A thinly camo'd 2018 Jeep Wrangler.

The new Jeep Wrangler is one of the most eagerly awaited models due to debut for the 2018 model-year, but the automaker isn’t saying much about the first complete makeover of the iconic SUV in more than a decade.

It’s not quite a red cape, but Jeep has been teasing Wrangler fans by placing what appears to be the next-generation SUV out front of its Toledo, Ohio assembly plant. The problem? It’s covered in a big white sheet. So, we asked our spy photographer Jim Dunne to try to capture images of what’s underneath.

While these three shots of what is internally codenamed JL still leave some details covered up by camouflage, they offer the best look we’ve had, to date, of the 2018 Jeep Wrangler, and while the basic shape carries over some of the boxy cues that fans have long loved, there are some key updates that appear to bring the next Wrangler into the modern era.

(Click Here to check out this year’s crop of Jeep concepts from the annual Moab safari.)

Modifications will be made to the front end – fenders, bumper, hood, and headlights – which just might offer LED options on higher trim levels, and very likely LED running lamps. Oh, and expect those lights to retain their classic, round shape, rather than opt for the fad-of-the-day slit shape.

Is that the new Wrangler under cover at the Toledo plant? Image courtesy JLWranglerForums.com.

Meanwhile, as photographer Jim Dunne tells us, “I bet my last dollar that the seven slot grille design will remain.

“Note that the door handles and door hinges are specially covered, indicating a major change there. At the rear, who knows, but it is clear from the extent of the coverings that significant modifications are in store there, as well.”

Other observations: the current Wrangler’s almost certical grille now has a modest rake to it, a concession to aerodynamics that should yield both increased mileage and reduced wind noise. Subtle aero tweaks appear to be just barely hidden in the shape of the grille and hood, and possibly in the rear, as well.

The turn signals, meanwhile, will be moving from grille to fenders.

Some of the most important changes won’t be immediately apparent to the eye. For one thing: Jeep engineers have made a heavy effort to lighten the Wrangler, and word from the supplier community is that this means, among other things, a switch from steel to aluminum doors and hood.

The headlights will still be round, but they could adopt LED technology for 2018.

We’ve also heard that the removable top has been redesigned, making it possible to break it apart and store onboard. That’d be great news for those who want something more flexible when traveling – as well as for those who rent Wrangler in vacation spots like Moab, Utah or on the Hawaiian islands.

As for power, expect to see the stock 2018 Jeep Wrangler leave the completely renovated Toledo assembly plant with the familiar 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 found in the current model. But buyers will also have the option to upgrade to a 2.0-liter turbo-four mated to an eight-speed ZF automatic. The engine is being dubbed Hurricane, and it’s an appropriate moniker considering it will punch out around 300 horsepower, a fair bit for a ute the size of the new Wrangler.

(Jeep rolls out 707 hp Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. Click Here to check it out.)

Meanwhile, Jeep just might offer a version of the Grand Cherokee turbodiesel. That is, if it doesn’t run into still more trouble with the Feds, who are investigating claims that the automaker rigged its oil-burner, ala Volkswagen, to illegally meet U.S. emissions standards. Parent Fiat Chrysler Automobiles fiercely denies those accusations.

Look for new designs for the door handles; turn signal on the fenders, and new rear lighting.

Incidentally, there have been rumors suggesting the new Wrangler would acknowledge the ongoing shift to automatic transmissions, though with the current model’s manual option still accounting for somewhere between 10 and 20% of sales, not everyone is convinced the brand will walk away from the stick with the ’18 model.

In terms of ride, expect the new ute to have better on-road manners, a welcome bit of news for those who spend most of their time commuting or running errands. But the 2018 should retain, perhaps even enhance, the legendary off-road capabilities of the Wrangler.

One of the more intriguing bits of news, confirmed by Jeep chief Mike Manley, is that we’ll see the marque’s first pickup truck in decade, based off the new Wrangler platform. But for those that are waiting for the Wrangler pickup, hang tight. It’s not expected until 2019, Manley saying he first wants to ensure the ute model is “up and running.”

Considering Jeep’s poor quality and reliability scores, it would be a major success to get things up to world-class levels with the new model.

Look for production of the 2018 Jeep Wrangler to begin around November, though the old model will continue rolling down the line for another six months. Sales should start sometime around year-end.

(FCA partners with new “brand ambassador” Vin Diesel. Click Here for the story.)

(Paul A. Eisenstein contributed to this story.)

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