With roots going all the way back to the Willys "Jeep" used during WWII, the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited is the four-door variant of one of the purest and most capable SUVs on the market today. The latest model, available in two-door and four-door Unlimited form, has been updated with a new engine and a host of interior changes that make the truck a better daily driver, though it retains the same basic design that makes it a legendary off-road vehicle.
The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited is the only four-door convertible on the market, and, unlike its two-door counterpart, it offers room for five adult passengers. Buyers can choose from a durable hard top with glass windows or a pair of soft tops with plastic windows, both of which can be removed to take full advantage of sunny days. Even the side doors can be removed with just a screwdriver.
Looking past the rugged fenders, trademark seven-bar grille and other familiar styling elements, the biggest news for the Wrangler Unlimited is the implementation of Chrysler's 3.6-liter Pentastar V6. Replacing a boat anchor of a 3.8-liter V6, the new mill offers a 40 percent increase in power, not to mention better fuel economy. Officially, the V6 is rated at 285 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 260 lb-ft. of torque at 4,800 rpm and it is designed to run on regular unleaded fuel.
The latest Wrangler also utilizes a Mercedes-Benz-designed five-speed automatic in place of a dated four-speed unit. A six-speed manual transmission is standard across the line, the first such transmission to be mated to the Pentastar engine.
Fuel economy is rated at 16/21 mpg for the manual transmission, while opting for the automatic means sacrificing one mpg on the highway. Towing capacity is a middling 3,500 lbs.
Other recent changes include an interior that is far more hospitable than that of the outgoing model. A more upscale dashboard design retains much of the outgoing model's basic layout - a high-mounted radio, centrally-located window controls and rotary climate control knobs - but uses much richer materials. The interior is still designed to withstand abuse, and can even be hosed out on models with cloth seats, but is more inviting than before. Cargo space is a useful 46.4 cubic feet behind the rear seats, or 82 cubic feet with the rear seats folded.
New for the latest model year are redesigned seats that Jeep says are comfortable for long road trips while also offering more support for off-roading situations.
What makes a Jeep, a Jeep
The suspension for the Wrangler is a five-link coil setup with tuned shock absorbers. This setup works with Dana 30 front and next-generation heavy-duty Dana 44 rear axles. The Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon model uses heavy-duty front and rear Dana 44 axles and also features an electronic-disconnecting front stabilizer bar - called the active sway bar system - which delivers additional wheel travel for challenging terrain.
With high ground clearance combined with short front and rear overhangs, the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited has the ability to conquer incredibly challenging off-road obstacles, especially severe inclines. Off-road enthusiasts will appreciate the key numbers: for the Rubicon model, an approach angle of 44.3 degrees, breakover angle of 25.4 degrees and departure angle of 40.4 degrees.
Underbody protection is provided by three skid plates, which protect the fuel tank, transfer case and automatic transmission oil pan.
The latest Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport and Sahara models are also equipped with the second-generation Command-Trac NV241 part-time, two-speed transfer case with a 2.72:1 low-range gear ratio.
An available Trac-Lok limited-slip rear differential provides extra torque and grip during slippery, low-traction situations, such as driving over sand, gravel, snow or ice.
The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon model is equipped with an Off-Road Rock-Trac NV241 two-speed transfer case with a 4.0:1 low-range gear ratio, as well as electric front- and rear-axle lockers, an electronic sway bar disconnect and 32-inch BF Goodrich off-road tires.
Sport and Sahara models now include a standard 3.21 rear axle ratio, while off road-oriented Rubicons can be optioned with either a 3.73 or 4.10, both of which improve upon the outgoing 4.10′s crawl ratio thanks to the new automatic's lower first gear ratio.
Trim level breakdown
The Wrangler Unlimited comes in four separate trim levels: Sport, Sport S, Sahara and Rubicon.
The base-level Sport model comes equipped with cruise control, an iPod-jack for the stereo system, 16-inch painted wheels, and steering wheel-mounted audio controls.
The Sport S adds A/C, power windows and locks, 17-inch sparkle painted wheels, remote keyless entry, power heated mirrors and leather trim on the steering wheel and gear shifter. The Sport S is also available in a right-hand-drive configuration targeted at rural postal services with a standard automatic transmission and hard-top.
The Sahara brings 18-inch satin silver painted wheels, body-color fender flares, tubular side steps, gas charged shocks, automatic headlamps, a seven-speaker, 368-watt Infinity sound system and a 115-volt auxiliary power outlet.
The top-spec Rubicon adds Tru-Lok front and rear locking differentials, a Rock-Trak heavy-duty transfer case, an Electronic Front Sway Bar Disconnect system, rock rails and 32-inch BFGoodrich Mud Terrain Tires.
Jeep recently added a new "premium" soft top option - it's built from upscale materials and is said to be easier to clean than the standard top. Also new to the options list is a premium Alpine Stereo system.
New for the latest model year is the limited-edition Altitude package. With the Sahara model as a starting point, the package adds a body-color hardtop with matching painted center sections on the front and rear bumpers. From there, things take a stygian turn with a black Mopar fuel fill door, a matte black grille badge and a black tone-on-tone hood sticker. Unique 18-inch, five-spoke alloy wheels with black-painted spokes and polished wheel rings round out the changes to the exterior.
The cabin receives black vent rings, steering-wheel spokes, door pulls, passenger-side dashboard grab handle and berber floor mats, while contrasting red stitching provides a dash of color.
Another addition to the Wrangler range comes in the form of the Moab special-edition model. With the Sahara as a base, the off-road-focused Moab adds 17-inch Rubicon alloy wheels painted gloss black wrapped in 245/75R17 Goodyear Silent Armor off-road tires and a Trak-Lok anti-spin rear differential with electronic locking capability.
Exterior changes include a Mopar power dome hood, premium rock rails, black fuel filler door and tail lamp guards with matching black front and rear off-road bumpers. Other touches include the new premium soft top, black wheel arches, a matte black Jeep grille badge and "Moab" decals on the hood.
The interior is dressed up with black or saddle premium leather seats with black stitching, Iron Grey trim and "Moab" badging.
Rubicon 10th Anniversary Edition
To celebrate the 10th birthday of the rugged Rubicon model, Jeep has conjured up a new special edition loaded with off road goodies.
The 10th Anniversary sits about half an inch higher than a standard Rubicon thanks to a modestly raised suspension. Front and rear all-steel bumpers provide some additional protection off road and the front bumper has been designed to accommodate an optional winch. For additional off road protection, the 10th Anniversary includes rocker-protecting rock rails.
Stylistically, the model adds a power dome hood with functional vents, plus a number of red touches like painted tow hooks and decals. White, silver and a 10th Anniversary-exclusive "Anvil" paint scheme are available, as are a choice of soft or hard tops. Inside, the package includes embroidered red leather seats, Mopar slush mats and 10th Anniversary badging, plus special switches for the Rubicon-exclusive locking differentials and disconnecting swaybars.
The 10th Anniversary package is available with both six-speed manual and five-speed automatic transmissions.
The Wrangler Unlimited features dual front and side airbags to supplement a sturdy body-on-frame construction and crumple zones that absorb energy from a crash.
As an off-road focused four-door convertible, the Wrangler Unlimited is really in a class by itself. However, it could conceivably be cross-shopped against the Toyota 4Runner, Toyota FJ Cruiser and Nissan Xterra.