21.3cm in size, with the fancier ones offering pinch-and-zoom functionality as well as Apple CarPlay and Android auto, among other functions and apps, including off-road assistance graphics.

A suite of active safety features is available too, including Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Path Detection and reverse camera.

And yet apart from the screens and new electronics, Jeep has kept things as durable as possible inside, with washable interior components and even drain plugs for letting water out.

But has Jeep found the best blend of modern and traditional here?

You’ll get to find out in about a year from now, with Chrysler SA currently aiming to introduce it in the fourth-quarter of 2018. Only petrol models will be offered initially, with diesels following at a later stage.

IOL Motoring