Last August, in a temporary fit of rationality, I made my way into the local Jeep dealership to ask what they would give me in trade for my beloved 2015 JK Wrangler.

As everyone knows, delays in the supply chain pushed the value of used vehicles to record highs. According to the blue book, at the time my Jeep had decreased in value only 4.1% since I bought it new in the summer of ’15. At 85,000 miles, it was also starting to exhibit the symptoms of middle age: a radio that worked only intermittently, a quiet wa-wump in the suspension, a parking brake the didn’t hold on anything other than perfectly level ground. If there was a time to trade up, now was it.

There were no new two-door models available for sale anywhere, but if I was willing to wait I could order one from the factory. Yes, I was willing to wait.

The new Jeep

The Wrangler underwent a model change in 2017. My 2015 was a “JK”. The current model is a “JL”, so some things, inevitably, would be different.

I prefer a pretty stripped down vehicle (less to go wrong, so I tell myself). So, I ordered the Sport model with manual transmission. It’s also less expensive than other trim packages. For practicality, I added air conditioning, towing package, plastic sill guards, and rear tub liner.

Aftermarket upgrades included tinting the front windows and replacing the cloth upholstery with leather. I used an aftermarket upholsterer because leather seats from the factory in the Sport trim package are only available in black. I wanted khaki or tan. Note for further reference: the upholsterer, CSP out of Altanta, did a great job and at $1,200 the price was 30% less than from the factory.

My last Jeep was red. My daughter says it was my happy color. It was. I suppose I could have gotten another red one. But, somehow that didn’t feel right, like naming your new dog after one you’ve just put down. I went with Sarge Green.

Sarge and I have now driven about 500 miles and we’re starting to settle in. I really like the seats. The dash and instrumentation have been completely redesigned. The electronics are more sophisticated now. I actually liked the simplicity of the old dash, but I think the new one will be more convenient in the long run, especially when it comes to things like recognizing multiple phone inputs when the kids want to play their music.

The soft top system has been redesigned. But it is December and it has been raining, so I haven’t gotten to experiment with that yet.

The biggest difference I have noticed is the clutch. Other folks have noted this too, on the Wrangler forums. The clutch on the JK was stiff, like a truck. The clutch on the JL is very soft. Driving is more like driving a car than a pickup or off-road vehicle.

Otherwise, the JL feels very much like the JK, just newer.

Goodbye to an old friend

I ordered the new vehicle in August, so the JL and I have had some time together for a few last rides (actually about 5,000 miles).

Still, I was more sentimental than I expected, saying goodbye to my old friend. How do you say goodbye to a car. It doesn’t have a hand to shake. An affectionate pat on the rear fender? A kiss to the hood? In the end, I simply drove into the dealership and parked in that special spot they put in front of the showroom “for customer parking only”. Then, I stepped out and walked away. The sales associate was waiting for me. Out of politeness, I didn’t linger. I walked toward him and stretched out my hand in greeting. Goodbye was a backward glance over my shoulder. I’ll miss that jeep.

My friend Nathan, who is considering buying a Wrangler, asked me what were the pros and cons of of keeping the JK, versus buying the JL. My answer was immediate. On the plus side for keeping the red one was emotional attachment — we have had many adventures together. On the plus side for the new one: everything else.