The most immediate and obvious change to the 1998 Wrangler is the return to round headlamps, which together with the signature seven slot grille, provide an historic link with the original Jeep MA. More significantly however, the "new" lights are both more effective in use and are cheaper to source than the oblong units of the more recent Wrangler models.
But although the new Wrangler looks similar to its forebears, almost all the sheet metal is new: the only handover items from the old model being the doors and tailgate. None of the changes, however, are purely cosmetic but were created with function uppermost.
The adoption of coil springs which permit greater wheel travel, for example, dictated changes to the front wings. But at the same time, Jeep designers ensured the wings were large enough to allow owners to specify larger wheel and tyre combinations should they want to personalise their cars.
Similarly the exposed hinges and latches of the bonnet, doors and tailgate - all strong Jeep styling cues - remain but have been redesigned to offer a smoother appearance at the same time as improved operation. Changes to the dashboard have resulted in a higher dash cowl which, in turn, gives a smoother, more sloping appearance to the bonnet line.
The base of the windscreen has also been moved forward by no fewer than four inches for better aerodynamics, but another traditional Jeep feature - the "screen"s fold-flat capability - has been retained. All UK-bound Wranglers have full steel doors, with wind up glass windows.
Other practical changes made in response to customer feedback include the resiting of the fuel filler. It can now be found recessed in the rear nearside wing for easier access: previously it was located lower down at the rear of the car.
Both the soft- and hard-tops have been completely redesigned for improved sealing, reduced wind noise and ease of operation. The soft-top, standard on all Sport models, is supported by three hinged bows which fold rearward much like a conventional convertible and takes just one third the time to raise or lower than the previous design. The hard-top, standard on top-of-the-range Sahara models, is nearly 7 kg (15 lb) lighter than before and has simplified body attachments and new, quick release header latches.