What a great time to own a Jeep Wrangler. With record amounts of snow on the East Coast, the Jeep’s 9.7-inch (10 on the Rubicon model) undercarriage clearance can negotiate some severely deep snow when in 4WD mode. Opt for the Rubicon and you can lock the axles for true four-wheeling.
We tested the Sahara two-door version, but it’s also offered in Sport, Black Bear Country, military themed Freedom Edition, Willy’s Wheeler, Rubicon Hard Rock Edition and new Back Country Edition. Plus with four doors, Wrangler becomes the Wrangler Unlimited that we recently reviewed. Other Wrangler’s are essentially themed-based and have special badging, decaling and mechanicals, but all are still Trail Rated as are all Wrangler’s with skid plates under the transfer case and fuel tank. It is the most accessorized 4WD vehicle on the market.
Powered by a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 that puts out 285-hp and 260 lb/ft of torque, and when coupled to a 5-speed automatic transmission (a manual is standard), EPA gave it mileage estimates of 17 city, 21-highway mpg. So configured, there’s no want for power. Up until the 2006 model year, Jeep offered a four-cylinder. But it was discontinued and replaced with the more potent and efficient Pentastar.
Just announced is a diesel powered Wrangler that is forthcoming in a few years, as is a hybrid version. Jeep already offers a 3.0L diesel in their Grand Cherokee so the engine would appear to be a good fit. But with gasoline prices low right now and diesel fuel about 20 cents higher per gallon, the only concession is that with a diesel engines high torque, hooking a snow plow to a Wrangler would make it an even better snow plow vehicle.
Wrangler put the word “sport” in sport utility vehicle. They ride taut, don’t possess good on-road handling, have noisy interiors because of no insulation and their fuel economy is not the best. But they’re extremely fun to drive and Jeep can’t make enough of them. The demand is so great that Fiat/Chrysler just announced closing production lines for their Dart and Chrysler 200 sedans to make room for more Jeep’s.
After reading this review, take notice of all the Jeep’s on the roads. You’ll be surprised to see how many are being driven by females. They’ve even become a cult of sorts like Harley Davidson motorcycle owners who wave to each other in passing. Same for Wrangler owners.
If opting for a soft top Wrangler, it’s the only current SUV convertible in two and four door form. Land Rover has debuted their Evoque 2-door SUV, but it will cost twice as much as a Wrangler. Even with the Wranglers’ T-top hardtop, the front panels can be taken off after loosening six latches for open-air enjoyment.
There’s no questioning the off-road ability of a Wrangler. If it can handle the treacherous Rubicon Trail in California or the red rocks of Utah, it can handle anything and go places no other reasonably priced SUV can. It’s bare bones and just doesn’t do it in luxury sedan comfort. But then it’s not intended to.
The interior is Spartan but functional. And the heater quickly gives tremendous heat. A small 6-inch display serves audio and GPS nav functions but a rearview camera is not offered. If Jeep could make it work, a rearview camera would help the rear view as the tailgate mounted spare tire interferes with the view as does the rear wiper motor pod attached to the flip up window of the two-piece swing out tailgate.
Jeeps’ 4WD is a proven mechanical linkage with manual shifting, two features serious off-roaders demand. It offers typical 2H, 4H and 4L gearing. The only complaint is that there should be an escutcheon on the base of the 4WD shifter to show gearing positions – although the chrome head of the shifter shows these positions once in gear. For serious four wheeling over rocks, pocked roads and in snow, the Rubicon comes with a lower crawl ratio, electronic front and rear locking differentials, and an electronic disconnecting front sway bar.
Ingress/egress into the back seat (after an 18-inch step-in) is a twist and stretch affair with ample headroom but marginal legroom. As such, cargo capacity is limited. There’s 12.8 cu./ft. of space behind the second row seat and when tumbled forward, 56.5 cubic feet. The entire back seat can be removed for 61.2 cubic feet of space.
Of course a built in roll-bar with built in speakers, makes for a safer off-road ride. And with its short wheelbase, the Wrangler has a tight turning radius allowing it to turn on a dime with huge Bridgestone 18-inch, deep lugged Dueler tires.
After a base price of $29,495, the test Wrangler came with the 5-speed automatic trans, $1,350; A/C with Automatic temperature control, $395; Freedom body colored three piece top, $1,995; engine block heater, $95; Alpine speakers, $945; satellite radio with 40GB hard drive, $1,195; remote start, $495 and a delivery of $995 brought the bottom line to $36,960. For this, and with big wide tires and a short wheelbase, you get Wranglers’ on-road ride that requires constant steering. But off-road, it shines when encountering rocks, crevasses and deep snow. Hey, it’s a Jeep.