Jeep has just updated the Jeep Wrangler for the 2024 model year, and though there have been some significant improvements over the 2018-2023 models, there’s one change that I don’t love: That face. Let’s look at it, as well as the new infotainment screen and a bunch of other little updates that Jeep hopes will help its off-road brute stand out among Broncos and 4Runners.
Let’s all just be real: The outgoing Jeep Wrangler JL’s grille is about as perfect a grille as anyone could have asked for. It was a follow-up to the Jeep Wrangler JK’s rather squared-off design that really lacked the tapered, bread-slice look that has defined Jeep grilles since 1941. Here’s that hideous face:
And here’s the JL’s face that debuted for the 2018 model year. Notice how beautifully tapered those sides are, and how those headlights jut into those outer grille slots just so. It is perfection:
Now the new Wrangler has been out for six model years, and Jeep wants to keep things fresh in light of increasing competition and a more challenging marketplace than in the last couple of years. As such, the talented design team at Stellantis tweaked the grille, though I don’t think it’s an improvement. In part, because you can’t improve perfection.
In fact, I think the blacked-out grille slats actually act to hide the key elements that define the Jeep brand stylistically — those seven slots. Here’s a look:
There are a few quite interesting elements about this grille — which is the same one found on the 20th Anniversary Rubicon, as well as Jeep’s EJS concepts from this year — that may not be obvious at first glance. For one, it’s actually shorter than before, giving off a “widened” vibe. Jeep did this by pulling up the bottom of the body-colored grille, and then inserting a black piece between it and the front bumper. Notice how on the red 2018-2023 grille above, that grille comes all the way down to the bumper. The new Jeep looks like it’s had its chin tucked up.
Also not particularly obvious is the fact that the grille slats (the vertical bars between the slots) allow for additional airflow to the radiator:
While I don’t like the fact that this precludes the slats from being body-color, and thus hides them in this huge black mass in the middle of the Jeep’s face, I will admit that ventilating the slats is actually quite clever. I doubt the main reason for this design is to increase airflow on the Wrangler, since the outgoing model has plenty, but maybe this was needed in order to shorten the slots (Update: Oh, I see the tow rating is up to 5,000. Okay, then yes, I bet there’s an uptick in cubic feet per minute). It’s also possible that the JT Gladiator will see some kind of benefit when it adopts a version of this new face (assuming it does). Here’s what Jeep has to say:
Slimmer both visually and literally, the new grille’s black textured vertical slots improve cooling while also allowing for fitment of the new factory-installed Warn winch, which is available on Rubicon models.
Another thing that may not be obvious about the grille is the fact that the black area between the bottom of each headlight and the outboard grille slot on each side is just a big plastic trim piece:
I’m not a huge fan of this, if I’m honest.
But fear not, Jeep diehards, for not all hope is lost. It could be argued that the best value in the Jeep Wrangler lineup has been — at least for the past decade or so — the Willys trim. Here’s my brother’s 2023 model:
The Willys trim has always come with a black grille, black wheels, big tires, and rock rails. The 2024 Jeep Wrangler also gets similar treatment; here’s a look:
I’ll admit that I have always preferred a body-color grille, but I don’t mind the Willys’ black one, and the new Willys model (which now comes with a rear locking differential) doesn’t look that much different than the outgoing one. In fact, I think the fully black-grilled 2024 JL looks better than those of non-Willys trims (see yellow and silver ones shown above my brother’s Jeep), which have a body-color grille with black grille slats in the middle, that obvious black trim piece between the lights and outer slots, and the black piece between the grille and bumper.
Other changes to the JL’s exterior styling include new wheels and the deletion of the fender-mounted antenna; it’s not built into the windshield, which sounds great until you realize how often people crack these.
The New Infotainment Screen
The other big news for 2024 is the new, standard 12.3-inch infotainment screen, which I think Jeep has integrated rather nicely into the JL’s dash. It’s surprising how much more modern this screen looks than last year’s Wrangler’s. Here’s the new infotainment screen:
And here’s the old one:
The skinnier, less square interface is a massive improvement stylistically, though I do worry about the deletion of those round air vents, which are beloved among Jeep fans, as they’re not only highly adjustable, but just fun to play with. You can see that Jeep has replaced them with narrow vent-slots under the new screen.
You’ll also notice that the gauge cluster looks similar in function, but its bezel shape has been redesigned. Have a look (this image also shows the change of the right circular air vent to a narrower HVAC vent):
While the exterior seems like a tiny step backwards, the interior seems like a significant improvement to me. Especially now that you can get power seats for the first time; more on that in a followup article.
Also worth noting: Finally the JL gets standard side curtain airbags for both rows, and for Sport S trims and up, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, and a gorilla glass windshield are standard.
More Off-Road Hardware, More Towing
Mentioned before, Jeep now offers a factory Warn winch, which is quite nicely integrated. There it is in the 392 model above.
Bigger news, though, is the addition of a full-float rear axle. If you don’t know what that is, congratulations, you’re a normal human being. Weird Jeep folks, though, know it to be an axle design that puts the weight of the vehicle onto the axle tube, not the axle shaft.
Basically, the rear axle on the Wrangler looks like a giant tube, but that tube isn’t what’s spinning — an axle shaft inside is. That axle shaft is more likely to fail if it has to deal with the bending/shear loads associated with the vehicle’s weight in addition to the torsional loads associated with driving the wheels (and stopping). This is called compound loading, and it’s not great.
A full-float axle puts the loads associated with the vehicle’s weight onto the actual axle housing/tube, so that the axle shafts can deal only with the torsional stresses associated with propelling and stopping the vehicle. This improves durability (which is why it’s so popular in the world of aftermarket heavy-duty off-road axles), and contributed to an increase in the JL Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon’s tow rating from 3,500 pounds to 5,000.
Jeep has made changes to options and trims, adding the Sport S 4xe to bring down the plug-in hybrid base-price as well as a Rubicon X, which gets standard 35-inch tires. But the big news is that face, that screen, that tow rating, adaptive cruise control, and reshuffled standard content. And also those seats; again, expect a followup article soon.
All Images: Jeep
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Isn’t it funny that Ford designed the slotted grill.
When I look at the JK and JL front ends, I’m reminded of the Office meme where Pam says “they’re the same picture.” Like yes, I see some differences, but DT is out here acting like it’s the 993 to 996 fried-egg-headlight debacle.
As for the interior glow-up, I think one of the biggest reasons the outgoing model looks so much worse is the massive rubber bezel around the screen. It looks like the giant cases parents put on tablets for their toddlers to play with.
Well I would paint the grille to match, I guess there will be a lot of aftermarket painted grills or home jobs. But then again there are people with angry eyes so maybe we are expecting too much taste.
I don’t understand how the floating axle improves tow ratings by 1500lbs. My Astro for example can tow 5300lbs but just has a standard 10 bolt 7.5″ rear end. Furthermore I thought tow ratings were largely based on wheelbase, weight, and suspension design? I’ve just never heard of axle bearings improving tow rating by such a large amount before.
I was thinking along the same lines, but if you look at the numbers for the rubicon especially, the payload figures are laughably low. like 950 lbs or something. Adding even 500 lbs of additional GAWR would have made a usable difference.
I’ve read enough reports of JL cooling issues with the turbo 4 that I’d say the grill is needed. FFRA? Hell yeah.
Boy, It took Jeep long enough to give the people what they wanted – a FF rear axle and a competitive towing rating.
The cooling issues were an mis-tightened thermostat housing bolts. Had nothing to do with airflow.
I love stock photos! Especially the one showing the updated dash, close up. Off road pages showing pitch and roll, 2K RPM, and a forward facing trail camera. All while traveling 69mph … with no one at the wheel!
That new face looks JUST LIKE a jumping spider.
I think we’re missing a big piece in that the radar cruise and emergency braking wouldn’t be possible without having a big black place to hide that sensor slab. It wouldn’t be possible with the body-color grill. Note that those are both a big part of the 2024: features.
If I get a vote, the best looking Wrangler grill is the original, the YJ. Very clean with the perfect kink in the middle to give it some class.
My mother is interested in looking into the new 4xe Wrangler. It will be a tough sell as it has to be good enough to sway her from buying another old BMW to replace the one she has adored for 22 years. I’m looking forward to how truck like the Wrangler still feels. We used to have a 97 ZJ, which was replaced by a 2018 Grand Cherokee, the 2018 doesn’t feel like an SUV, it’s too refined and really bland. Hopefully the Wrangler still has its rough Charm.
I like everything about the new one better. Especially the fact that the grille accommodates the Warn Winch from the factory. All wins.
The axle, screen, and optional winch are great upgrades. I’ll miss the round vents. Power seats I’ve never cared for. The new grille… yeah, that is a definite down grade.