The Jeep Wrangler is a storied nameplate, with a dedicated fan base. The Wranger I tested is a hardcore off-roading machine. Frills are kept to a minimum (at least they used to be) and this vehicle has a dedicated purpose. So what to make of the Wrangler? Is it really only good for off-roading? Is it all fun in the sun, even in the city? I spent the week in this red rock (that’s name of the color) Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon to find out.
The Wrangler has the same general shape for the longest time – and you know what they say,” if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” The reality is that the Wrangler design is not broken, but rather it is timeless. For a some time enthusiasts have longed for a longer wheelbase Wrangler with a real rear seat. Jeep finally gave in and now we have the Wrangler Unlimited. The Unlimited adds two doors, which brings the total to four- a new trick for the Wrangler. The hood still features exterior clamps and the windshield has the ability to fold down onto the hood. The entire hard top comes off, along with all four doors. This leaves the top exposed – but fear not, the Wrangler has a factory roll cage in the unfortunate case you do flip over (it has been known to happen in a Jeep every once in a while). The two round headlights flank the traditional Jeep slotted grille. The front bumper has integrated fog lights and tow hooks and the rear bumper also has a tow hook. The spare tire is mounted to the rear hatch, which does impair visibility slightly, but you will be thankful on the trail that you have the spare.
The interior is a simple place to spend your time. Hard plastics are everywhere and at first, I complained about it. Then someone wise (make that a few people) on Twitter brought it to my attention that it is easier to clean hard plastics with a hose. Suddenly, it made sense to me. I will say that it is 2010 and the Jeep Wrangler can now be equipped with a factory hard drive-based navigation unit. I never thought I would see the day! It actually works quite well. Loading music onto the hard drive from my flash drive was a quick and simple operation. Navigation was simple to use and the system was quick to operate. The radio was decent enough. but nothing mind blowing. The doors and roof are all plain, with only the necessary panels. Not only can you get a navigation system, but you can also have power locks and windows! In that sense, this is the most luxurious Wrangler of all time.
Currently, you have one engine option – a 3.8 liter V6 pumping out 202 horsepower and 237 pound feet of torque. Of course, this power can be either sent to the rear wheels or all four with locking front and rear differentials in the Rubicon edition. The Rubicon edition also features the trick electronic sway bar disconnect so you can have more suspension travel when off-roading. The transmission was a four speed automatic, which in most vehicles we would be calling that archaic, but in the Jeep Wrangler it works fine. The Wrangler is rated at 15/19 mpg and I averaged 15.2 mpg with mostly city driving.
The Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon I was in had a sticker price of $38,005. That is a lot for a Jeep Wrangler! The options on my test vehicle totaled nearly $6,000 over the $32,050 base price for the Unlimited Rubicon. I’m not sure I would pay for the red paint, but the media center package which was the navigation and all that went along with it was $1,550, which isn’t bad for what was included. The engineering that goes into the off-roading capabilities of the Wrangler is extensive. and that is where the cost of this vehicle comes from.
Someone recently asked me if they should buy a Wrangler. He was all excited because it comes in a four door now. He has three kids and lives in the city. I asked him why he wants it. His response, “it looks fun!” OK, so marketing works. I explained to him he would not use the vehicle for the intended purpose and would not be happy overall in the long run day to day. He listened to my advice. After my week with the Wrangler, I can say I gave good advice.
Overall my impressions were positive. This is still truly first and foremost a Jeep. It was developed and engineered for off-road use. It is highly capable while livable on-road. That being said, I would not say this is a vehicle I would want to drive around on a daily basis if I was never planning on off-roading. I would be able to tolerate the harsh ride if I was not planning on fully utilizing its capabilities on the weekends, but with almost no rear space in the back, it is not ridiculously useful. If you do plan on off-roading and want a great vehicle to do such things, then this is a great SUV. I can see people that live near the desert, near the mountains and near the woods loving this vehicle and really getting to utilize its capabilities. Is the Wrangler a bad vehicle? Absolutely not, but only if bought for the right reasons.
Full Disclosure- The review vehicle was provided by Jeep