SEE ALSO: Jeep Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 19,155 Price As Tested $ 24,110 Engine Type OHV 12-valve 4.0 Liter I6 w/SMFI* Engine Size 242 cid/3956 cc Horsepower 190 @ 4600 RPM Torque (lb-ft) 235 @ 3200 RPM Wheelbase/Width/Length 93.4"/66.7"/155.4" Transmission Five-speed manual Curb Weight 3491 pounds Fuel Capacity 19.0 gallons Tires (F/R) P225/75R15 all terrain Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS) Drive Train Front-engine/four-wheel-drive Vehicle Type Four-passenger/two-door Domestic Content 88 percent Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) 0.55 PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 16/19/18 0-60 MPH 9.5 seconds Maximum cargo capacity 800 pounds Maximum towing capacity 2000 pounds * Sequential multi-port fuel injection
Despite the fact that most of them won't see off-road duty, the Jeep Wrangler is the quintessential dirt-flinger. Basically, it's a motor, seats and four-wheel drive. Available in base, Sport and upscale Sahara trim, with a few minor bolt-on modifications, a Wrangler off the showroom floor can easily tackle grueling mountain trails.
OUTSIDE - It's hard to imagine that even after 60 years of production, Wrangler retains the basic shape of the original. Over the years, minor details such as headlight shape, factory fender flares and snug hardtops are noticeable exterior changes. And while there are Wrangler models to fit almost any budget, the Wrangler Sport has the best mix of equipment. Its soft top can be removed without much hassle, and the windshield can be folded flat on top of the hood. This makes fair-weather off-roading more fun. And while off-road, it's nice to know that an optional full-size spare tire with matching wheel hangs from the tail gate. Our test model came with a few optional exterior items that included fog lamps, a spare tire cover and five-spoke alloy wheels with Goodyear raised white-letter tires.
INSIDE - Jeep did its buyers a great service when the company dumped the bland utilitarian instrument panel of the old model in favor of a more car-like pod with easy-to-use ventilation controls, a locking glovebox, full door panel trim with map pockets, dual airbags and modern stereo systems. Despite this commitment to conveniences, it's still possible to hose the inside clean after a romp in the mud. Jeep call its roll bar a Sport Bar, and on Wrangler Sport models, it's padded. The high-back front bucket seats aren't the most supportive seats on earth, though the cloth/vinyl upholstery has a fun checked pattern and on some models, an easy access flip-forward seat system makes it easier to climb into the tiny back seat. Standard Wrangler Sport items include an AM/FM/cassette stereo, full carpeting, tinted windshield glass, a floor console and intermittent wipers.
ON THE ROAD - Wranglers have never been fast. Its short wheelbase and high center of gravity discourage speed. The slowest Jeep is equipped with a standard 2.5-liter inline four cylinder engine. It uses a cast iron block and cylinder head, with pushrod valve train. Its 120 horsepower is OK, but pushing a 3500-pound vehicle is tough for a small engine. Fortunately there is an optional 4.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine that is much better. It too is an antiquated design but it develops 190 horses and delivers 235 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, with a three-speed automatic optional.
BEHIND THE WHEEL - If you look up "truck" in the dictionary, you'll likely find descriptive terms that fit the Jeep perfectly. Rugged would be one, since Wrangler is built atop a full ladder frame. Rough would be another, since solid axles front and rear are used. One item you wouldn't find, however are coil springs, which the company installed instead of the rough-riding leaf springs used since the beginning of the Jeep itself. This not only helped improve the on-road ride, but gave it an extra seven inches of diagonal suspension articulation, which helps off-road prowess. It's part-time four-wheel drive system is old but it's tough and reliable, and best of all, less expensive than sophisticated all-wheel drive systems. It's underside is protected by a standard skid plate, with another plate guarding the fuel tank. Front disc and rear drum brakes are used, with four-wheel anti-lock braking system optional.
SAFETY - Dual airbags and a Sport Bar are standard; ABS and a limited-slip rear differential are optional.
OPTIONS - Customer Preferred Package (high-back seats, full console, tilt steering, leather-wrapped steering wheel, extra lighting, full-size spare), $620; Alloy wheels, $575; Fog Lamps and Tow Hooks package, $180; ABS, $600; floor mats, 30; Spare tire cover, $50; Trak-Lock rear differential, $285; deep tint windows, $125, full metal doors, $125; theft deterrent system, $75, air conditioning, $895; Add-A-Trunk storage locker, $125; side steps, $75; engine block heater, $35; speed control, $250; CD stereo upgrade, $325.