When it comes to comparing the JK to the newer JL, everything isn’t exactly black-and-white when looking at them side-by-side. But don’t judge a book by its cover, looks can be deceiving, all that glitters is not gold and every other antiquated idiom you can think of about comparisons.
If you can still remember the 1960’s lyrics to the ancient jingle for Ken-L-Ration dog food, you’re officially as ancient as the dirt Jeep lovers blaze through. The tune is so old (how old is it), that one of the earliest, original ads wasn’t even filmed in color.
Featured on such classic TV shows as Bewitched, the 30-second advertisement showcased some adorable little rug rats taunting other young pet owners into believing their canine was superior to theirs because they ate a specific brand of dog food. Today this type of teasing would likely be considered bullying, but for off-road enthusiasts, if your ride is radder and badder, it’s just better.
Fast forward to the present, and when it comes to a side-by-side comparison of the JK to the newer JL, everything isn’t exactly black-and-white. Remember, don’t judge a book by its cover, looks can be deceiving, all that glitters is not gold and every other antiquated idiom you can think of about comparisons when it comes to these two road warriors.
For those unaware, the term FOMO stands for ’fear of missing out‘ but this definitely doesn’t apply to those sporting an older Jeep Wrangler JK. For example, some unsavory Jeep stealerships will push owners of the JK model into upgrading to the JL version and its cast of more modern options. They may even steer them towards adding all the bells and whistles, etc. But newer doesn’t always mean better for lovers of the JK. Let’s take a look at some of the subtle reasons why the JK literally outweighs the JL.
Again, a car salesperson will likely tout the added weight of just 200 pounds in the JK compared to the JL as a disadvantage, but is that really true? According to specs pointed out on a dealership’s Jeep auto blog, the weight differential comes from (and I quote), “The doors, hood, and windshield frame being constructed out of a lightweight, heavy-strength aluminum and steel blend versus pure steel.”
There are a few words that stand out in this description, “aluminum and steel blend versus pure steel”. Even though the aluminum used is said to be ’heavy-strength‘, the first thing that comes to mind when I hear the word ‘aluminum’ is my ability to crush a beer can with one hand with minimal effort. I want a tank when I’m taking on tough terrain. From a purity standpoint, I’d rather be seated inside something boasting solid steel construction compared to a blend. Blends are for clothing and even then I prefer a pure denim or flannel outfit over a putrid polyester piece any day.
PRICE POINT AND PERFORMANCE
According to CarFax, their number one reason to choose a JK over a JL is the money, baby. Right from the gate, the MSRP of the JK starts at $23,995 compared to the JL beginning at $26,995. That’s 3K less right there and that doesn’t include even more potential savings if you purchase ‘used’ instead of ‘new’. Their second justification for giving the nod to the JK versus the JL is better off-road performance by the prior model and isn’t that what we’re really looking for in a Jeep?
While the Wrangler JL may have a few performance advantages over the JK, the latter is more capable than most other SUVs on the marketplace, new or used. For example, back in 2014, it was the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon X that offered removable front-end bumper caps making it easier to avoid potential damage from extreme rock crawling maneuvres.
THE GREAT WIDE OPEN
In the song Into the Great Wide Open by the late, great Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, some of the lyrics (“Under them skies of blue” and “The sky was the limit”) perfectly describe the outdoor Jeep experience. As a matter of fact, the Jeep Wrangler JK has one of the most wide-open driving experiences available.
Unlike many typical and traditional convertibles, both the standard soft top and available hard-tops can be removed neatly, sweetly and ever so completely to really open up the ride from inside. Removing the doors and with the lower windshield of the JK, drivers are literally more in touch with the elements in this open-air driving experience. Ditching the doors and losing the top became even easier when a toolkit for their removal became standard with the 2015 Jeep Wrangler.
KILLER CARGO SPACE AND OTHER CAR COMPARISONS
You might be surprised just how much cargo drivers are able to haul around in the Jeep Wrangler JK. While the two-door model is only capable of 12.8 cubic feet of storage behind the rear seats, fold those bad boys down and the capacity jumps to over four times to 56.5 cubic feet. Sitting next to the slightly longer Toyota C-HR, the Jeep JK still kicks the Tokyo toy’s tail end which only offers 36.4 cubic space for extra stuff.
Inside the four-door Wrangler Unlimited, there’s room for three passengers in the back and increased cargo space. This extra space delivers 31.5 cubic feet behind the driver’s seat and when these rear chairs are folded down, there’s a total of 70.6 cubic feet available for storage. When compared to the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox there is no comparison; cargo space for this Chevy is “mediocre” at 29.9 cubic feet with rear seats upright and 63.5 cubic feet when folded down.
AWESOME AFTERMARKET ACCESSORIES
Finally, one of the best reasons JK is superior to the JL successor is the long list of aftermarket accessories available to soup up this four-wheel ride. How long is this list? Inquiring at the annual SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) trade show reveals the Jeep Wrangler was named the “Hottest 4×4 SUV” for eight consecutive years in a row.
Given these kinds of accolades, JK owners can be confident third-party companies like the official Mopar team will continue to make accessories for these models well in the future. Whether you’re a DIY Jeep wrencher or looking to purchase a JK in the future, there is a definite possibility some of these add-ons will already exist or again, they are likely to be available for many years to come.
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