2014 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Altitude Review By Steve Purdy
By Steve Purdy
Of all the cars I’ve driven recently this one is the most
about “driving,” providing a much more tactile and directly
personal experience behind the wheel. It’s the very antithesis of
sophistication and it’s the embodiment of purposeful design.
The Jeep Wrangler, including this four-door Unlimited Altitude,
eschews modernity in so many ways it becomes rather like driving a car from
the past. Open the undamped door and climb high over the sill into the seat
and we’re in a cabin where vertical surfaces and functionality trump
aesthetics and convenience. A truck-like shifter sticks out of the floor.
Nearby the transfer case lever waits to be jammed into or out of position.
Simple controls and a small navigation screen don’t confuse us.
Head out the driveway and we’re taken back in time as well.
Steering is vague and takes some effort. When we shift from gear to gear
with the long shifter we can feel the mechanical linkage in each of the six
forward gears and even feel the gears engage and disengage. The sound and
feel remind us we’re in a serious mechanical piece of sporting
equipment. The ride is stiff and the cabin is noisy. Just the way it should
Compare that to just about any other vehicle today, even one with
off-road cred, and you’re in two different worlds. We love the
2007 Jeep Wrangler Sahara Unlimited
Although we didn't have an opportunity this time around to
explore the Jeep's off-road capabilities we have done so before. (See our
2006 story A
Mojave 4x4 Mystical Tour In A 2007 Jeep Wrangler Sahara Unlimited
challenged the Rocky Gap Road behind Red Rock Park near Las Vegas. We also
regularly put it through its rough and tumble paces at the Chrysler Proving
Grounds in Chelsea, MI during the annual all-product day and at the Midwest
Auto Media Association Spring Rally where a couple of off-road courses are
part of the routine at Road America. I’ll just say again that the
only vehicle with more off-road capability is the long-out-of-production
The 4-door, 5-passenger Wrangler Unlimited comes with either a soft
or hard top, both removable, neither easily removable. The former (I know
from experience) is complex, convoluted and frustrating; the latter (I
understand from reading other reviews) is heavy and a two-person job. Our
test car has the hard top, but not having any help I decided not to
experiment with it.
The designers and engineers have managed to update the Wrangler over
the years without loosing its minimalist character. Now we get power
windows, locks and mirrors, AC, keyless entry, steering wheel audio
controls, and lots of other stuff that would have been unthinkable a few
years ago. Our test car is the Sahara 4X4 “Altitude Edition,” a
cosmetic package available across the Jeep lineup.
Powering the Wrangler is Chrysler’s Pentastar 3.6-liter V6
that is good for 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. The
four-wheel drive components along with the high/low range transfer case and
off-road rated suspension conspire to make it feel considerably less
powerful than the same engine in other Chrysler Corporation applications.
Though if you punch it aggressively you can manage a decent 0-to-60 mph
time. The solid front and rear axles – both by Dana – are heavy
duty. Four-wheel drive engagement can be done on the fly. That solid frame,
tough suspension and strong powertrain are good for a decent 3,500 pound
towing capacity as well.
All that unique under-structure makes for a unique experience behind
the wheel. The suspension has lots of travel but is quite stiff. Those
factors combined with a relatively sort wheelbase makes for a jumpy ride.
Handling in normal driving around town and on the highway is, to put it
kindly, quirky. When you get off into the sand, onto the rocks and through
the woods it shines with competence and confidence. You’ll expect to
scrape the undercarriage way before you do since the ground clearance is so
amazing. The specialized suspension articulation allows it to climb with
ease over rocks, logs and whatever obstacles you encounter.
The EPA rates the Toledo-built Wrangler Unlimited at 16 mpg in the
city, 21 on the highway and 18 combined using regular fuel. We were easily
within that range this week with a mixed city/highway/country road
experience. It has a 22-gallon fuel tanks for a decent cruising range.
Enhancing the Wrangler’s off-road capability are skid plates
protecting the transfer case and fuel tank. Lots of accessories are
available on the aftermarket including other skid plates.
Base price shows $31,995 and includes those features above plus
leather seats, accent stitching, auto-dimming mirrors, tilt steering wheel,
Uconnect apps system, Alpine premium audio, 18-inch off-road tires,
polished silver wheels, tubular side steps and a bunch of other stuff. The
Altitude Package costs $3,500 and includes Bluetooth hands-free
connectivity, rear window washer/wiper, painted aluminum wheels, the
Electronic Vehicle Information System, and lots of special trim inside and
out. An upgraded Uconnect system with 40G hard drive and 6.5-inch screen
and GPS navigation costs an extra grand. Including the destination charge
we’re looking at $37,930 on the sticker’s bottom line.
Jeep’s new vehicle warranty covers the Wrangler for 3 years or
36,000 miles and the powertrain for 5 years or 100,000 miles.
As a nod to modern technology our Wrangler is equipped with
electronic stability control, roll mitigation, hill assist and trailer sway
damping. But we did not have hill descent control, which has become common
(and a needed option) on many off-road aspirants.
Why do so many suburbanites buy these beefy and capable off-roaders
and seldom, if ever, put them to their intended use? Good question. (Ed.
Note I believe they never go out of their way to learn how to use those
truly exciting capabilities.)
It is valuable though I suppose, to believe that you have the
ability to dash off into the wilderness if you ever want to and be able to
©Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights