Photo credit: Josiah Bondy
Small innovations in cars can make a world of difference. And, they point to a future where cars can keep up with changing tech trends.
In a recent test of the redesigned 2018 Jeep Wrangler Sahara, a seemingly minor upgrade provided a hint of things to come, even as we tried to stay focused on a muddy back-road and popped the vehicle into 4-low.
Tech and mudslinging might seem mutually opposed. Curiously, they actually complimented each other nicely.
There’s an incredibly unique feature in the new Wrangler, which now has a new front grill and rides more like a crossover on the highway (we mean that in a good way).
Of the last 20 or 30 cars we’ve tested, not a single one had a USB-C port. Jeep would not confirm this, but it’s likely the Wrangler is the first car to offer one.
The main benefit? USB-C charges faster than normal USB, which we confirmed with a Google Pixel 2 XL.
On one commute, starting with zero charge, the Pixel 2 XL was fully charged after about two hours.
Some cars with standard USB ports will trickle charge, but USB-C pushes out more consistent power – about 20 volts or 100 watts. Normal USB ports in a vast majority of cars only pump out five volts of power.
It also provided a stable, high-speed connection for audio. With some phones over normal USB, there’s an occasional hiccup when playing high-fidelity audio files, such as those that use the WAV format.
There might be a slight pause on a song, but the Wrangler and the Pixel 2 XL worked perfectly. You can even tell when you first connect up, because Android Auto seems to pop up faster on the screen that Apple CarPlay using an iPhone X that connects with USB.
These might seem like minor factors, considering how we actually tested the Wrangler.
There’s a large shifter for changing traction modes. We used a 4-low mode on a road caked with heavy and wet mud, and never had any issues pushing through a soggy mess.
Again, it’s minor, but having the USB port streaming reliably and charging consistently is helpful because it’s consistent and reliable, which means no annoyances as you focus on driving.
That’s the main trend here. USB is a seriously outdated technology, so the fact that Jeep is embracing USB-C is a good sign – that there is more to come.
If car companies can keep tabs on trends, they might be ready to offer newer wireless standards like 5G or an improved version of Wi-Fi that maintains a steady and fast signal for streaming to an iPad or your phone. (Many current cars offer Wi-FI hotspots, but use older and outdated standards.)
And, as tech matures even further and we start to see driverless car tech emerge more and more, car companies will have to stay much more current.
An outdated USB port that doesn’t charge your phone fast enough won’t work. The best example of this is when cars use 4G LTE for navigation and sharing a hotspot in the car.
It’s great to offer this tech, but in most cases, the speed isn't fast enough for anything but YouTube videos and music.
If we let cars drive themselves and we want to work or relax, we’ll want more ancillary tech – 4K movies streams, high-def video-conferencing, bots like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. In short, cars will need to keep pace with advancements much faster than they do now.
The Wrangler Sahara costs $37,845. We won’t say the USB-C port is going to make anyone spring for this new road-monster alone, but it’s definitely a handy perk.
Take a closer look at the 2018 Jeep Wrangler in the gallery below:
On The Road is TechRadar's regular look at the futuristic tech in today's hottest cars. John Brandon, a journalist who's been writing about cars for 12 years, puts a new car and its cutting-edge tech through the paces every week. One goal: To find out which new technologies will lead us to fully autonomous vehicles.
- Need a new dash cam? Here are the best dash cams 2018