2011 Jeep Wrangler

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Review: 2008 Jeep Wrangler

This 2008 review is representative of model years 2007 to 2014.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

The latest Jeep Wrangler gains civility, but retains a tough personality and goat-like off-road abilities.
Pros:
  • Decent all-around performance
  • Excellent off-road prowess
  • Key safety items
Cons:
  • High entry
  • Occasional bouncy ride
  • Pushbutton doors not for long fingernails

The rugged, two-door Jeep Wrangler looks like it just stepped off a modern battlefield, while the Wrangler Unlimited is the market's only available 4-door convertible. The Unlimited is the roomiest, most comfortable Wrangler ever, but lacks some of the tough appearance of the 2-door version. Regardless of the number of doors, either model could never be mistaken for anything but a Jeep, with crisp, traditional lines, round headlights and 7-slot grilles.

Trim Choices
The Wrangler is offered in 2-door, or 4-door Unlimited versions. Wranglers have a manual folding soft-top that can be difficult to operate, or an optional 3-piece removable hardtop. The three available trim levels are X, Sahara and Rubicon.

The base 2-door Wrangler X soft-top version has full-metal doors with roll-up windows, front bucket seats, a tilt steering wheel, an AM/FM/CD/MP3 player and an outside-mounted spare tire. Options include air conditioning, front-seat side airbags, and power windows and door locks.

Move up to the Sahara trim level and items such as air conditioning and cruise control are standard, as are an Infinity sound system, power windows and door locks, with remote keyless entry for the Unlimited 4-door.

Under the Hood
Powering the Wrangler is a 3.8-liter V6 engine, which replaces an ancient inline 6-cylinder. It produces 202 horsepower and 237 lb-ft of torque for the 2-door trim level, and 205 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque for the 4-door version. On either model, 16-, 17- or 18-inch wheels are available.

A 6-speed manual transmission comes standard, with an optional 4-speed automatic. Rivals such as the Suzuki Grand Vitara and Toyota FJ Cruiser have more modern 5-speed automatics. The 2-door model comes only with 4-wheel drive, while the 4-door Unlimited has rear-wheel drive or 4-wheel drive.

Inner Space
The Wrangler 2-door has decent room up front, but a tight rear-seat area essentially makes it a 2-seater. The 4-door has more rear passenger room, but it's still rather cramped back there and the rear seat isn't very comfortable. Getting in calls for extra effort, and the Unlimited's rear doorways are narrow. The pushbutton door handles aren't for those with long fingernails.

There's little cargo room with the rear seats in their normal position, but these seats can be tumbled forward or removed for a decent amount of cargo room — although the back seats are heavy. The swing-out tailgate can be awkward to use.

Occupants sit high in a generally quiet interior, which becomes noisy during hard acceleration. Gauges should be larger, but aren't all that difficult to read. The dual front console cupholders are rather low. Headlights are average, but I had no problem locating key controls in the cockpit at night.

On the Road
The Wrangler is no fireball, but its V6 provides lively in-town acceleration and decent 65-75 mph passing on highways. Manual gearbox action is acceptable and the automatic transmission is responsive.

The Wrangler 2-door doesn't pretend to be a sports car, but it is fun to drive — within reasonable limits. The Wrangler adroitly handles sweeping curves. Steering is quick although rather heavy, and the brake pedal has a nice linear action.

The older 2-door Wrangler could really bounce occupants around on substandard roads. The new version is much improved, with lower spring rates, advanced shock absorber tuning and heavy-duty powertrain and body mounts that isolate the passenger compartment from vibrations.

The Wrangler 2-door is also more secure for those who drive it hard because its safety items now include a stability-control system with rollover sensors, a roll bar, and anti-lock brakes with a brake-assist feature.

The advanced 4-wheel-drive system, which isn't for use on dry pavement, helps a Wrangler cling to slippery roads and off-road terrain. The 2-door version especially shines off-road, but the 4-door version's longer wheelbase helps give it a more comfortable ride.

EPA-estimated fuel economy is nothing to phone home about: 15-16 mpg in the city and 19-21 mpg on highways. At least only regular-grade gasoline is required.

Right for You?
For the most part the Wrangler is a little too unrefined for many SUV buyers. It is comfortable for laid-back, open-cockpit cruising on nice days, nearly unmatched for rugged off-road treks, while still being practical for daily driving in all sorts of weather. The Wrangler 2-door lists at $18,660-$27,220, while the 4-door costs $20,580-$29,535.

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BB01 - 8/23/2014 1:07:43 AM