With roots going all the way back to the Willys "Jeep" used during WWII, the iconic Jeep Wrangler is one of the purest and most capable SUVs on the market today. The latest model, available in two-door and four-door Unlimited versions, has been updated in recent years with a muscular V6 and a host of interior changes that make the truck a better daily driver.
For the latest model year, the Wrangler gains new Freedom III and Rubicon X special-edition models.
Looking past the rugged fenders, trademark seven-bar grille and other familiar styling elements, the biggest recent news for the Wrangler is the implementation of Chrysler's 3.6-liter Pentastar V6. Replacing a boat anchor of a 3.8-liter V6, the 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 is designed to run on regular unleaded fuel.
The latest Wrangler also utilizes a Mercedes-Benz-designed five-speed automatic in place of the old 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 17/21 mpg regardless of transmission for the two-door Wrangler. Trailer towing is capped at 2,000 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 an ample 17.1 cubic feet behind the rear seats, or 61.2 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. .
A central component of the Wrangler's appeal is the open air-motoring experience it provides; buyers can choose from a durable three-piece hard top with glass windows or a soft top with plastic windows, both of which can be removed to take advantage of sunny days. Even the side doors can be removed with just a screwdriver.
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.
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 Rubicon model uses heavy-duty front and rear Dana 44 axles.
Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 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 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 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 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 4.10â²s crawl ratio thanks to the new automatic's lower first gear ratio.
Trim Level Breakdown
The Wrangler 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 that comes equipped 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.
An Alpine stereo system is a new addition to the options list for the latest model year.
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.
Freedom Edition III
The Freedom Edition III builds on the existing Sport S model with 17-inch alloy wheels, gray paint on the grille and the bumper inserts, body-colored wheel arches, "Oscar Mike" badges on the fenders and edition-specific decals all around. Rock rails that protect the rocker panels, a Mopar fuel filler cap and a Sunrider soft top with a tinted rear window finish off the look. Inside, the Freedom III features French Silver accent stitching on the steering wheel, tectonic fabric on the seats, Satin Chrome spokes on the steering wheel and Mopar heavy-duty floor mats.
Billed as the most capable Wrangler currently available, the new limited-edition Rubicon X offers electronic-locking front and rear Dana 44 axles and a Rock-Trac transfer case, Tru-Lok locking differentials, and a six-speed manual transmission. Visually, the X stands out from the regular Rubicon with bespoke rims, off-road bumpers, model-specific badging, a Power Dome Hood and a Premium Sunrider soft top. Inside, the Wrangler Rubicon X boasts a unique gauge cluster and an Electronic Vehicle Information System that provides the driver with vital information about the vehicle and its surroundings.
The Wrangler features dual front and side airbags to supplement a sturdy body-on-frame construction and crumple zones that absorb energy from a crash.
As a two-door, removable roof SUV with unparallelled off-road chops, the Wrangler is essentially in a class of one. However, off-road-focused SUVs that could conceivably be cross-shopped against the Wrangler include the Toyota FJ Cruiser and the Nissan Xterra.