New Car/Review

1999 JEEP WRANGLER SAHARA 4WD

By Matt/Bob Hagin

Daimler/Chrysler Full Line factory footage (39:14) 28.8, 56k or 200k Part 1 and 200k Part 2

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 19,970
     Price As Tested                                    $ 23,810
     Engine Type               OHV 12-valve 4.0 Liter I6 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 242 cid/3960 cc
     Horsepower                                   181 @ 4600 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               222 @ 2800 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                   93.4"/66.7"/153.0"
     Transmission                              Five-speed manual
     Curb Weight                                     3283 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                    19 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                 P225/75R15 A/T
     Brakes (F/R)                                      Disc/drum
     Drive Train                   Front-engine/four-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                        Four-passenger/two-door
     Domestic Content                                 81 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                   (soft top) 0.58

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            16/19/16          
     0-60 MPH                                         11 seconds
     Payload capacity                                 800 pounds
     Towing capacity                                 2000 pounds

     * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

(Matt Hagin's experiences with "traditional" Jeep products isn't as extensive as those of his father Bob, who drove them 45 years ago. Matt does know that among young people, the new Jeep Wrangler is very "in.")

MATT - Intensive market research comes up with some interesting automotive facts, Dad. I recently read that researchers found that among the age group of future buyers aged 13 to 20, the Jeep Wrangler is the most admired vehicle on the market. The reasons that these kids like the Wrangler range from the fact that it's a type of vehicle that their parents disapprove of to the idea that it looks like it's fun to drive.

BOB - Matt, this is no luxo SUV but it's a fun ride anyway. It's noisy inside even with the optional hard top. But its hard to beat when it's open and the wind's blowing through what's left of my hair. I didn't appreciate the Jeep I had to drive in Korea, but I had other things on my mind. This Wrangler Sahara has been refined over the years and its highway manners aren't bad for a car with a 93-inch wheelbase and live axles front and rear. And it's really very "boppy" in its own way. It's sporting pretty much the same profile and angular styling it's had since Jeep basics were laid down in '39 or '40. It has those typical flat fenders front and rear and the traditional round headlights reappeared in '96, after several years of rectangle styling.

MATT - There has been some concessions to creature-comforts over the years, Dad. The Wrangler now uses coil springs on both the front and rear axles and has increased wheel travel too. This makes for a smoother ride on the pavement and better control when the Wrangler is taken into the boondocks. The Jeep press kit makes note of the fact that the Wrangler retains its traditional "hose-out" feature. This means that once the driver has returned to civilization after playing in swamps or creek beds, he or she can pull out the rugs, seats and upholstery and hose out the mud through drains in the floorboards.

BOB - With "attributes" like that, the Jeep Wrangler is definitely not appropriate transportation to a country club dance or to the opera, although the valet-parking attendants would no doubt enjoy hot-dogging it around the parking lot. This is the real McCoy for off-road enthusiasts, unlike the fancy high-ticket sport/utility vehicles that no doubt never see anything more challenging than the gravel road that leads up to a country estate. The Wrangler is in a class of its own.

MATT - The rear seat area is not much different from the original G.I Jeeps that you cut your teeth on. Consequently, the back is better left to kids. They'd probably really enjoy it, because they'd get a chance to hold on to the built-in roll-over cage that protects the driver and passengers. The Wrangler has a couple of engines available but I'd pass on the 120-horse inline-four and go with the inline six that dates back 30-years, when the Jeep was a product of American Motors. At 181 horses and 222 pound/feet of torque, there won't be many off-road spots that stump the Jeep driver. ABS and a self-locking rear differential are available, and so are extra-low gear ratios. The current style windshield is three inches taller then the pre-'95 version so now the coefficient of drag is even higher at 0.55.

DAD - Matt, I don't think that a low profile or good aerodynamics are much of a selling point on the Wrangler. Much more appropriate features to capitalize on are the skid plates under the fuel tank and transfer case, which are very vulnerable if the thing is high-centered. Another advantage for off-roading is its 45-degree front approach angle and its rear departure angle of 32-degrees. Just right for crawling out of a dry-wash creek bed in Baja California. Another thing that the kids were impressed with about the Jeep Wrangler is that it looks good in their high school parking lot.

MATT - My high school days expired 16 years ago and I'm not about to go back to check out what's parked in front of the school.

BOB - Matt, I'm sure that by now the vice-principal has forgotten all about those "donuts" you were accused of spinning on the football field.

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