By on December 28, 2006

uphill1.jpgWe’re sitting in Jeep’s newest Wrangler pointed up a steep hill. Freak December rain has turned the ground into goopy glop. The transmission is in 4-Low, both axles are locked and the front sway-bar has been disconnected. A light tap of the gas slowly but oh-so-steadily begins to motivate our Trail Rated off-roader up the treacherous path. And then… we’re at the top. Huh? Too easy. We circle back down, turn off the lockers, reattach the sway-bar and put the Jeep into two-wheel drive. A moment later we are once again atop the hill. I’m saying it right here: the Wrangler Rubicon is the most capable vehicle ever badged a Jeep.

Like the venerable Porsche 911, each new gen Wrangler is an evolution of an ideal automotive form. Even the lay-person understands that the “new” Wrangler is a direct descendant of the military transport Americans have loved since Patton was slapping soldiers. Also like Germany’s ass-engined coupe, each successive Wrangler is getting better and better looking, without compromising tradition.

morewater1.jpgThe Wrangler’s doors and tailgate are still simple slabs of metal held in place by exposed hinges. The rest of the body panels are still excuses upon which to hang over-sized fenders. Only the seven slot grill has changed in any appreciable way; it’s raked slightly backwards to lower the drag coefficient from school house to church. The new Wrangler’s design continues to be a triumph of function dictating form. It’s a much-needed, much-appreciated distillation of Jeep brand DNA.

The Jeep’s interior is surprisingly comfortable, cozy even. While hardcore mud pluggers will condemn this 4X4’s newfound civility as a brand-betrayal, who wants to sit on cheap patio furniture while resting their elbow on cold tin? Anyway, the radio head unit is straight out of the horrifying Sebring, though it actually works in this lower-rent application. The door pulls, window/door switches and column stalks are all appropriately bulky and solid.

jp007_088wr.jpgFor the first time, the Wrangler’s windows and locks are electric. And yet you can still pull the doors off. The windshield still folds down, too. Even cooler, you can unfasten the T-top panels from the driver’s seat and simply chuck them in the back. However… while we didn’t wrestle with the Wrangler’s soft-top, a brief flip through the owner’s manual revealed a picture of a rubber mallet. Uh-oh.

Jeeps of old were road-going torture chambers; inflicting psychological damage on their drivers with ungodly amounts of noise, vibration and harshness. The 2007 update is quiet (enough), sort of soft riding and about as harsh as a Fisher Price product. Granted, getting the Rubicon to go much faster than 70mph is a waste of time and gas (count on 16.5mpg). But like Jeeps of old, driving this relic delivers an elemental exhilaration which no other vehicles can provide. I’m frankly shocked at how much fun the Wrangler is to wrangle around town. Despite the high chair seating arrangement, you are essentially hooning about in one of the shortest wheel-based rear-drivers on the market, complete with tail-out powerslides.

tilty.jpgOf course, this little Jeep is defined by what it can do when the blacktop ends and the rock hopping begins. A friend and I took the Wrangler to the Azusa Canyon OHV park and beat it mercilessly over 150 acres of dirt, mud, fallen trees, sand, rocks and streams. Due to it’s proximity to Hollywood (and the camera equipment found therein), many of the SUV commercials you TIVO past are filmed at this park. No poseurs need apply; you’re forced to ford a foot-deep stream right at the entrance. Nothing we found– save for one 45-degree soggy sand dune– slowed the Jeep down.

Every other vehicle in the park was customized to some degree. Over-sized tires, lifts, trick suspension and so on. Our Wrangler was bone stock. Yet we were able to traverse obstacles that the other vehicles couldn’t surmount. The Wrangler’s modern, technology laden suspension (i.e. greater wheel-articulation) was like a laptop amongst abacuses. The most shocking discrepancy: a jacked-up, diamond plated CJ could simply not get traction on a hill that we had easily ascended. The elder Jeep only spun its tire. The owner climbed down, lit a cigarette and told me he had a four-door Wrangler on order. As he should. This new Wrangler is simply peerless (for the price) in the rough. 

rubicon1.jpgLike a leaky British roadster, a BMW 3-series, a 911 and (hopefully) a bright red Ferrari, the Jeep Wrangler is more than an automotive icon. It’s a stepping stone along the path to pistonhead nirvana. A rite of passage, if you will. The new Wrangler in Rubicon trim is more civilized on-road and better than ever off. Sure there are faster, more economical and more practical SUVs for sale today, but they all share a common flaw – I don’t want one.

[Jeep provided the vehicle, insurance and a tank of gas.] 

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63 Comments on “Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Review...”


  • avatar
    210delray

    So this is how you get to be the first to comment — post at 8 am (Eastern time).

    This has to be one of the most (if not the most) positive reviews of a vehicle at TTAC. Impressive!

  • avatar
    ash78

    JL, same here–Wrangler is the ONLY suv I would ever consider owning, and I’m seriously considering turning away from my long-held sports sedan hankerings in favor of it. Stick a little trailer behind it and you even have pick-up utility when you need it. So is it still true to the idea of relative mechanical/electrical simplicity (barring the minor power upgrades)? I don’t want another car I have to baby, so another VW is out of the question for me next time.

    Make mine 4-door with the 3.2 Bluetec, please.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    TTAC should sponsor a contest to suggest nicknames for the tweeters.

  • avatar
    ash78

    Kodos and Kang!

    (Honorable mention: “Ookin pa nubs”)

  • avatar
    NN

    Fantastic review, Jonny.

  • avatar

    I agree with 210delray. This is the most positive review I’ve read here. And I couldn’t agree with the review more. I drove a 4 door as soon as my local dealership got one and I had the chance to take it on a trail that was nearby. The thing performed flawlessly. It will be the SUV to replace my Liberty when the time comes. And hopefully when that time comes, DCX gets smart and offers it with the diesel…ahem, I mean Bluetec and a six speed manual.

    Jeeps….gotta love them.

  • avatar
    oboylepr

    A real SUV…all others are just pretenders except perhaps the H1 and Range Rover!

  • avatar
    ejacobs

    If these Wranglers could talk, they would understandably deny any relation to the (gag) Compass.

  • avatar

    BTW: JL is in The Land of Hope and Glory at the moment (UK). I’m sure he’ll log in ASAP.

  • avatar
    Luther

    Sure there are faster, more economical and more practical SUVs for sale today, but they all share a common flaw – I don’t want one.

    Agreed. How is the new V6 engine? Smooth? Torquey? Free-revving ?
    I heard they could not get the old I6 engines to pass 2007 emissions.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    Nice review! I have always liked these cars, even in the bad old days, but i never owned one, prefering more sporty cars, with at least some lockable luggage space. But there has always been a soft spot for this one. They are getting closer to getting me, tho. Paying attention to comfort, for instance. HOWEVER – 16.5 mpg is SCARY – perhaps a nice diesel . I also dont spend alot of time off road – maybe if i had one that would change.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Nice review. I do harbor a secret desire for a 4WD vehicle and this review practically has me drooling for a Jeep.

    But, some months ago, William Montgomery had a lot of nice things to say about the FJ Cruiser, which practically had me drooling for the FJ. I’d be curious to see side-by-side impressions of the two vehicles.

    One difference is notable from the specs; the Jeep turning radius is 6 to 7 feet smaller than the FJ’s. I’d expect a smaller turning radius to be important on the trail (or when trying to park it at the mall, as will more usually be the case).

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    Nice review, JL.

    As far as the shortest WB rear driver comment goes, the Rubicon is still beat out by the Miata, and in the same realm as the Solstice/Sky/S2000.

    BTW…what is a “kindler” interior? Is there some kindling involved? ;-)

  • avatar
    BimmerHead

    I drove a 4 door 2wd version at a local dealership…

    I thought the on-road experience was very car like, especially for a jeep.

    The V-6 was definately quiet, but did not feel very powerful… Not underpowered, but just adequate. Bigger tires would likely not be a good idea in combonation with the weight of a 4 door (and 4 wheel drive).

    My biggest complaint was the lowered roof hieght. I guess this allows them to have smaller windows and a more agressive look, but I would not want to be in the back seat off road… I’m almost sure I would be knocking my head on the roll bar. Also, I have not seen any half doors for the new Jeep… it would be a shame if they got rid of that concept.

    Overall, I’m sure that the new Wrangler will broaden the appeal to new audiences and be a sales success. I believe it offers a lot of style, comfort and utility for the money.

  • avatar
    blautens

    I’ve heard other hard core Jeep fans (like my friend with 3 older ones, one a strict rock crawler) like everything about the new Jeep except the new V6, which they claim has poor torque characteristics for true slow going off roading…

    Any input?

  • avatar
    BimmerHead

    I didn’t sound like JL had any issues with the torque characteristics… but it definately doesn’t feel as powerful as the old I6.

  • avatar

    As others have said, the 3.8 deserved a little criticism. Otherwise I also found the new Wrangler a surprisingly attractive vehicle. I care nothing for SUVs, but part of me wants the new four-door. Why did it take them so long?

    My site’s about to start collecting reliability data on the new Jeep, with the first results around the end of May. Also collecting fuel economy data. Page for the Wrangler:

    http://www.truedelta.com/models/Wrangler.php

  • avatar
    miked

    It sounds like JL understands the “Jeep Thing”. I still prefer the venerable old CJ to the Wrangler, every update cycle they get fancier (more stuff to break) and more expensive. I miss the good old days of an optional AM radio and optional heater and defroster (which still didn’t work).

  • avatar
    abu-hana

    “…the Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon is the most capable vehicle ever badged a Jeep.”

    Yeah, but for how long? Don’t these things just fall apart within a couple of years? Wranglers may be iconic and utilitarian (and I love them for that), but isn’t that irrelevant if they disintegrate before they’re paid off?

    For the past couple of years, I’ve worked in environments where the SUVs are all painted white and, while we rarely go off-road, we’re often forced to deal with road conditions that are nearly as bad. How many Wranglers have I seen? Zero. Lots of Defenders, Discos, G-Wagens, Landcruisers, 4-Runners, even Pajeros. Even when Americans buy their own vehicles for these environments they don’t buy Jeeps. They go GM. So what does that tell you about these cars that you never see them outside a recreational off-road environment?

  • avatar
    Brendan McAleer

    But, some months ago, William Montgomery had a lot of nice things to say about the FJ Cruiser, which practically had me drooling for the FJ. I’d be curious to see side-by-side impressions of the two vehicles.

    Why would you even consider buying an FJ over a Jeep or Xterra? Unless you want a “cute” car, the Xterra’s a lot nicer on the road, and the Jeep’s better off the road. The FJ wanders around on the highway, has mini-hummer visibility, and puts you in the company of fashionista owners.

  • avatar
    ash78

    abu-hana

    Where (geographically) are you talking about?

    I see 10 times as many Wranglers on the ROAD than all of those other vehicles combined, whether I’m in Florida, here in Alabama, or out West. And in the UK, apart from the LR Freelander, it is the most common 4×4 I’ve seen over there.

  • avatar
    BimmerHead

    I’d question that durability comment as well. Not that it speaks to the new ones, but I bought a used 94 wrangler that I would bet had factory fluids and spark-plugs when I got it earlier this year. The thing is bullet proof.

    Regarding the FJ/Jeep comparison… the roof on the FJ is fixed (as in stationary), that alone makes the Wrangler the hands down winner in my mind.

    Off roading is fun, but the primary reason I bought my wrangler is that it is a stylish convertible with room for my family. That being said, I would never own one as a primary vehicle (at least not a soft top – takes way too long to put it up or take it down… which I do once each per year on mine).

  • avatar
    miked

    ash78: I think what abu-hana is talking about are the two extremes of off roading:

    On one hand, if you’re a war lord and need to go where there are no roads, you buy a Landcruiser, mount a .50 Cal machine gun on the roof and you’re unstoppable. Great for the Desert, Jungle, or Outback where there is lots of space to maneuver

    On the other hand, you have tight turns and rocks the size of your car. In this case you’ll want the small light Jeep to get around. It may not be as durable as a Landcrusier, but when there are no roads and the terrain is bad the Jeep will climb its way around.

  • avatar
    abu-hana

    ash78:

    “where the SUVs are all painted white” was my oblique (and probably unclear) way of saying “places where the UN and friends have a large presence.” Specifically, in my experience over the past few years, Kosovo (and much of the rest of the Balkans), Iraq, DR Congo, and a handful of other countries. All places that require reliable and utilitarian 4×4 vehicles, which the Wrangler purports to be, but where I have never seen a single one, whether owned by an individual or an institution. That says to me that the Wrangler is all image and no substance.

    And, for the record, they can be purchased for international post-conflict use through companies like Bukkehave. They just aren’t.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    KixStart: But, some months ago, William Montgomery had a lot of nice things to say about the FJ Cruiser, which practically had me drooling for the FJ. I’d be curious to see side-by-side impressions of the two vehicles.

    I also did a road test review of the ’07 Wrangler Unlimited. Yesterday I spent an hour interviewing Jeep’s local Internet/Fleet associate in the back seat of the Unlimited. He wanted to prove to me that the back seat was not as torturous as I had indicated im my review. He was right. The bench seat is somewhat more habitable than I gave it credit, although I did notice that my considerable forehead was perilously closer to the roll bar-mounted speaker than I previously noticed. Despite Jeep’s interior improvements, the inside of the FJ Cruiser is a far superior place to spend time. A plus for most of us that value comfort, ergonomics and convenience – A minus for the few hardcore drivers that expect to flood the interior during river fording or who want to be able to hose out the interior after a particularly good day playing in the mud. The worst that can be said about the inside of the FJ is that it is more difficult to see out.

    Unfortunately, I have not had the pleasure of wheelin’ off-road with a new Wrangler (and I am greatly envious of JL for having done so). As such, I hesitate to characterize the Rubicon’s off-road prowess despite the positive reviews I have read. The FJ is exceptional off-road. The Jeep is probably better. Maybe I’ll have to arrange a real head-to-head competition.

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    I’m mostly with miked on this one–
    I don’t like lots of features either. Not necessarily because I think they’ll break, but because I don’t want to pay for them. I don’t know what kind of incentives are put on Wranglers, but these Rubicons sticker dangerously close to $30,000. For that kind of money, mine would never see dirt. Give me a $2,000 CJ for rocks and dirt.

  • avatar
    Claude Dickson

    TTAC does publish glowing reviews. Most recently, I recall several: the 335i and the RS4. But they are rare (as they should be) and are generally reserved for cars that set the standards in their class (which is also as it should be).

    This Jeep really has it relatively easy: the car basically has to live up to its off road heritage and look cool in the process. No one cares how well this car coddles its passengers, how good the gas mileage is, or how well it handles. Easier to get a glowing review when the car is relatively one-dimensional.

  • avatar
    Eric Miller

    Specifically, in my experience over the past few years, Kosovo (and much of the rest of the Balkans), Iraq, DR Congo, and a handful of other countries. All places that require reliable and utilitarian 4×4 vehicles, which the Wrangler purports to be, but where I have never seen a single one, whether owned by an individual or an institution. That says to me that the Wrangler is all image and no substance.

    I may be misinformed about third-world markets, but could it be that there are few places in those regions to buy Jeeps, and/or Jeep parts, or people who know how to work on them. I can’t think of anywhere a Land Rover, Land Cruiser, or Pajero could traverse where a Wrangler couldn’t.

  • avatar
    ash78

    abu-hana
    Thanks for the clarity–I figured that was a UN reference, I just read it too quickly.

    Apart from whatever special contracts those manufacturers offer the UN folks, I think part of it has to do with the traditional lack of platform size and versatility with the Wrangler. Who’s to say that won’t change if DCX offers alternate configurations based on the new 4-door layout? That would definitely be interesting, and a phenomenal indirect marketing outlet.

  • avatar
    BimmerHead

    NickNick -
    Not sure where you live, but around here, $2000 might get you a pile of jeep parts… For anything actually running, you are looking at over $4000, and for anything that you might actually consider leaving cell phone coverage in, you are probably looking at $5-6K. One thing wranglers (and Cjs) do very well (again, at least around here) is hold their value.

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    BimmerHead–
    Where I live, cost of living/used vehicles (including all 4x4s) is low. Unfortunately, the wages reflect that…

    For example, 7 miles from my job 1.5 acres, 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, and an inground pool…$90,000.

    The unfortunate thing is that new car prices are pretty much the same from market to market. I understand that in CA a Honda Fit will go for a few grand over sticker, but for the most part a 3 series BMW costs the same for me as it does to a six-figure guy living in or near the city.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Greetings from Barcelona!

    Ahem, and I apologize in advance for the Euro-keyboard (ÇÇÇ), let me clear up a few things.

    This particular Wrangler Rubicon stickered at $31,110. I believe that is every single option checked.

    Those of you who claim to prefer an old CJ are reactionaries, AND you can wave to the people driving the new Wranglers from the botom of trails, because they will be able to get up over things you will not. Simple off-road physics.

    If you look at the second to the last photo, that´s me coming down a trail that the jacked-up Jeep in the very last photo could not climb up.

    I believe this engine is technically more torquey than the outgoing I6. However, the old Jeep 4.0L is one of my very favorite engines, so yeah, screw the new engine, which did have a little trouble creeping up hills in 4-Low. We had to get a running start once or twice. Not good on rocks, lots of fun in mud.

    As far as the UN goes… look.. there is no vehicle on earth (except Unimogs, Humvees and Porsche Cayennes) as capable as this Jeep on bad roads. Wranglers just don´t haul very much.

  • avatar
    ash78

    NICKNICK,
    For the most part, that’s right…but certain vehicles definitely command different prices by region. The only reason an arbitrage market isn’t totally profitable is because (using that example) for a Californian to arrange the transfer of a Fit from another state would involve such time, cost, and hassle, that it’s just not worth it to the majority of buyers.

    In other words, the CA dealers will charge as much as they can for the Fit so that they don’t lose any business to undercutters in outlying areas and/or neighboring states.

    When I sold used cars, Wranglers were THE hardest mass market car to hang onto. It seemed like no matter the age or condition, they “bottomed out” at about $5k because of the dearth of sellers. Even the venerable Accords and Camrys couldn’t even come close to that kind of value retention.

  • avatar
    jjdaddyo

    I’ve been meaning to ask- what’s with Lieberman reviews appearing in slightly different forms on TTAC and Jalopnik?

    Isn’t this badge-engineered content?

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    I like both the Jalopnik and TTAC reviews. I miss the summary that used to be at the end of the TTAC reviews that had the one-phrase summary and gave 1 to 5 stars for acceleration, handling, desirability, etc.

  • avatar
    tom

    JL:

    Did you ever drive the G-Wagon off road? I haven’t but I’ve heard that there is still nothing that comes close to the G’s old school mechanical layout. I would like to know how the G does compared to the Wrangler…

    Anyway, great review. I have to say that this sounds as if it were one hell of a ride. Truly America’s sports car…

  • avatar
    linnta08

    On my way through Michigan this week I spotted one of these on the road with a CRD badge on the back of it.

    I, too, may have to rethink my sport sedan tendencies.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Brendan McAleer asked, “Why would you even consider buying an FJ over a Jeep or Xterra?”

    The FJ is probably more comfortable on the highway (a few days off road in the mountains is preceded by a 12 hour trip to the mountains and followed by a 12 hour trip from the mountains), has a larger payload and 2.5 times the trailering capacity.

  • avatar
    miked

    JL: I wouldn’t discount the CJ just because of what you saw on the trail. Next to driver ability, the biggest factor in what you can do off road are the tires. If I remember correctly, the Rubicon comes with Goodyear MT/R’s which are generally regarded as one of the best off road tires out there. The CJ you saw having problems most likely had bad tires for the terrain and/or open differentials of some kind or a bad driver. You’d be surprised what my stock ’75 CJ-5 could do.

    To the guys talking about lack of a torquey engine: Really it doesn’t matter. When you put it in 4-lo, you’ll have all the torque you need. In the Jeeps the 4-lo is a 4.7:1 ratio, so you’ll have all the torque you’d ever need off road. I know that even with the 2.2:1 4-lo that i have in my 4runner, I can still easily snap an axle with the tiny 4cyl (100hp 2.4L).

  • avatar
    WaaaaHoooo

    I will refuse till the end of my days to believe a Land Rover is more reliable than a Jeep. My bet is the UN, like any agency, buys what it buys for political reasons more than practical.

  • avatar
    cheezeweggie

    Nice review. See what a “domestic” company can achieve when they make an effort.

  • avatar
    Brendan McAleer

    The FJ is probably more comfortable on the highway (a few days off road in the mountains is preceded by a 12 hour trip to the mountains and followed by a 12 hour trip from the mountains), has a larger payload and 2.5 times the trailering capacity.

    Than the Jeep, but NOT the Xterra. If you want offroad supremacy, buy the Jeep. If you want a vehicle that can do both, buy the Xterra. If you want something to go with your North Face puffy vest, buy the FJ.

  • avatar
    webebob

    My dream is a 71 Jeepster Commando, preserved as new from 71 in a Nitrogen-filled garage, but real almost-2007 hit and find Chrysler, JEEP, and MB all in bed together, for going on eight years now, but without bestowing JEEP with a live-forever MB engine, tranny, and Gelandwagen attributes.

    Comes a time when the 3/36 wingman peels off from your six and there is just you and your machine facing the unknown alone. Single purpose, focused-Toyota or tower of Bable-Jeep? hmn. wasn’t a tough decision.

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    The Mercedes-Benz G-500 might indeed be able to best the new Rubicon. I drove the former at an off-road facility adjacent to Viriginia International Raceway in October 2001, when Mercedes decided it didn’t want to lose profits to grey-marketeers anymore. The G-500′s three locking differentials got me, and a passenger from M-B, up an incline that was about 35 degrees at the top (my guess). However – and this is a BIG however – the cost of the G-500 is about $100,000! You can buy – what? – about five Rubicons for that. And as Jonny seems to have documented pretty well, this latest example of the Jeep heritage will do fine for most off-roading. I had to squirm earlier this year when I saw a woman, dressed to the proverbial nines, pausing to gas up her G-wagon on a jaunt through the city (of Seattle). Sad to say it, but that machine, with genuine military heritage, will in fact be driven mainly on such missions. There might be some skiers in Aspen who get their money’s worth. But for most people, it’s just 5,500 pounds of automotive jewelry.

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    “If you want a vehicle that can do both, buy the Xterra. If you want something to go with your North Face puffy vest, buy the FJ.”

    sounds like you think the FJ is a fashion statement…but how about that blister on the hatch of the Xterra for the first aid kit? that’s totally necessary, right?

    I like the FJ because toyota decided to do something different. Put a funky body on a competent chassis and make it cheap. As a car guy, I used to be amazed at how bank robbery witnesses could only get enough detail to say “dark, late-model sedan.” With all the badge engineering and blatant design ripoffs, I can now see where they’re coming from. There is no mistaking an FJ for anything else–good or bad, at least it’s *something*. I’m too conservative to buy one myself, but I appreciate what they’re doing.

  • avatar
    ash78

    I also like the FJ, and the TTAC and Jalop writeups seem to support its non-poseur capabilities. That’s another vehicle I would gladly buy if and when Toyota brings their diesel here. I don’t see that thing as any more of a fashion accessory than many of the Wranglers I see around town. And the Xterra is one of those standard-issue sorority chick vehicles, since we’re talking stereotypes here ;)

    My only gripe about the Wrangler is the limited towing capacity, since I would want to be able to tow a midsize travel trailer in a few years. 3,500# is only a small, lightweight TT for 2-3 people in cramped conditions.

  • avatar
    Jim H

    After reading this review, I’d like to know what you’ve done with the real Jonny Liebermann! :)

    Great review…Jeep definately did the Rubicon right. Very high markups in Colo Springs, and great resale value here. Not my cup of tea, but very nice vehicle.

  • avatar
    mike frederick

    Hey NICKNICK, you seem to be an FJ fan.What makes it better than an H3??Just curious.

    I’ve driven the FJ and personally found it lacking in handling compared to the H3′s.There was no off-roading so I cant draw a conclusion there,but the H3 is capable in snow.Dont know about the mud & rocks though.

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    mike frederick–
    you got me…i have no first-hand rational basis for preferring the FJ to the H3 (or even over the Xterra).
    I wanted an Xterra for a while, but I think it was just nostalgia because my first vechicle was a Nissan truck. That FirstAid blister on the hatch has bothered me from day one, though.

    As for the FJ vs. the H3, I guess I just believe that Toyota > GM.
    I am one of the “never again” GM guys–three transmissions in 80,000 miles and a 3.3% retained value after 12 years. My brother and I each drive older 4Runners. Between our two vehicles, we’re closing in on a half million miles with no major trouble. Based on those things alone, I pick the FJ over the H3. Newer GM products may be far superior to old ones, but I doubt I’ll ever find out. Not quite as good as the Wrangler, my 4Runner has over 10% retained value after 17 years.

    Many say that Toyotas aren’t what they used to be, what with their recall crisis and all. Numbers alone aren’t enough for me. What about GM redefining alignment specs on the S-10s and Blazers so that they wouldn’t have to perform warranty work or do a recall? They may have lower recall numbers than Toyota, but that might just mean that Toyota will not tolerate less than greatness while GM happily sweeps trouble under the rug and through the loophole. I’ll totally admit that I’m biased, though, so take that for what it’s worth. I understand that all cars (toyotas included) can have defects, but my uncle was a GM mechanic, so I’ve heard some stories.

    I hate the visibility in my 4Runner, so I can only imagine what the FJ is like.

    If Ford would bring out the Bronco concept, I might be able to ignore some of the best advice I ever got: “Fords are not known for not catching on fire.” That bronco is *neat*

  • avatar

    I had to laugh at the Jeepster Commando reference. I had one as my first car. A flaming POS. No fond memories of that pea green turd.

    Forgetting how horrid that was, I later succumbed to temptation and bought a CJ-5 as a result of fond memories of my father’s (perpetually broken) Willys. It made the Commando look reliable, while systematically beating me to death every time I drove it.

    Many years later I rented a 1st gen, leaf sprung Wrangler while in Colorado. I couldn’t believe how nice of a driving experience it was. Something beyond tolerable, which was a real shock. A few years later, drove a friend’s coil sprung second gen Wrangler and pronounced it the perfect Jeep. Drove like a car, performed like a Jeep, and looked about perfect. That DCX continues to improve this product is a wonderful thing. As horrid as old Jeeps are, they are an American icon, and I wish only continued success for the Wrangler. Though far too expensive in my view for what you get, I’d consider a used one with few reservations.

  • avatar
    robert_h

    Aftermarket support is where Jeeps really shine. Wrangler owners will be able to purchase virtually any imaginable off-roading accessory for their vehicles- and they’ll probably be able to choose from multiple vendors. For off-road hobbyists who see “stock” as a starting point, this is a big deal. A stock Rubicon is extremely capable: add a suspension lift and bigger tires, and it’s that much better.

    Wranglers have a good reputation for reliability; they’ve always been simple vehicles using well-proven components. This is not universally true of Jeep vehicles, and Grand Cherokees have been particularly problematic. Hopefully the new V-6 will prove to be as durable as the old-but-good I-6.

    To its credit, Toyota has worked with aftermarket vendors to assure that products are available for the FJ cruiser- but I don’t see this market being anywhere near as large and diverse as for the new Wrangler. The poor rear visibility of the FJ seems like a real pain, on-road or off, but in most respects it is a well-executed vehicle.

    I’ve seen H1′s on the trail, but never an H2 or H3. This is merely an observation….

  • avatar
    ChartreuseGoose

    All places that require reliable and utilitarian 4×4 vehicles, which the Wrangler purports to be, but where I have never seen a single one, whether owned by an individual or an institution. That says to me that the Wrangler is all image and no substance.

    Really now? What it says to me is that a two-door, short wheelbase vehicle with little cargo room isn’t particularly useful for hauling large teams of peacekeepers and the like. Think about what they’re using them for, and what the characteristics of the Wrangler are. You almost never see flip-flops on the feet of mountaineers; does this mean that flip-flops are worthless shoes with no purpose? No, it just means that because of their inherent characteristics they’re not useful to some small segment of the shoe-owning population.

    The Wrangler’s nothing but substance. It is, however, a very specialized vehicle that fits into a very specialized niche. UN types need large, roomy four-door vehicles with lots of cargo room, a diesel, and possibly body armor. The Wrangler simply doesn’t have those characteristics – though the new Unlimited will.

  • avatar
    EJ

    How about taking a motorcycle to go off-roading?
    It has about the same amount of cargo space as a Wrangler….

  • avatar
    Scottie

    “The transmission is in 4-Low”

    not to be picky, but there is something amiss about this statement.

    Is it just me or has the wrangler become huge over the last couple of years. Its twice as heavy (i think) as an old flat fender and i am almost wondering if the LWB 4-door model is actually worth a damn off-road without a lift.

  • avatar
    Scottie

    btw, a foot of water isn’t what one call fording.

    think multiple feet.

  • avatar

    Scottie,

    Yup, anything that shallow should be referred to as Mercurying.

  • avatar
    coadydepeche101

    dont believe everything you read. I have driven many rubicons, auto and 5 and 6 speed. they are undeniably the most capable off road vehicles. To anyone who believes that jeeps dont last long.. how many do you see in junk yards? count them on your way to the newsstand tomorrow. they are everywhere. solid axles. good engine. good t-case and tranny. cant be compared to. fj’s. last long, sure they are toyotas.. but a crv would probably fit the use of what people buy these things for.. bottom line.. if you havnt driven one off road, you CANNOT appreciate what they can do that no other can. abuse them, they seem to love it. break something? not hardly, not on a rubicon. everyone uses there autos differently, and noone should knock people for buying these and driving them on the road, hummers do it. its ok.. if you have the money, you can do what you want.. id take a lambroghini off road if i could afford it. well.. you get my point.

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    Jeep Rubicons are in a class of one: insane, crap-your-pants scary ridiculously-competent off road. If you have the nerve, they will go where you point them. I have ridden and driven and off-roaded in all manner of vehicles, and nothing else is even CLOSE!

    In fact, so-called the so-called “competent” off-road capable competition (FJs and Xterra) are nothing but stupid, overwrought Poser-mobiles by comparison. And lesser SUVs …… okay as long as you stay on paved roads. Minivans with an attitude.

  • avatar
    flyerbry

    First of all I have to say wow! Why did it take this long I will never know… I drive a 99 Wrangler with a 4 1/2 lift and 33 inch tires on a daily basis. I have been reading Jeep reviews since the early 90s and Jonny your review is the first one I have read in all that time that actually discussed the Wrangler for what it is and not what it isn't. That's one heck of a lot of bad reviews! You would think at least one of those reviewers would have noticed Jeep selling every one that rolls off the assembly line without much fuss – even the ones with the puney tires and no options – and suddenly realize there is something good to comment on here. My hats off to you Jonny, you win! After reading some of the other reviews on this site I was expecting just another Wrangler review. I have done a fair amount of off-roading in my Wrangler and I agree with all the statements in the review. The comments about the older Jeeps do need some clarification, however. If you are talking about stock CJs and Wranglers then yes, none of them touch the Rubicon. The thing that Jeep has to be given credit for when developing the current model is they learned from their past customers and adopted the modifications that had already been proven by "Jeepers" for years. Some of these developments were new ideas while others were stolen from other vehicles because the technology was good and it made their Jeep better off-road. What Jeep did in developing this model is take all the modifications that mean something to off-roaders and wrap them all up into one incredible vehicle. If you think the buy-in price is too high, stop and consider what it would cost to take a plain-Jane Jeep and add all the goodies that are included in a Rubicon right off the showroom floor. There are many other vehicle segments where specialized vehicles demand a higher price – how is this model any different? The Rubicon model is priced right for what you get. I will say, however, if you are going to buy your kid a Wrangler to drive to school and never take off-road, the Rubicon is a waste of money – get the Sahara instead. As far as Wranglers being used as UN vehicles it is a simple matter of space. These things just don't have much storage. That is the reason I am considering the new four-door model. It probably won't be quite as good off-road but the every-day versatility is on par with all the other sport utilities on the road. Again, great review – and great web site!

  • avatar
    westhighgoalie

    I LOVE WRANGLERS!!! THE ONLY VEHICLE I WOULD EVEN CONSIDER BUYING IF THE APOCKOLIPSE WAS ON THE HORIZON. lol

  • avatar
    Dubbs1

    I think it’s a fun car. But a little uncomfortable. I recommend the Range Rover Lr3. The one flaw with that is that it has a little too much technology.

  • avatar
    Spitfire

    I’m sorry to sound a little cliche here but you either get it or you don’t when it comes to Jeep Wranglers and especially the Rubicon.

    H3, FJ, Xterra, what else, a Rav4? LR3, are you kidding me? Come on people, straight axles, simple, dependable, incredible after market support, the Jeep wave, the shorter wheelbase, the only off-road convertible. With the Rubicon JK a 4.5 inch lift and suddenly you are clearing 37inch tires! You cant do that with anything IFS. Lockers front and rear, no LSD here folks. I’m sorry but for my money(low twenties these days) there isn’t a vehicle on the planet I would rather own. The new model will easily do double duty as a daily driver and weekend toy. 3.5 inch lift and 35inch tires make it look the part of what the undercarriage is already sporting without voiding the warranty. As for the other off-roaders they really are nothing more then dressed up minivans, probably why there aren’t dedicated magazine publications or accessory catalogs to them.

    And on another note, while driving a TJ back in HS and for most of college you could keep the sports car because when it comes to having a “hott” car(whatever that is) a wrangler cannot be beat. Icing on the cake if you ask me.

  • avatar
    GnarlyGary

    If anyone ever reads down this far, I would just like to tell everyone that a Jeep is the best car on the market. My family has had 3 and I have used mine as a daily driver throughout high school. Its perfect. It is a perfect summer and winter car, being a 4×4 and a convertible.

    And if anyone is worried about the power of the current minivan v6 engine, my ’89 YJ has a 4.2 litre that pumps out 125 hp or something little like that. but it still has enough torque to do whatever i need it to. plus girls like to ride in it before any other kid’s sportscars… its just a fun car. get one, now!!!!

    plus it’s bulletproof and will last forever. My brother has bent pieces underneath his rig wheelin’ it and has straightened them with a hammer and prying it with a giant wrench and still drives it hard, no problems and it has over 100k on it.

    best car ever, i will always keep mine…. so go support your economy and get one!!!!!!


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