By on December 9, 2013

TTAC_Wrangler-chart

The general belief that no genuine Jeep Wrangler alternative sells in anything like the kinds of numbers achieved by the Wrangler is a belief that is completely, wholeheartedly supported by the facts.

Let’s be honest. The Wrangler’s popularity, in particular the Wrangler Unlimited’s fruitful endeavor into the mainstream auto buying consciousness, couldn’t happen without one of two occurrences: either offroading is exploding in popularity as a leisure activity, or some buyers who would otherwise choose a Ford Escape (and its kind) are buying a Jeep Wrangler.

Regardless of the circumstances which are leading buyers to the Wrangler, there are more such buyers than ever before, and it’s not as though there are a wide array of Wrangler-like alternatives in the U.S. market. Pickup trucks aside, the Toyota FJ Cruiser and Nissan Xterra stand out as the other two affordable offroaders, the ones which could reasonably be modified to become ultra-capable offroaders.

Does that status matter to the majority of buyers? Not only does it matter to those who wish to travel far off the beaten path, it also matters to buyers who will never even contemplate leaving the pavement. The fact that they’ll be driving something that could do so if need be – rather than just looking like it might be able to – is a huge part of the Wrangler’s appeal; the FJ’s and Xterra’s, too.

But the FJ Cruiser is on its last legs. Meanwhile, plans to spend a vast amount of money on redesigning and relaunching the Xterra are sketchy as, after all, the Xterra sells barely more often than the Titan.

Don’t be confused by the year-over-year change. Yes, Xterra sales are rising in 2013, but an increase of 2% for such a low-volume vehicle translates to just 335 extra sales through eleven months. Moreover, the overall new vehicle market, especially the SUV/crossover market, is growing at a much faster clip than the aging Xterra. Of greater relevance is the fact that this current YOY growth comes after one of the Xterra’s worst ever years in terms of U.S. volume. 17,222 were sold in all of 2012, a 5% drop compared with 2011, and a 78% drop compared with the 79,779 Xterras which were sold in 2002.

One might also ask why the FJ needs to be cancelled if the its year-over-year decline is so slight, but that question, too, would only be asked by one who hasn’t studied the FJ’s U.S. history. Sales peaked at 56,225 in the model’s first year, fell as low as 11,941 units in 2009, and then averaged just 14,000 sales per year since 2010. It’s been allowed to languish without significant updates even as consumers who may once have been enamoured by its style became more aware of its poor visibility and excessive base price.

Granted, the compromises a buyer must accept to tolerate life with the Jeep are numerous, yet they don’t seem to be significant enough to keep away a record number of buyers. The Wrangler’s success leads us to believe that others could also succeed, that there is some untapped potential. On the other hand, the decreasing number of FJ and Xterra sales causes us to wonder if Jeep, with all the Wrangler’s history and its cheap toplessness and its steady improvement, should simply be the sole purveyor of affordable offroaders.

So unique is the Wrangler and so wide is its product range that even the Xterra and FJ Cruiser hardly seem like Wrangler rivals. They’re certainly not sales volume rivals. Being the one and only hasn’t always turned out well for automakers. Consider the Renault Avantime, Subaru Baja, and Lincoln Blackwood. In the Wrangler’s case, its climb to its current status as one of America’s 30 best-selling vehicles is proof that the Wrangler is, well, it’s not a Renault Avantime.

Auto
Nov. 2013
Nov. 2012
%
Change
11 mos. 2013
11 mos. 2012
%
Change
Jeep Wrangler
11,753 10,337 + 13.7% 143,474 130,124 + 10.3%
Nissan Xterra
1445 1343 + 7.6% 16,178 15,843 + 2.1%
Toyota FJ Cruiser
1150 1164 - 1.2% 11,826 12,145 - 2.6%
Total
14,348
12,844 + 11.7% 171,478 158,112 + 8.5%
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97 Comments on “Cain’s Segments: Affordable Off-Roaders...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “became more aware of its poor visibility and excessive base price”

    Isn’t this pretty much every new car?

    • 0 avatar
      carve

      The FJ is REALLY hard to see out of as it’s body is style over function. It is designed to look like an old Land Cruiser, but thrown on a 4-runner chassis that just doesn’t fit right. Visibility is important off road, too. I’ll be the Wrangler has good visibility.

      By expensive, it means expensive compared to the competition.

  • avatar
    Reino

    Where is the 4Runner? Even in SR5 trim it is set up to handle some pretty serious off-road trails. Trail Edition makes it unstoppable!

    • 0 avatar
      lowmanjoe

      The article is about affordable off-roaders, of which the 4Runner certainly is not. The 4Runner starting price is over 32 grand, higher than the 27K FJ and way higher than the 22K-ish for the Wrangler/Xterra.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        …and significantly higher than the starting price for the Jeep Grand Cherokee, if that’s true. The other SUV on the midsized BOF platform, the Lexus GX 460, also costs more than it ought to, since its competitors are better in practically every category, including looks…

      • 0 avatar

        It’s somewhat true, but I assure you that they all cross-shopped, and 4Runner definitely hurts FJ in same-lot shopping. It’s the same dynamic as 4-door Wrangler putting hurt on the 2-door. Their platform is the same as well in this generation. The price preminum of 4Runner attenuates it somewhat, but the relationship is there.

    • 0 avatar
      Reino

      Gotcha. The SR5 alone is a bit spendy, and Toyota offers little financing incentives on it, due to its popularity. You can get 0.9% on a Lexus, but not on the 4Runner. The Limited exceeds $40k.

  • avatar
    jmo

    Can you take the top and doors off an xTerra or FJ?

    I don’t think you can.

    As such, I think being a cool looking 4-seat convertible has more to do with the Wrangler’s appeal than its off road ability.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      You’re right, the tops can’t come off of the xTerra or FJ; but that’s not the sole reason for the JK’s appeal after all, if you’ve paid any attention at all, Jeep is now painting the hard tops to match the body and are discussing building a non-removable-top version.

      I will grant that the Wrangler’s very iconic look is one of the appeals for owning it, but it’s also very real capabilities in a reasonably compact size (more than 3′ shorter than a full-sized truck) and easy access make them desirable as an everyday driver as well as an off-road sported. And yes, I’ll grant whole-heartedly that having a convertible top that’s not expensive to re-cover is a HUGE advantage. The Wrangler is the only factory-built 4-door convertible in the world, as far as I know.

      • 0 avatar
        Otto95

        I would buy a non-removable top version. It’s Wisconsin – “taking the top off season” is basically July.

        • 0 avatar
          Luke42

          They’ll sell you both hard and soft tops for a fee. When I test drove one, the hard top was installed and the soft top was rolled up in what apparently passes for a cargo area.

        • 0 avatar
          Flipper35

          I have a car with no top here in WI and drive it 6 months out of the year. The hard top Wrangler would work just fine for you, you don’t have to take it off you know.

      • 0 avatar
        caltemus

        It should be, but unfortunately there is the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        C-series, though b/c it comes without the engine/transmission it may not count.

      • 0 avatar

        The JK hardtop is still pretty heavy, however. I had to build a hoist in my garage in order to make top removal practical (I used eyelets and rope that I bought in ACE, so it was about $40, but still, it’s a hassle). A true convertible would be something that a person can convert on the road. IMHO Wrangler is only convertible when equipped with a soft-top.

        • 0 avatar
          87 Morgan

          I thought with the four door jeep the hard top over the front seats was basically a targa top and you could remove this panel?

          I could be wrong on this, but based on the shear number of topless jeeps I see around here in the summer I am fairly certain the ability to achieve open air or doorless driving seems to be as much of the appeal or more than the off road capabilities.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            From the factory, the current JK hardtop is a 3-piece fiberglass affair more like the old ‘T’ tops than a Targa, though there’s no bar between them over the front seats. The rest of the top only weighs about 200-250 pounds at most, so two people can lift and manhandle it. On the other hand, the shape and size make it very difficult to maneuver for installation or removal. As previously stated, Jeep is considering a one-piece body and top where you would likely install a conventional sunroof/moonroof and maybe (I hope not) lose the roll bars.

            A fully open car in the summer–personally with a bikini top to simply block the direct sun–is a blast to drive. Even in 90° temperatures, if you can keep the sun from bearing down on top of your head, riding open is reasonably comfortable even in high-humidity regions like the Atlantic Coast states. While I don’t run top down often enough, I almost always remove all the windows when riding in summer. In fact, the most hilarious question I ever got was when a neighbor asked, “Is there something wrong with your AC?” on seeing our Jeep wide open.

          • 0 avatar

            Correct, the front panels are separately removable. Chrysler even supplies a special bag for the panels, so you can hang them behind the front seat and without damaging them on the trail. However, it’s pretty dumb if the rear is still in palce, so typicaly everyone does it once and finds not that it’s not as fun as getting the top removed completely.

            Instead, the front panels can stay on without the rear part, so they provide a kind of hard bikini top. It’s very cool and probably dented the business of bikini top sellers quite a bit.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    I am an owner of one of the JK Unlimited Jeep Wranglers. I purchased it at the tail end of the ’07 model year and custom-ordered an ’08 simply because no ’07 had the equipment my wife and I wanted. Now, keep in mind that this is not the first 4×4 we’ve looked at–we did look at the Xterra and Toyota FJ–but for where we live we decided we needed something that could get through snow conditions where a road might go un-plowed until after the storm is over, which stranded us either in our home or a hotel sometimes for 2-3 days. As such, we even considered the Jeep Liberty back in ’02 (I now wish we had chosen that route) but chose instead a Saturn Vue at almost half the price (and front-wheel drive). Yup, that Vue stranded us twice, but that was a lot better than my Camaro which simply couldn’t clear the snow walls kicked up by the plow once it did go through.

    Before you go thinking we bought the Wrangler as a ‘poser’, I will note that at Rousch Creek in PA, the stock Wrangler took several trails that owners of lifted TJs thought it wouldn’t be able to handle, though I admit I chickened out on some of the more extreme trails due to inexperience. The one thing those trails did do for me though was to teach me just what the Jeep could do and gave me much more confidence in its foul-weather capabilities. Newer Wranglers have been proving themselves ever since–even going so far as to help rescue tornado victims in Moore, OK immediately after the storm despite being “totaled” by the insurance company days later. (Look up the story about the re-building of Stomper; it carried a Facebook page for months and its owner is considered a hero.)

    And that’s the point about the Wrangler. All of a sudden it is a good family vehicle with real capability without the huge size of a full-sized pickup truck.

  • avatar
    Otto95

    I used to own a Dodge Raider (aka a Mitsubishi Pajero) – it carried four in relative (albeit bouncy) comfort, although the suspension seats helped. It went anywhere I wanted to go, on or off road, got me to and from work through deep snow, had plenty of power from its small V6, and got reasonable mileage. I drove that vehicle for 212,000 reliable miles, and I eventually sold it to a relative who drove it for another 30,000 miles before it finally gave up the ghost.

    I would buy another one tomorrow for anywhere under $20K.

  • avatar
    grzydj

    The Wrangler was always a popular off-roader. The addition of the 3.6 Pentastar engine to the mix made it even better and more capable as a whole. Meanwhile the FJ and the Xterrra lingered on mostly unchanged, which is glaringly obvious by the sales figures in the chart.

    I think Chrysler did an excellent job making the Wrangler appealing to new potential buyers, and long time Wrangler loyalists.

    • 0 avatar

      Sales figures seem to indicate that the new interiors of 2011 drove sales even before the Pentastar, that appeared in 2012.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      I’ve owned several of them bought used and, along with IHC Scouts used them for Mudding when my kids still lived at home.

      Both were very easy to work on and parts were cheap and plentiful.

      The Jeep that remains our favorite had been retrofitted with a used Chevy 283-4bbl, headers with straight pipes a B&M Hydramatic Bangshifter and 31″ knobbies.

      There is something awesome about seeing four rooster tails of mud being squirted into the air as the Jeep made its way around the course.

      And I’ve got plenty of 8×10 pictures to remind me of it.

    • 0 avatar
      azmtbkr81

      +1, based on past discussions most on this board seem to think the low sales numbers of the FJ and Xterra point to a lack of interest in traditional, off-road capable SUVS while ignoring the fact that neither have received a significant update for nearly a decade. Hell, at this point (as mentioned in a previous article) the Mustang is a larger threat to Wrangler sales than the FJ or Xterra could ever hope to be.

      I wonder if any of the other manufactures have the guts to take on the Wrangler? The lack of competition is hurting consumers badly at this point as Wrangler prices commonly climb over the $30k mark. I see a Colorado based Trailblazer as the most likely candidate but have not heard if it’ll make it to the US.

      • 0 avatar

        FJ and JK debuted in the same year. Since then, updates to Wrangler were rather modest. Although the new engine (and the new 5sp auto that came with it) certainly helped, you can see that the recent uptick actually coincided with the new interiors.

      • 0 avatar
        Prado

        “I wonder if any of the other manufactures have the guts to take on the Wrangler? ” Let’s not forget that little thing call the ‘Chicken tax’ that pretty much makes it impossible to import a 2 door SUV. A true 2dr FJ with a removable top would have a ton of consumer appeal (I think!).

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          Now, for all that people complain about the Chicken Tax, I really don’t see how that applies to the SUV. The Chicken Tax is intended to block vehicles designed to carry revenue loads, and neither the FJ nor any of the other Jeep competitors qualifies as a revenue-carrying vehicle. Please explain how it’s supposed to apply.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Four-door SUVs are taxed as cars at 2.5%.

            Two-door SUVs are taxed as trucks at 25%.

            There aren’t many two door SUVs, as most people want rear doors. Two door vehicles are losing ground, elevated or otherwise.

            And if there is demand for them, then they can either be built in the NAFTA zone for no tariff, or else built from knockdown kits that circumvent the chicken tax. The chicken tax does little or nothing to influence the US market.

          • 0 avatar
            racer-esq.

            The Chicken Tax does not apply to any two door SUV with a back seat. Check the Evoque, for example.

            As a fan of everything from the Blazer two-door to RAV-4 two-door I have to admit that unfortunately there is a small market.

            But any international two door SUVs not coming over are not coming over because of CAFE/NHTSA, not the Chicken Tax.

            The Chicken Tax did unfortunately kill the three-door (plus two on the back) MINI panel van. It did not have a back seat.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            No, the chicken tax can apply to two-seaters.

            CBP previously ruled that the two-door Mercedes 300GE was subject to the chicken tax, while the four door was not.

            http://rulings.cbp.gov/detail.asp?ru=088664&ac=pr

            On the other hand, the CBP ruled that two-door Land Rover Defenders and Nissan Pathfinders were taxed as cars.

            http://www.faqs.org/rulings/rulings1993HQ0952461.html

            The back seat isn’t the only determinant. There are some shades of gray, but the size of the cargo area and the quality and permanence of the rear seat accommodations are factors. I would presume that the Evoque passes the car test because the cargo area is small and the rear seat accomodations aren’t low rent.

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            @Vulpine it does which makes it even more Bizarre, a SUV is really stretching the definition of “truck”. Not only that it is not consistent with just a SUV, but the type of SUV????

  • avatar
    ash78

    Forget the offroad capability for a second — sure, most Wrangler buyers are probably 10x more likely to go offroading than most other SUVs, but 10 times 0.1% is still just 1%.

    Did the Xterra and FJ offer any major changes over this time period? Not really. The Wrangler showed up with a 4-door model a few years ago. Without consulting Google, I think that’s around the time the sales began to spike.

    I don’t know about everyone else, but among all late model Wranglers I see on the road today, the 4-door models outnumber 2-door by at least 10-to-1. I also never considered the car anything but a fringe lifestyle offering until the 4-door came out. That move ramped it up into the common consciousness a lot more readily. Plus, it’s still the best 4-seat convertible available in that price range. A true American sports car…in the most liberal definition, anyway.

    • 0 avatar

      The 4-door JKU is a more practical vehicle, no doubt. The comparison with the 2D JK is especially damning in the poor rear seat access. One basically cannot use the rear seat to stow groceries or any other purchases in the mall crawler. Just to make it worse, the rear bench is not split. Plus, you kids whine incessantly about the poor access. The JKU has a much bigger gas tank and thus longer range. It also tows more. All that for a very modest increase in size: it still fits easily in a regular garage. Well, one of my neighbours parks his Armada in his garage, but then his kids cannot board it indoors :-)

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Don’t forget the “in-between” size one – the Limited? The 4dr is the Unlimited, right? I see more of the long wheelbase 2drs where I am than either of the others, for new Jeeps anyway. Plenty of old ones around, but rust kills them here fairly quickly.

        I don’t really think the Xterra and such are really Wrangler competitors for most folks. They want a Jeep, and they buy a Jeep. The Land Rover Defender 90 is the only truly directly competitor, and they are so rare and ludicrously expensive that they aren’t real competitors either. Though it does amaze me that Land Rover couldn’t manage to keep the Defender up to modern standards while Jeep kept the Wrangler there. not enough money in real off-roaders evidently, versus blinged out SUVs.

        • 0 avatar
          whynot

          There is no “in-between” sized one. You are probably thinking of the TJ Unlimited, which did not have 4 doors but rather just a stretched wheelbase.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            But isn’t that one on a shorter wheelbase than the 4dr? Or is that just an optical illusion? I’m not really interested enough to look it up, I just see a TON of these in my area for some reason. :-)

  • avatar
    Easton

    “The fact that they’ll be driving something that could do so if need be – rather than just looking like it might be able to – is a huge part of the Wrangler’s appeal; the FJ’s and Xterra’s, too.”

    For me, it is not the ability to do what I have no intention to do that is appealing. What I find appealing is that these SUV’s have a blocky, masculine look whereas virtually all crossovers are curvy, feminine, and ungainly looking.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Wow, the cosmetics of masculinity are all you care about?

      Not the ability do the work required to build a family at home and carry the team at work, day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year?

  • avatar
    sirwired

    My wife used to own a ’97 Wrangler. The thing was a blast to own and drive. Yes, it was noisy, thirsty, unrefined in every possible way, and I think that was a lot of it’s charm.

    On the minus side, the top leaked, we needed earplugs on the highway, the the heat was busted, and it was always needing stupid repairs I’d never tolerate on another vehicle.

    We traded it in for an ’06 Solara and haven’t looked back since. (For the record, I can’t stand the thing except on “convertible days”; at all other times it’s just an ugly, wallowing pig.)

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Believe me, the ’07 and up Wrangler is a MUCH nicer ride for temperature control and road noise. Sure, with the soft top it’s still a little loud, but NOTHING like the old TJ was. The only advantage you have with that Solara is the fuel economy. I’ve got 55,000 miles on my ’08 and the only ‘pesky’ repairs it’s needed were new brakes.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      “My wife used to own a ’97 Wrangler.”

      ’97, 2007… 2013… There might have been some improvements made in sixteen years though I can’t be sure.

      And you like the Solara on convertible days?

  • avatar
    Hummer

    I wish someone offered a modern iteration of the scout.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    The Mountaineer, TrailBlazer, Envoy, Aspen, Aviator, Montero, and Liberty? All gone. The Explorer, Pathfinder and Durango have gone unibody, and the Grand Cherokee, Range Rover and M-Class had been unibody for quite some time. The BOF 4Runner, GX 460, FJ Cruiser, Land Cruiser and LX 570 and Xterra languish on with astoundingly-brave asking prices. The BOF G-Class never sold in significant volumes anyway. The Discovery 4 utilizes some kind of unibody/ladder-frame hybrid structure. The only successful car in this category *is* the Wrangler.

    Times, they are a-changin’…

    • 0 avatar

      Libbie always was a unibody.

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      The xTerra is pretty cheap – $22,940, within $500 of a base Rogue.

      The Discovery is body-on-frame, with IRS, like the first gen RR Sport, but will be going unibody, like the second generation RR Sport just did.

      Not every unibody SUV is the same. Some are based on FWD platforms, some are based on RWD platforms. Some are jacked up family sedans, some have full length frame rails welded to the bottom (e.g. Durango/JGC/Liberty/Original Jeep Cherokee/Mercedes ML/GL).

      The unibody Jeep Cherokee came out in 1984, and the military used the unibody, front and rear independent suspension M-151 “Jeep” from 1959 until it was replaced with the HUMVEE, so unibody SUVs are nothing new.

      • 0 avatar

        The stripper’s a real bad ‘terra though. Any one with a rear locker pushes $30k. Just check it, it’s the Nissan’s marketing genius. I know that a real man would mod one pretty easily, but you know how it goes. At least a stripper Wrangler comes with an LSD.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    “either offroading is exploding in popularity as a leisure activity, or some buyers who would otherwise choose a Ford Escape (and its kind) are buying a Jeep Wrangler.”

    Ford is targeting women with the Escape. The demographics for the Jeep Wrangler buyers skew toward males, at rates similar to the Camaro and Challenger.

    If Chrysler is to be believed, then Wrangler buyers are relatively affluent (median household incomes of $95-110k), which frankly surprised me.

    The Wrangler is one of the cheaper lifestyle vehicles available on the US market today. It offers a way to buy a new vehicle at a price below the national average without wearing that low price on one’s sleeve. In that sense, it reminds of the beginning of the SUV boom, which allowed affluent shoppers to cut their car payments without any embarrassment.

    • 0 avatar
      Sammy B

      There are two thoughts for why the median income could be so high:

      1) These are 2nd/3rd/4th vehicles in a household. Rather than buy a convertible for the summer, they pick a wrangler for their open air fix. And having 4×4 in winter isn’t a bad thing, either. Not as many people would feel that way about a Ford Escape
      2) These are cars purchased for kids (but in parents’ names). I think the Civic and Scion see a bit of that as well. I live in a pretty nice suburb [median household income $112K...I\'m here to keep the averages down :)] and in high school there were a LOT of kids who got brand new Wranglers. Almost as many got brand new Civics and Corollas. Just to be clear, I drove a 1984 Toyota Van in high school 15 years ago.

      That certainly doesn’t explain all of it, but I’m confident those are some factors.

      • 0 avatar
        hubcap

        Those are factors for pretty much any car so yes they apply to the Wrangler to.

        • 0 avatar
          Sammy B

          True, but you gotta admit it very much applies to the Wrangler. Much more so than to a minivan or family sedan or a even a sports car (since those are likely to be extra cars, but less likely to be given to a new driver). Not a lot of people buying a Camry for fun (or even to give to 16 yr old) either. I am guessing small CUVs and mid-level luxury cars fall here as well. If you buy a $50K BMW, that’s likely your main ride. Once you crest $100K, those are the lucky people who have a different car for each day of the week :)

      • 0 avatar
        Reino

        Hell the lead character in “Clueless” had a brand new Wrangler given to her by daddy before she even got her driver’s license!

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      The Wrangler has massive pricing variation.

      It starts at $22,395, but if you see a four door Wrangler with a body color hardtop you are probably looking at ~$40,000+.

    • 0 avatar
      billfrombuckhead

      Wrangler customers have one of the highest average credit scores in the car industry.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Not surprising when you consider how many are 3rd and 4th cars. I know three people with relatively new Jeeps, they are the 3rd, 4th, and 5th car in the household respectively. For two drivers in each case. Toys, in other words, and poor people can’t afford toys.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    Ford did a tasty Ford Bronco concept several years ago — homage to the original ’66, and it took the temperature of auto show attendees as Ford wondered if it’d be a good idea to build a Jeep Wrangler competitor.

    Looking at these sales numbers, bet Ford wished they had gone ahead with it.

    Like the Wrangler, it had big, flat windows for an open greenhouse with good visibility — important for an offroader (talking to you, FJ). Removable doors. Lift-off hardtop with available convertible top. Like the Wrangler, it could have lent itself to a stretched, four-door version. Stuff it with an EcoBoost’ed powerplant, and you’d have yourself a pavement poser with some offroad potential.

    Perhaps Ford should dust this concept off and revisit the segment, seeing as Toyota and Nissan aren’t serious about competing in it.

    Having had a YJ, with Ye Olde Leaf Spring suspension, my kidneys took a serious beating, even on-road. It was a revelation when I drove my neighbor’s new 2013 Wrangler Unlimited recently. It rode and behaved like a normal, modern SUV. Perfectly quiet and smooth as it made its way through suburbia. To say I liked it a lot would be an understatement.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      If Hummer was still around their HX concept might have given the Wrangler a run for the money. Granted, at the time it was a two door vehicle but stretching and adding two additional doors might not have been a problem.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    Say what you will about the 2013 Wrangler being unrefined, but compare a 2013 to a 2003 and the difference is like night and day. Jeep has made huge strides in quality, especially the interior, where the FJ and XTerra have stayed the same.

    The Wrangler also offers a lot of value as an off roader. It can compete directly off road with the Mercedes G-Class and Range Rover, both of which can be optioned out to nearly TRIPLE the Wrangler’s price.

    My complaint about the 2-Door Wrangler is this: cargo space. You would think a large, utilitarian box like the Wrangler would offer quite a bit of cargo space, WRONG. You can fit maybe, six sheets of paper in the “Trunk” (God forbid it’s college ruled). The Unlimited solves this problem.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Of course, that IS an exaggeration as you can fit a few things behind that back seat, but not much and nothing really large. On the other hand, unlike the Unlimited, the 2-door JK’s back seat does the ‘flip-and-tumble’, which gives you a fairly flat load floor large enough for a lot of camping gear for two people. But then, that’s why there are now so many different utility trailers designed to tow behind the Jeep, giving it almost as much utility as a standard-bed pickup truck.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      I would say that the Wrangler, especially in Rubicon guise, is a much more capable off-roader than a G-wagen or Range Rover.

  • avatar
    hubcap

    I find it amusing when people accuse those who purchase Wranglers with no intention of participating in a rock crawl or going on an overland expedition of being poseurs yet the same is not true of sports car purchasers.

    How many Vettes, Mustangs, 911s, Caymans, Camaros etc. ever see a race track? How many EVOs or WRXs ever bomb down a dusty trail?

    People will but what they like and the Wrangler offers a lot to like.

    • 0 avatar
      Reino

      Well said! We used to use a fraternity brother’s 99 Wrangler to pick up people from class in the fall and spring. It was the most popular vehicle on campus, to the point where people would see the driver (not the owner) in a bar and say “aren’t you the guy with the Jeep?”

    • 0 avatar
      thelaine

      Truth hubcap. Pickup discussions often go off in similar directions.

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      That’s not a good comparison. First off, people who have capable sporting cars and drive them like old ladies are called poseurs, loudly and often.

      Secondly, and more importantly, the qualities that make for a good sporting car also make for a good street car: light weight, high traction, good power, and high quality suspension, brakes, and tires are all beneficial in daily use in terms of both fun and safety even if the car never sees a track.

      The qualities that make for a good off-road vehicle are at best of limited use on the street, and very often negative. High COGs, chunky tires, solid axles, etc are all stuff that daily drivers are better off without.

      Add to that the tendency of a sizable minority of Wrangler owners to hop up their exclusively street-driven vehicles with winches and skid plates and lift kits and other expedition-style accoutrements, and poseur looks like a good fit.

      • 0 avatar
        ash78

        What bikegoesbaa said. hubcap’s original comment is well intentioned, but the poseurship (in exchange for what is compromised in the vehicle design) is definitely higher for most SUVs than for most sports cars.

        That’s why I drive a Mercedes G55.

        OK, not really. I sold it after I was shot by two rappers (two separate occasions) and got rolled over by a bunch of Wall Street Occupiers (three occasions).

      • 0 avatar
        thelaine

        That assumes you have a good road. Many sports cars are not suited for many of the roads people drive on. They can’t even get in and out of parking lots and driveways without scraping. Potholes and other road problems make them less than ideal. Often, a heaver-duty vehicle is better for the street or for carrying more people. Regardless, discussions of practicality are beside the point. The point is, who cares if your Jeep goes off road or your Ferrari goes to the track? If you like it, buy it and drive it.

        EVERYONE who is not driving a car or wearing clothing that they absolutely need is posing. We are all either surviving or posing. As soon as we get some excess money, we start posing. That is why advertising exists. Anyone who accuses someone else of posing should look in the mirror. You are posing too. It’s just that if you are x poser, you don’t like y posers. Just like high school. The concept pretty much never changes, although your pose does.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Good point thelaine,

          With crumbling infrastructure, BOF SUVs may have some sales legs to them yet. When I’m bombing across the Seneca reservation in Western NY on I86, I’m glad I’m in my 4runner on 265/70R16 tires and not some 20″ rubber band-tire shod crossover.

          As an aside, I think the current Xterra is the bargain of the century for the kind of performance and capability you get.

          • 0 avatar
            thelaine

            And I agree on the xterra gtemnykh. I also believe, from talking to owners, that the engine and transmission are reliable and durable.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        There’s a segment of the driving population that likes the elevated seating position and the styling. The rest of it is just gravy (for them – I’m personally not a fan of the segment.)

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      Do I “need” a Wrangler? Not really. When I’m home in the States I am very active in Scouting (ie: camping) and hauling rescue dogs. There are any number of vehicles that would meet those requirements. But hanging over the desk of my office here in Saudi Arabia is a picture of a two-door 2013 Wrangler. I’ve test-driven numerous other cars and I just. keep. coming. back. It’s been on my mind since the mid 1990s and with the new interior and Pentastar, it’s really hard to pass up. Problem is, I want a basic 2 door, soft top, manual, with my only “upgrade” being that I would prefer A/C still. My best chance at getting what I want is to have one ordered and waiting for me when I get back to the US in 2015.
      It’s iconic and nothing else is out there like it on the road. For “relatively” short money (if you stay out of the options list) you can ride a classic and not be embarrassed that you didn’t spend a small fortune to do so. As long as Fiat/Chrysler don’t monkey with the winning formula too much, I’d say Wrangler has a solid, steady future ahead of it.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “you can ride a classic and not be embarrassed that you didn’t spend a small fortune to do so.”

        I believe that this explains at least some of the appeal of vehicles like this. Passenger cars largely carry a level of status that corresponds with their price, while trucks, sport utilities, etc. enjoy a degree of immunity from the stigma that can come from a low price.

        • 0 avatar
          Luke42

          Trucks can also skip the stigma that comes from a high price. Spending $50k on an F250 King Ranch comes across way different than spending $50k on a BMW, especially in the rural area where I grew up.

          The other thing the Wrangler has going for it: timeless styling. It’ll never look outdated in the way that pulling into the parking lot of a fortune 500 company in a 15 year old Civic looks outdated. That’s something, even if it doesn’t matter to everyone.

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        Must admit there are better vehicles around. Still it is what YOU Like that is important.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Am I the only one who thinks that an “affordable” off-roader would be a used Trail Rated Patriot or Liberty?

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Yes, :-)

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Personally, I went for an 12yo Range Rover, but a lot of folks think I am certifiable. I don’t disagree. On the plus side the Rangie is just as nice on road as off road. Air suspension rulez.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Dunno how nice it will be offroad when the air suspension becomes possessed and leaves you scraping the ground in the middle of the woods ;p Top Gear goes on and on about how capable range rovers are, but they sure aren’t particularly durable. When the had the brand new range rover race the autonomously driven military 6×6 2 seasons ago, brief shots of the dash during the sequence showed a veritable Christmas tree of check engine and warning lights. On a brand new truck! That and some fiddly bit of plastic underbody shielding got ripped off tout suite.

        A guy in my apartment complex who as far as I can tell is a fly by night used car curbstoner has a early 2000s Rangie as his utility vehicle. I think the front bags have a leak because when it’s been parked for a bit it looks like it’s kneeling!

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          The newer Range Rovers are mall cruisers, the P38 was the last of the real off-roaders in the line.

          No excuse for poor maintenance. The air suspension is not particularly complicated on this vintage, but it DOES require proper maintenance, and only a fool would venture far off-road without a spare bag. Which is as simple as keeping a couple of the last replaced ones, they have a useful lifespan of 7-10 years in a temperate climate. A few O-rings and a couple feet of spare hose will get you through in a pinch for most issues.

          Small price to pay to give a vehicle the size of a small bungalow the ability to go offroad as well or better than any similar sized SUV while flying down the highway with the grace and poise of a big Benz. THAT was the biggest problem with the WJ Jeep Grand Cherokee that it replaced – it was cheap, easy to fix, and reliable, but it was AWFUL to drive.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            What about the smorgasbord of electrical maladies? Certainly that can’t be chalked up to poor maintenance. I agree, the P38 is a fine looking machine, particularly the gussied up 4.6 HSE with those Ferrari-like 5 spoke wheels. Can be bought for a pittance on craigslist, but I need a 15 year old British luxury SUV and its issues like I need a hole in the head.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Actually, the electrical issues are usually down to poor maintenance too. Bad grounds, neglected fuse panel replacements, letting the blower motors go on too long. Yes, the underhood fuse panel in these trucks has to be considered a consumable, just like the cooling system bits in an e46 BMW. Just a fact of life.

            I will freely admit that the truck is a mix of genius and stupidity, in about equal measure. But do what’s needed, which is a fair amount admittedly, and they are adequately reliable. Would I run one as my only vehicle on a tight budget? Oh dear God no! But most good things in life require effort.

  • avatar
    AJ

    Part of the Wrangler’s popularity is the aftermarket support. It was big with the TJ and now as so with the JK. Even if one doesn’t off-road it much or at all, they can still look the part in hundreds of ways.

    They also make a great convertible. Hard top on, just the front off, all off, soft top on, without the windows, just the front folded back, or off as well.

    I can’t say I’ve thought about buying a JK though as I have too much energy in my TJ.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      In addition to the aftermarket support, there is also an enormous market for Jeep parts of all vintages. Anything Jeep, there is a market for.

      After my kids had left home I parted out the Mudders that they had used for the sport and I had no problem selling the parts.

      What I ended up having left were the stripped bodies which I eventually hauled off to the junkyard and sold for scrap in Jan 2011, because I had promised the wife to clean up the property after I had bought my 2011 Tundra.

  • avatar
    luvmyv8

    I’ll chime in here as well.

    I just actually purchased a ’12 Wrangler Sport S 2 door myself. 22k in bright red with a black hardtop and the 17 inch alloys. It has the Pentastar and 5 speed auto. I was originally looking at a brand new stripper Wrangler with the 6 speed manual and NO options. My dealership got the red one as a trade in and I jumped on it as even other employees were eyeballing it. It’s also nicely loaded as far as Wranglers go; A/C, decent radio, power windows/locks, heated power mirrors, hill descent, keyless entry, cruise control, leather wrapped steering wheel with built in audio controls, hardtop with the ‘Freedom’ roof that is like a t-top and 17 inch alloys.

    The reason why I went with a Wrangler is many; first I live and work in San Diego. Most days the weather is quite agreeable and I wanted something I could bask in the sunlight with. My hobby is photography, especially star trails and night time photography, the Wrangler is a excellent mobile tripod. Also it’s nice using the 4WD to scamper up a hill and away from lights and people which ruin pictures. Also thanks to it’s size it’s a breeze to drive…. point and shoot parking. Easy to use in traffic. Fits in places most cars cant. Also like the view being an SUV gives me without the bulk. The Pentastar makes 285 hp, though my Wrangler weighs in at almost 4000 (!) pounds, it still hustles quite well and the Pentastar is somewhat overkill…. but I like it. Also it gives me an honest 20 MPG, not bad for being a true off road capable BOF SUV.

    ….. and the ride, true it’s not the smoothest, but it’s really not that bad. In fact I honestly believe that rides better then the ’06 Mustang GT I had, fun car but that car HURT. On freeways it pretty much rode like my leased ’12 4Runner I had previous to this.

    I’m quite happy with my Jeep, it always gets comments from people and other Jeep owners give me the ‘Jeep wave’. Plus women seem to like it. My only complaints are the thimble that is the fuel tank…. it’s small… and it’s cargo capacity…. whatever, I just throw the groceries in the back seat.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I love the Wrangler but sadly find it cramped for 6’3″ frame. I looked briefly at the Xterra; lack of a power seat and sunroof kind of killed it for me. The FJ is hideous, both inside and out.

    The Wrangler is iconic, and they keep making it better every year…

  • avatar
    LUNDQIK

    Its looks like the market for an affordable off-roader is relatively stagnant; with between 150k and 200k units being moved annually.

    So if you’re Nissan or Toyota – do you fight for a bigger piece of a smaller pie? Or do you put your R&D money into the bigger volume cars?

    It’s a no brainer, Nissan and Toyota will focus on their other vehicles. But for Jeep – the Wrangler IS Jeep; it’s their go-to Halo vehicle. It’s their image and what sells the rest of the lineup.


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