Though they both have that unique Wrangler look, the Jeep JL and the Jeep JK are very different in many ways. Some of the differences are obvious, while some are not. This means the comparison between Jeep JK vs JL is going to be intense.
Let’s put them side by side and compare the exterior, interior, and engine bay to give you a better idea of what’s different and what’s similar.
Make sure you read to the very end to figure out which model works best for you.
Main Differences Between Jeep JK Vs JL
- The JK has a straight grille with the Jeep logo, whereas the grille on the JL is raked at the top with no logo
- Front fender flares on Jeep JL are fitted with a turn signal and running light, whereas the ones on the JK aren’t fitted with any lights
- The JL has a vent on the front quarter panel for cooling, whereas the JK doesn’t have any vent
- The JK has a keyed engine start feature, whereas the JL comes with a keyless start/stop push-button
- The JL has an LED taillight lighting package, whereas the JK has simple incandescent taillights
- The JK came with Dana 44 rear and 30 front axles, whereas the JL comes with Dana 35 rear and 30 front axles
What Is Jeep JK?
Jeep JK is the third model of the Wrangler, in production from 2007 to 2017. It was the first four-wheel design of the Wrangler that included suspension, frame, and body.
The JK also came with the four-door model (JK Unlimited) in addition to the two-door. With the four-door, you get a longer wheelbase, which gives you better cargo capacity and rear-seat legroom. The JK Unlimited has more features, including a Sirius satellite radio, navigation system, remote keyless entry, seat-mounted side airbags, and an electronic stability program.
The JK featured plastic rear and front fenders that make it look a little bit old-school. What makes these fenders special is that they can have larger wheels and tires.
This Jeep model also featured two main engines during its production: the 3.8 L V6, and 3.6 L Pentastar V6. All the trim levels of this generation were capable of delivering the best possible performance, but the JK Rubicon came offroad ready.
What Is Jeep JL?
Jeep JL is the latest generation of the Wrangler, which entered the market in 2018. It is completely redesigned compared to the previous generation, the Jeep JK.
Like the JK, the JL is also available in four-door (JL Unlimited) and two-door designs. The JL has unique solid axles and body-on-frame construction. It is available in three impressive four-wheel-drive systems: Rock-Trac, Selec-Trac, and Command-Trac.
Apart from the Rubicon trim, the other JLs feature an anti-spin rear differential. Jeep JL is more about on-road comfortability.
The coolest thing about this Wrangler is the tops. You have three top options, two of which are very cool. Unlike the previous versions including the JK, Jeep JL is 2.5 inches longer. The JL Unlimited, on the other hand, is 3.5 inches longer.
The powertrains on Jeep JL are impressive, featuring the 3.6 L Pentastar V6 from the previous model and the brand new offering the 2.0 L four-cylinder turbocharged.
The in-vehicle infotainment is outstanding, including three updated systems. The systems are integrated with a rear-view backup camera.
Here is our detailed feature comparison between Jeep JK vs JL:
The Front of the Jeep
Both Jeeps have the iconic seven-slot grille on the front. But the JL doesn’t have the Jeep badge on the front, and the space at the top of the grille is narrower.
The headlights on the JL protrude into the first slot to give it a different look from the JK. The grille profile of the JK is on one plane, but the one on the JL is raked to improve aerodynamics.
The obvious difference that makes it easy for anyone to directly distinguish the JL from the JK is the front fender flares. The flares on the 2018 Wrangler are equipped with a turn signal as well as a running light. The flares on the 2007 Wranglers don’t have any lights and the turn signals are fitted on the grille.
The bumper of the 2018 Wrangler is different from the 2007 version. The fog lights on the JL are fitted outwards on the bumper and they have a wider reflector. The ones on the JK are positioned in the middle.
The Hood and Windshield
The hood on the 2018 Wrangler has been redesigned. You’ve got a much larger rubber bump stop on the hood of the JL with integrated washers that are built into the bump stop. The hood on the JK doesn’t have any bumps because of the raised part in the middle. Both hoods, however, feature hood latches that are outboard mounted.
The windshield on the JL has been raked by about 6 degrees compared to the JK’s. This modification is there to improve aerodynamics and efficiency. The windshield on the JL folds down onto the hood. The windshield, however, is not the structural part of the JL. Even after you have folded the windshield down, the rear-view mirror and the sun visors remain attached to the frame.
The windshield on Jeep JK, on the other hand, is straighter and folding. But the folding process isn’t straightforward as it is with the JL. You’ll need to remove several screws on the hinge cover and some screws on the interior of the JK. When you finally succeed in folding the windshield, you won’t have anything in that area. There’s no frame to hold the rear-view mirror and sun visors separately—everything folds with the windshield.
The Side of the Jeep
The main similarity between the two Jeeps that you can notice from the side is the hood latches.
Although both latches are outboard mounted, they differ in design and function differently. The hood latches on the JK are longer and equipped with rubber on the inside. The ones on the JL are shorter and don’t have rubber on the inside.
One of the most unique design features on the JL that you can spot from the side is the vent on the front quarter panel. The JKs were known to have a lot of heat under the hood. So, the vent on the JL helps solve that problem.
The 2018 Wrangler has a unique line on the outside of the doors instead of a big flat door. The door handles are definitely different. Jeep JK has a push button on the handle, which isn’t as stylish as the pull handle on the JL. The running board on the JL is better designed compared to the one on the 2007 model.
The Back of the Jeep
The back of the JL is almost completely different from Jeep JK.
The first noticeable feature is the spoiler built into the hardtop of the new model, which improves aerodynamics and efficiency. With that said, there are two different top options for Jeep Wrangler JL. The hardtop on the JK looks boxier with straight edges and fewer curves.
Another major difference on the back is the taillights. The 2018 Wrangler has an amazing LED lighting package. The taillights have one consistent marker light on the perimeter, a turn signal in the middle, and two brake lights (one on top of the turn signal and one below it). The taillights on the JK are simple incandescents. They don’t come equipped with the border marker light. They just have the tail, stop, turn, and the white reverse light.
The JL has a blind spot monitor attached to the taillight, which is going to alert you if there is a vehicle in your blind spot. The JK has the license plate just under the taillight on the driver’s side. But the license plate has been moved down to the bumper on the driver’s side on the JL.
The design of the third brake light is different. The one on the JK has a pedestal style mounted at the center of the spare tire. The one on the JL wraps around the spare tire. The reverse camera at the middle of the spare tire mount on the JL provides a good view and it is a little bit camouflaged.
The Interior of the Jeep
The interior of the Wrangler has been completely redesigned, especially for the Sahara and Rubicon trims for both the JK and JL.
The steering wheel of the JL has leather and still has the buttons on the backside for changing radio stations and volume. The redesigned buttons on the front of the steering allow you to control your voice and phone.
The center part of the dash is completely different from the JK’s. The speedometer and tachometer are all analog. Everything else is displayed on the glass screen in the center between the speedometer and tachometer. The center screen displays different things, including screen setup, fuel levels, water temperature levels, average mpg, and current mpg. You can also see a lot of information about the JL like the coolant and oil temperature.
There is a specific offroad screen, which displays the pitch, roll, drivetrain, and tells you what the transfer case is doing. This makes navigation much easier on tough trails.
The technology package on the JL is way better compared to the one on the JK. You have the driver information digital cluster display, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Uconnect system, Alpine premium audio system, Sirius XM guardian, and push-button start. The JK, on the other hand, has the Uconnect system with navigation, Bluetooth, SiriusXM satellite radio, and Alpine premium sound system.
The Engine Bay
The 2018 JL came with the 3.6 L Pentastar engine, which the latest JK had before its production stopped. During the JK season, we had only one engine option with the early JK models featuring the 3.8 L and the newer ones the 3.6 L.
Other engine options for the JL include diesel and 2.0 L gas turbo engines. The JL engine has been redesigned to boost efficiency by approximately 6 percent. It comes with an exhaust gas recycling system for added efficiency and more power.
The Jeep JK came with either a 5-speed automatic transmission or a 6-speed stick. With the JL, you still get the 6-speed stick as well as an 8-speed automatic transmission.
Underneath the Jeep
Jeep JK came with Dana 44 rear axle and Dana 30 axle in the front. The gear ratios were a factory 3.21, but you could also get a 4.10 or 3.73 in a Rubicon trim. The JL comes with Dana 35 rear axle and Dana 30 front axle. The JL also comes with a factory 3.45 gear and 4.10 with the Rubicon.
As far as the underside goes, these Jeeps are somewhat similar in suspension. They both have coil springs and five-link suspensions, a track bar, and four control arms. The steering links on Jeep JL, however, look a little bit thicker. The factory skid plate and the cross members are pretty similar in the JL and JK.
The EVAP canister on the JK is exposed to the terrain, putting it in harm’s way when riding over rocks. But it has been moved out of the way in the JL.
Check out how these models compare with other Jeep Wrangler models.
Jeep JK Vs JL – The Verdict
This showdown has pointed out a lot of differences between Jeep JK and Jeep JL. If you are on the fence about buying one of the new JL models versus one of the older JK models, we hope this guide helps you make an informed decision. Just keep in mind that most JKs might have been driven before. If that’s the case, then you won’t be able to tell how hard the vehicle was driven and you don’t know what issues are going to arise.