By on March 25, 2009

“It’s a Jeep thing; you wouldn’t understand”. This was the vaguely condescending response I got when I queried my then-girlfriend and current wife about why in the world she would choose such an unrefined and slow mode of transportation. Surely, you can understand my point of view. I mean, the Jeep Wrangler is the ultimate, absolute antithesis of everything performance-related in the automotive world. Well, that is true so long as we are talking about road-going performance. Some, like my wife, get more excited about the prospect of slogging through mud and muck than teeter-tottering on the bare naked edge of control around a downhill decreasing-radius corner. And, for those who get their jollies in the dirt, the Wrangler Rubicon is the ultimate starting point for a true performance vehicle.

The Wrangler Unlimited’s exterior style remains true to its stack ’em high and send ’em overseas cubist pedigree. Overall, it looks a lot like the original two-door version stretched to house a backseat and a little more cargo space. And there you have it. In fact, Jeep’s engineers extended the standard model’s wheelbase 20.6 inches to make such accommodations.

My tester came in a shade of dark green straight out of a Vietnam-war flick, complete with jungle-ready mud tires. Among other off-road equipment, it was fitted with locking front and rear differential, rock rails, skid plates and a 4.10 rear axle ratio. With its suspension and the aforementioned tires, the Wrangler’s looked every inch the OEM monster truck.

Considering the Chrysler’s current cabin quality, my expectations for the Wrangler’s interior fell somewhere between Yugo and Ford Tempo. Obviously, leather and other high-zoot convenience features aren’t de rigeur for any vehicle designed for the great outdoors. So I wasn’t surprised to encounter stain resistant cloth seating and lots of plastic and rubber. But the plastic was brittle, nasty and poorly fitted. The rubber looked like it had a half life half as long as the Jeep’s. The Wrangler Unlimited illustrates the difference between spartan and disposable.

The Unlimited’s instrumentation is straightforward and glove-friendly. Navigation is touch-screen and electronic in nature, so mud-bogging with the top down is probably not a great idea. Semi-city slicker that I am, I was delighted to find that the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited’s sound-deadening materials do a halfway decent job sealing out the outside world—a tall order considering its tires and removable hard top.

While driving my tester, I couldn’t escape the thought that I’ve now come full circle in terms of Jeep power trains. I’ve driven everything from a 1980s CJ to a 1997 TJ to this four-door Rubicon tester. During this journey, I’ve sampled everything from the utterly gutless 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder (which was crippled even further by enormous mud tires) to the 4.0-liter inline six, the 4.2-liter inline six, and finally this year’s 3.8-liter V6.

There is no doubt in my mind that this most recent engine is the best in terms of power and refinement. Of course, put this engine in a family sedan and you’ll get a decidedly different take on its virtues. Drive through the city and you’ll find the mill’s acceleration adequate and its fuel consumption disconcerting.

Now, if you are a Jeep die-hard, you are going to find this part of my review downright unforgivable. I didn’t get a chance to take the Rubicon off-road. Single digit temperatures and scheduling made a trip to the trails impossible. However, I’ve logged plenty of time in Wranglers off-road, so I know just how good they are. With its ground clearance, 4WD system and suspension, the current generation Wrangler can handle its business in the dirt. Frankly, it’s the asphalt jungle where Wranglers have historically fallen short. Way short. Besides, admit it, you spend far more time on the street anyway.

The Unlimited Rubicon is a better handling Wrangler than the two-door versions of yesteryear. I realize that this is a little like being the best player on the Pittsburgh Pirates roster. But driving the Rubicon on city streets I was able to keep all my teeth in my head, which is a win as far as I’m concerned. However, it must be said that the Wrangler Unlimited’s off-road roots generate plenty of slack in the steering wheel and a tendency to walk the road.

According to the spin doctors at Chrysler, the Wrangler Unlimited is generally purchased by married men with kids and an upper-middle-class income. ChryCo’s demographic profile makes sense to me. The Warngler Unlimited is the perfect vehicle for the outdoor enthusiast who needs extra space for camping gear and kiddos but doesn’t need it for daily driving duties. However, if you live in the city and you really just like the off-road look, do yourself a favor, go get a Columbia fleece jacket and a Toyota Corolla. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.

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54 Comments on “Used Review: 2008 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited...”

  • avatar

    “It’s a Jeep thing, you wouldn’t understand”. This was the vaguely condescending response I got when I queried my then-girlfriend and current wife…”

    …and you still married her? Did you first smack her ass and drive her out into the mud, get the lawn chair and playmate cooler full of beer out of the back, sit back and say “You get it unstuck!”

    Of course, as happened with my wife…she left me there to walk home. So I married her!

  • avatar

    Has the 3.8 managed to win over Jeep loyalists? I remember that the initial response was not positive.

    On the reliability front, owners of the latest Wrangler have been excellent participants in TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey. You’ll hear anecdotal evidence that these can have problems, but the survey has consistently yielded an average, even nearly “better than average,” repair rate.

    Results page for the Wrangler here:

    We want to provide solid results for every model. So more participants always welcome.

  • avatar

    For what it’s meant to do, the new Wrangler is a great vehicle. For what most people do with it, it’s sorely lacking. The Wrangler, even with 4 doors and a NAV unit in the dash, isn’t a commuter and shouldn’t be. For the people that must have a Wrangler, whatever the reason, it is the best one ever. If you want a good vehicle to use as a daily driver and must have a Jeep, buy the Grand Cherokee.

  • avatar


    Where were the shots taken? That looks like Anza Borrego / Salton Sea area….

    Nice review. Thanks!

  • avatar

    Meets the requirements of its niche, but leaves the mainstream wanting.

    Isn’t the mainstream what the Liberty and Patriot are for? Wouldn’t a Wrangler better suited for the roads be a brand bertrayal?

    When a company tries to take a niche vehicle and turn it into something for everyone, they end up with something like the ’08 WRX.

  • avatar

    I’m going to have to disagree with you on the 3.8. Yes, it is more refined than the 4.0 I-6 of yore. Yes, it is technically more powerful than the old engine. When I drove an 07 JK however, I was sorely disappointed at the lack of low-end grunt as compared to my 06 with the 4.0, but the same 6-speed manual. I believe it produces its peak torque in the mid-range of rpms. The general consensus in the Jeep community is that the 3.7 V6 would have been a much more appropriate power plant.

  • avatar

    My teen aged son & I were given a test drive in this Wrangler — over an unbelievable course — water, rocks, steep ascents & descents. We held on for dear life — and got out smiling!

    In my suburbia lifestyle, a Wrangler unlimted would be way overkill. Though if the MPGs were better, I’d probably have gotten one by now!

  • avatar

    I sometimes drive a prev. gen jeep that belongs to my sister-in-law. Probably great off-road, but I wouldn’t know. What I know is that it’s horrible on-road, and said sister-in-law has never taken the vehicle off-road either. In her case, it’s entirely an image thing. Not being able to hear the radio over 50mph is a pretty-big trade-off for image, IMO.

  • avatar

    I have respect for this product. From Willy’s Jeep in WW2 to the present Jeep model I respect them.

    Unbelievable durability and I never see them on Interstate 95 break down lane.
    Camping,rock climbing,hurricane,tornado,sand storm or dating this is the All Terrain vehicle. Not for racing to the next red light but a Jeep that won’t let you down.

    The Hummer it gets more speeding tickets than any other vehicle out there.
    Hummer is almost passe.

    Ajla You must be kidding about 08 WRX it looks ugly but the durability and performance is nothing to snob about.

  • avatar

    Obviously, leather and other high zoot convenience features aren’t de rigeur for any vehicle designed for the great outdoors.

    I’m not so sure about that; I bet the Hummers and other assorted SUV’s out there would beg to differ. I suppose the argument there is whether those vehicles are truly designed for the great outdoors. The disparity seems to lie in the difference between “designed for” and “intended for.”

    I must wonder, as I do about Hummers and such, if anybody really does any actual off-roading in a Wrangler Unlimited. Considering the “kiddy-hauler” accomodations of this Jeep, I don’t see why it can’t offer something similar to a nice interior.

    I guess I just can’t seem to justify the Wrangler Unlimited and the Cherokee existing at the same time.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    Doing a vehicle review of the Jeep Rubicon without actually going offroad is much like a food critic writing a review of a restaurant — which he’s never eaten at. “Oh, but I did park in their lot. And even walked down their sidewalk. Delicious.”

    Or of a music critic writing about a new CD by only examining the cover and liner notes.
    “Looks like it might sound pretty good, just look at this photography!”

    Strike this entire review at once and after spring thaw, come back to us after you’ve actually sampled the menu.

  • avatar

    Always wanted a used Wrangler for a second vehicle to go playing in the mud with (then again I always wanted a sports car as a second vehicle for track days).


  • avatar

    My first car was a ’91 Wrangler with the 4.0 straight six, and having driven a newer one with the 3.8, I much prefer the old 4.0 (even with the rather old school 3 speed auto). The low end torque combined with the short wheelbase made for one heck of a fun runabout go-kart. Driving it on the highway with the soft top up was an exercise in slow but steady hearing loss, and the fuel economy was worse than my dad’s full size Suburban.

    There is a lot to love about Wranglers, but I quickly garaged my old one after college as my new commute for work included 40 miles of highway driving each way. It’s hard to ignore the draw of a vehicle that combines the fun of a true offroad shenanigans with the sun and wind in your hair and face of a convertible (speaking of which, are the tops as big of a PITA to put up and down on the new ones?), but you compromise a lot to get it.

  • avatar

    I despise that “it’s a Jeep thing” line, or even worse, the “only in a Jeep.”

    When I see that one, I can’t help but think “only WHAT in a Jeep?”

  • avatar

    I’m torn on the unlimited. As a descendant of one of the primary inventors of the original Bantam Jeep, I’ve always applauded Chrysler for staying mostly true to its roots. The 4 door isn’t that much different (looking) than a two door, but it still doesn’t feel quite right.

  • avatar

    This is not a review; it is an opinion by somebody who does not use such products, participate in the activities for which they were designed, and probably has no experience whatsoever off-road.

    I agree with D. Hearse above….take this “review” down and relabel it as an editorial.

  • avatar

    interesting review – kinda like my feelings. I have always had friends who drive these. They are very very cool to look at, and ok to be in for the most part. Gas milage is really bad tho, and the directionl stability is questionable. Also, about the off road “lifestyle” stuff – they do it once, maybe twice, get tired of it, use it to commute and get groceries, just like any other car.

    For the wrangler, the top is nearly impossible to get off and then back on. Its NOT fun.

    ANd you cant take it inot a bar to show just how cool u are. Pity. I like it tho. WOuld never buy one.

  • avatar

    bucksnort: an opinion by somebody who does not use such products, participate in the activities for which they were designed, and probably has no experience whatsoever off-road.

    Yep, that’s pretty much the typical buyer, who could really benefit from such a review.

  • avatar

    I would love to have one of these vehicles as a four or five month summer vehicle/convertible. My hold up is that it would be 95% on-road…and the engine has to be the most inefficient ICE built in the America’s today.

    Instead of the X, Sahara and Rubicon trims, I wish Jeep would keep the Rubicon (for the pure off-roaders) and evolve the Sahara with more road-friendly gearing, for us wannabe’s.

    Five-ish years ago, a buddy and I drove his five-speed 4.0L down to Fenway Park one night, through Newton and Brookline, etc. It was a riot. Granted, we weren’t off road, but with the top down on a perfect summer evening in the city, I wouldn’t have traded that Wrangler for anything that night. What a blast!

  • avatar

    As a long-time reader of this site I call B.S. about this “review”. While the writer makes some valid points about the vehicles failings… the Rubicon is designed for maximum performance offroad. The reviewer however did not use the jeep in the environment for which it was primarily designed.

    Mr. Farrago: Did you miss this fact or decide to allow this opinion to be posted as a review anyway?

    Please post it in the editorial section or remove it altogether. As it stands it hurts the credibility of TTAC IMO.

  • avatar

    I’ve had a few years’ experience with the execrable 2.5l I4 Jeep engine Jeep put in a few of their 1980s CJ-5s. With insane stump-pulling gear ratios it (barely) got the job done at low speed rock-crawling, but it was absolutely hopeless in the mud or on the highway.

    I don’t miss the deafening road noise, the inability to exceed 65 mph except on the steepest downgrades, or the 5-speed shifter that left you fishing for gears like you were ice-fishing for pike in Minnesota.

    But I do miss taking off the roof and folding down the windshield for some exhilarating (if not terribly speedy) bugs-in-yer-teeth motoring. I took a horsefly in the forehead which hit me like a green-yellow paintball, and some unknown but sizeable insect went straight down my gullet. Nasty, but worth it.

  • avatar

    I’m a Jeep lover and I’ve been off-road in the new rubicon 4 door (a close friend’s gf bought one with a Chrysler friend and family discount) so I’ll agree with all of the points you’ve made and still reach a completely different conclusion. It’s silly, but this is just one of those vehicles that I love in an entirely unreasonable, and mildly inappropriate, way.

  • avatar

    I’m still waiting for the, almost entirely useless, Jeep pickup variant. I’d buy one in a second, preferably in Egyptian army tan.

  • avatar

    I’m on my third Wrangler, and I actually have the 08 Wrangler Unlimited. A few clarifications:

    1. The engine is gutless. It sounds like a blender full of gravel and rocks and thrashes about hopelessly when you need it the most. The I6 was WAY smoother.

    2. Mileage is HORRIFIC. 10-11 mpg in the city is standard, and that’s with a 6-speed stick and I’m the only person in the car.

    3. It IS unstoppable though. Goes through anything like hell. It’s astonishing what this thing can do.

    4. Makes a fair daily driver as well, but probably the automatic would be best for it.

    5. Interior is pure crap, but at least you can pull the top off.

    6. 4-door is infinitely more practical than the 2-door. No comparison.

    Thanks. I would never buy this again as a primary car – maybe the 2-door as a weekend car, and I would trick it out with mudders and a lift and have some fun with it.

  • avatar

    Bumper Sticker: It’s a Jeep thing, and I DO understand. That’s why I drive a Toyota.

    I was an absolute full blown Jeep Kool-Aid drinker, complete with four books, the hat, you name it. Loved Jeeps and wanted one all my life….right up until I actually had the misfortune to own one.

    Bought a brand new ’99 Wrangler Sport in Nov of 1998. By Dec 25th it was already in the shop for a dead oil pump.

    In the 48 months I owned that flaming piece of excrement, it spent between 9 and 12 months sitting in the repair shop. Two transfer cases, an oil pump, a fuel pump wire, and other assorted problems later I bought my 98 Tacoma.

    In 48 months of owning the Tacoma I had ….ZERO failures. The only repair I ever made was changing the driveshaft CV Joint bearings. I sold the Tacoma last year with 138,000 miles. Every single last moving part of that truck still worked flawlessly. So far my 2005 Tundra is proving to be an equally wonderful piece of non-Union perfection.

    Do I kindof miss taking the top down? Yeah. Do I kindof miss taking the doors off? Yeah. Do I miss standing next to my vehicle watching milky white diff fluid ooze out, stranding me somewhere in the Pawnee Nat’l Grasslands at 2 am? Hmmmm….No Do I miss getting pulled out of traffic by a Tacoma driver after my differential explodes? Still no.

    The American car companies are an embarasssment to the U.S. We built the P-51 damnit! I know we can do better than this but until the UAW dies a well deserved death, this kindof thing will continue.

  • avatar
    Scool Bz

    I have a 2008 Unlimited. It’s my first Jeep and first time as a off-roader. It so much fun to hit trails with my three little kids. They say it’s like riding a roller coaster. Also, once you get used to how to use the top, it’s really no big deal. Granted the interior is low rent and the mileage is crap, but I bought it as a family convertible for hitting the trails. For that, it’s perfect. I use it about half the time as a daily driver just ’cause it makes me smile.

  • avatar

    “it’s a Jeep thing”

    Half of these stickers are on 4 cylinders with neither a suspension or body lift. Sometimes they have aftermarket rims. When I see the snorkel kit, then I’m impressed.
    I agree the 4.0 i6 was funner/better suited for a Wrangler than the new 3.8.

  • avatar

    “It’s a Jeep thing, you wouldn’t understand”

    Harley guys say the same thing about their bikes. In both cases the standard response applies: “so you really can’t explain it then.”

  • avatar

    I don’t think it’s necessarily bad that the Jeep wasn’t tested off road. Is every performance car tested on track here?

    Having said that, this vehicle reminds me of when I tried to use my SCCA IT car as a daily driver for a while. With full race suspension and 650 pound springs, 5 point harness, 103dB exhaust, etc. The car was incredibly capable on track, but was completely overkill for the road and not very pleasant for commuting.

    I think that this Jeep would be just as useless as a commuter. It’s a one trick pony basically. It does that one trick well, but it’s not good at on-road travel where it would spend 95% of its life.

  • avatar

    I am sure the four door variants are more practical, but they just look wrong to me. I can understand why Chrysler would build them, and they are apparently selling well, but for me it is the two door all the way.

    With regards to the ‘It’s a Jeep Thing’, the Harley reference is perhaps the most on point. Yes, there are other offroad capable SUVs, some of which you can even take the top off of, just as there are other cruiser/chopper/chromed-out-vtwin bikes, but none have the same feel. I can’t explain why driving with the top down in a bouncy vinyl clad anachronism is so much fun, but it just is. Maybe it’s the waves you get from other Jeep owners, maybe it’s driver’s seating position almost halfway back the vehicle in the two door version, or maybe it’s just a psychological image thing, but Wranglers are fun, despite a list of cons twice as long as the list of pros for almost any driver.

  • avatar

    Keep in mind that it’s often the 2nd or 3rd owner that will do most of the off-road driving. I know if I just dropped $25k+ on a new whip I be a be squeamish about potential damage vs. having a $2k 10 year old beater.

    I would never want to have a traditional (CJ/YJ/TJ/JK) Jeep as my only car or daily driver. They are great summer cars though.

  • avatar

    I would have one as a daily driver, but only if I could use the skull of a child-soldier as my shift knob. I want my third-world army spec. Jeep now.

  • avatar

    Land Rover Disco II.

    If I’m going to have a fuel sucking, slug slow, in-the-shop-more-often-than-on-the-road off road vehicle, I at least want some style, a comfy interior, and some half-decent road manners.

    And yes, I have owned a Jeep. Horrible thing, but it made it to 300 odd thousand kms without blowing up (everything except the 4.0L, the transmission and the diffs was broken, though).

  • avatar

    I wanted a Wrangler when I was a kid because McGuyver had one. Despite their shortcomings as daily drivers, they’re fun to drive in an odd sadistic way.

  • avatar

    I hate the “it’s a jeep thing” slogan too, but I also understand it.

    We have a 98 Wrangler. It has been reasonably reliable (fried the coils once, and needed a new radiator at about 80,000 miles), but all of the other comments about these vehicles’ shortcomings are completely true. For me, the worst thing is the deafening wind noise on the highway with the soft top. So, on long trips, we take the Passat instead. This car is for in-town commuting, top-down jaunts to the lake, and also trips to field sites for work.

    So yeah, it’s a stupid car. Yet we love it. In fact, I have never developed this level of affection for any car. Can’t explain it…it’s a Jeep thing, I guess.

    And I would be all over the new Unlimited, if it weren’t for the horrendous gas mileage. It’s not a money issue – I don’t rack up big miles, and can afford to fuel any car on the market. For me, it’s a social conscience issue. Ten years ago I was okay with it, but these days sitting in one of these gas hogs I just feel like a carbon piggy. From that standpoint, they are obscene.

    In Europe, you can buy one of these with a diesel. Seems a natural fit to me. Not sure why we are not allowed to buy them here.

  • avatar

    I have a 2006 TJ Unlimited. Apart from the horrendous mileage, it’s a great daily driver. Really tight turning radius and great low speed manuverability, the coil spring suspension and long wheelbase gives a smooth ride, with proper AT tires, it’s unstoppable in the snow and in the summer it’s a blast with the top down. I plan on keeping mine a long time.

    Don’t like the JK Unlimited so much – looks too long (probably kills the maneuverability) and I can’t stand that they purged the last of the AMC heritage from the vehicle.

  • avatar

    ““It’s a Jeep thing; you wouldn’t understand”. This was the vaguely condescending response I got when I queried my then-girlfriend and current wife about why in the world she would choose such an unrefined and slow mode of transportation.”Oh, I think people understand, all too well. It’s a supposedly conscious choice where a limited number of Wrangler owners are willing to sacrifice reliability and acceptable driving dynamics for a lifestyle perpetuated by clever marketing. IOW, just another domestic niche vehicle.

    As previously pointed out, many customers that are lured in by the freewheeling, independent Wrangler ‘lifestyle’ find out very quickly that a Wrangler is in no way an acceptable, everyday vehicle and get rid of it the first chance they get.

    What’s puzzling is how Chrysler can expect to stay in business where their most successful product has such a limited (albeit loyal, to a fault) market. This seems like the same sort of lingering hubris that got Detroit in trouble decades ago when they took the domestic market for granted and foisted shoddy (but well advertised) products on the public, confident it would go on forever.

    FWIW, Consumer Reports rates the Jeep Wrangler as the overall worst new vehicle today, rating it poorly in all categories except, of course, off-road ability. I guess they ‘just don’t understand’, either.

  • avatar

    This is definitely the best version of the Wrangler yet. Although the interior isn’t the nicest, it is quite functional and the plastics can take a beating and are easy to clean. The YES! Essentials Seats are also a godsend for Jeep enthusiasts or urban coffee spillers. The 3.8 hasn’t won me over… I would like to see the 4.0 in it (if it’s possible?). Unlimited’s nice back seat capabilities and cargo area are putting more people in Wranglers since they can actually use this thing as a DD. Great decision by ChryCo! Dual roof option is awesome too!

  • avatar

    Also, JEC:

    Land Rovers are in the shop more than any car brand on EARTH! All statistics point LR as one of the bottom three for many years in a row. Jeep is ranked quite a bit higher than them. Also, in off-road testing for this new Wrangler, it outperformed all other vehicles (LR usually drops in at 2nd place) and costs 2 to 3 times less.


  • avatar

    Consumer Reports rates the Jeep Wrangler as the overall worst new vehicle today, rating it poorly in all categories except, of course, off-road ability. I guess they ‘just don’t understand’, either.

    I always get a chuckle from this. The Jeep Wrangler is precisely the kind of vehicle that will rate low on this sort of evaluation. First, it’s a convertible (with a complex manual top), which introduces its own set of problems. Then there’s the 4WD System (again a manual system which requires some basic system understanding to operate). There’s the unique features like the removable doors and hinged windshield, more complexity that other vehicles don’t have.

    Then there’s the fact that most Wranglers see much harder use than other vehicles. Aside from recreational off-roading, I’ve driven mine through flooded underpasses, over curbs to avoid traffic jams, in the worst of blizzards, things that would simply kill the average FWD Passenger Car.

    Not every vehicle on the retail market needs to be a Honda Civic…

  • avatar

    As someone else said, you review a Rubicon model and don’t even take it off the city streets?!

    I appreciate that you at least have some experience with Jeeps off-road. However I do always find the typical media reviews of the Wrangler to be laughable as the writer rarely gets it. They complain about it’s “stiff” ride, lack of refinements, plastic interior, loud tires, and the poor mpg rather then actually getting somewhere where few stock vehicles would go that will put a grin on anyone’s face.

    Not to mention the incredible after-market support to take a stock Wrangler from anywhere to weekend warrior to professional rock crawler.

    Fortunately Jeep still had the balls to first design the JK Wrangler for off-road use (even if they don’t all see a lot of it).

    As an owner of a TJ Wrangler, the Wrangler is the ultimate go anywhere convertible. Here I am with my TJ when it was stock, 10 months after purchase.

    And this was the view looking down on the Earth.

    But really, I guess it doesn’t matter that most people don’t get it. It leaves the back roads to those of us that do. ;)

    P.S. Here is a view of a JK Unlimited being put to work:

  • avatar
    Dave Baker

    This was the vaguely condescending response I got when I queried my then-girlfriend and current wife

    Do they know about one another? :-)

  • avatar

    I spent a week with a 2008 two door rental Wrangler X. On the road the big fat tires and high suspension made steering feel squirmy, and its brick-like aerodynamics made freeway speeds an adventure. But I was pretty impressed about how modern the car felt — quiet drivetrain, power windows, locks that automatically lock at speed, trip computer, solid brakes, and a decent dashboard. I don’t see the point of criticizing the plasticky rubbery interior material. It’s black and lacks style, which is just fine. I hate it when carmakers try to evoke emotion through painted, molded plastic. Worst part of the Wrangler is the recalcitrant automatic transmission (is grade logic software that hard to incorporate???). 600 miles of mostly highway driving with occasional 4-low jaunts averaged 20 mpg. Overall a fun vehicle for what it’s designed for. For around town driving, well it’s usable. If I had to live with it, no thanks. I’ve got a mountain bike for those times. Is it true they offer a two wheel drive only version? That makes no sense.

  • avatar

    From someone who has driven this vehicle for over 15000 miles, I am completely pleased with it. I used to lean heavily toward fuel economy, comfort, and quietness in a vehicle. It was a stretch to consider the Wrangler Unlimited, but I gave it a try. I have an Unlimited (4dr) with the automatic, with the 3.73:1 ratio rear end with 4WD. I routinely get 19 MPG City (25-45 mph) and 22 MPG Highway (@70mph), which is among the best for an SUV. My results are perhaps only slightly higher than others I’ve spoken with. People who claim to get 11 MPG in the city (with a stick, which has 3.21:1 gear ratio) do not know how to drive efficiently with a stick shift, and their performance is in no way typical. The vehicle is quiet, comfortable, the visibility is excellent, and the ability to go anywhere, anytime (within reason, of course) makes owning this vehicle much more enjoyable and exhilarating. Just knowing that you CAN take the top off, the doors off, the front overhead panels, results in personal gratification. It rides quiet, and (with the hardtop) the road noise is acceptable, bordering on low. The 3.8L engine borrowed from the minivan is an excellent motor, with a history of quality and reliability. Some will recall the past horror stories of Chrysler powertrain failures, but the majority of those stories were of Transmissions – not the engines.

    The materials used in this interior are completely adequate. It does not make sense to put soft-touch ANYTHING in this vehicle, *except* for arm rest pads (which it lacks- door and console). My vehicle has all the creature comforts such as power windows, locks, cruise, tilt, A/C. I added heated seat elements to extend the topless driving season here in Michigan.

    I am no longer affiliated with Chrysler or Jeep, but am simply a completely satisfied owner.

    I do not agree with this writer’s review. He reviewed the vehicle out-of-context.

  • avatar

    I’m looking forward to your next review. Will you be reviewing a Ferrari and, rather than driving it on the highway, take it off-roading in Moab?

  • avatar

    I can respect the review due to the fact that most Wrangler owners never take their vehicle truly off road, and if they do, they only do it once or twice, so a mostly on-road oriented review makes some sense as to how the vehicles get most of their use. At the same time, while I would love to read about some off-road fun, if the reviewer doesn’t have much or any experience in this, the test Jeep could have been beaten up pretty badly and the reviewer left stranded somewhere.

    My problem with the interior of the current Wranglers is that they are too nice. The YJ, and even the TJ, had a certain utilitarian charm that the JK just doesn’t evoke. Industrial plastics chosen for durability are one thing, poor plastics chosen for cost are another. A Wrangler should have a line of gauges across the dash, and most parts from those gauges, to trim pieces, to headlights and tailights, should be easily replaceable with the most mundane of toolboxes and the most basic set of mechanical skills. I am also a bit wary of such features as power locks, power windows, and AC in Wranglers. The earlier models already had those problems solved – don’t lock it or someone might be tempted to cut through your top to steal something, you don’t have to roll down a window when you can unzip it, and nature makes its own AC if you drive fast enough.

  • avatar

    I’m well aware that LR is horrifying when it comes to long-term reliability. It doesn’t stop me from wanting one – mainly because the whole “2-3 times the price” is moot when looking at used Discos. 13K will buy you a cherry Disco II with all the options. And then you can use the money you saved to feed it and keep it running (in theory)!

    I’m not trying to make the Disco sound like a sensible choice. It’s just my choice between the evil of Jeep (been there done that) and the evil of Land Rover (some new masochism to try).

    PS I found the 4.0 wasn’t that bad for fuel economy; the numbers being touted for the 3.8 are pretty damn scary. That’s what you would have gotten with the old V8 Cherokees, the 4.0L was damn near efficient by comparison.

  • avatar

    You cannot compare the sticker fuel economy numbers from the old 4.0L days to today – the fuel economy test cycle changed so that today’s numbers are about 20% LOWER from pre-2006 MY vehicles. The test cycle now more closely resembles actual driving in today’s world.

  • avatar

    Remember, there is another choice
    Nissan XTerra
    good off road, good on road, reliable
    I don’t see the point to the 4 door Rubicon as an only car. If you buy a Wrangler as your only vehicle you’re an idiot and should be put away/shot.
    I’d get the X 2 door with hardtop, not sure I’d even get AC

  • avatar

    If this review needs to be removed because the Wrangler was not driven off-road, should all sports car reviews be removed if the car was not driven on a race track? Despite the compromises, they’re all street legal vehicles, and that’s usually where they’ll spend most of their time.

    davey49 : I don’t see the point to the 4 door Rubicon as an only car. If you buy a Wrangler as your only vehicle you’re an idiot and should be put away/shot.

    I’ve known a few Jeep Wrangler/TJ/YJ owners who didn’t have a second car and they were decent, intelligent people. I don’t think they deserve to die for their automotive taste, nor do I think it made sense for them to buy, store, and insure a second vehicle. It really wasn’t much of a hardship to drive them on road.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    It’s like this.

    I have two automotive toys.

    One is a Jeep Wrangler. It is an extreme niche vehicle — 100% dedicated to the type of driving for which it was originally designed: off roading.

    The other is a Porsche 911. It too is an extreme niche vehicle — and is a wonderful expression of a corner carving road car or track-day sports car.

    The Jeep is a crap highway car. I mean, the absolute worst ever. On the open road, it is cruel and unusual punishment. It’s not bad for putting around town on a sunny day with the top down and doors off, however.

    The Porsche is death on wheels when the roads get slick. Keeping the back-end behind the headlights can be a puckering experience, indeed. Best keep this on-road tool in the garage on nasty days.

    The point is, niche vehicles have a specific place and time when their capabilities come to light.

    Wranglers are designed with a specific purpose — to go where other cars cannot. If you have never off-roaded, try it sometime. If your only experience in a Wrangler is on pavement, you’ve missed the entire point.

    Likewise, to have driven a 911 on a cold, sleeting day that’s spitting snowflakes is to have missed the entre point of the car (better to have had the Jeep). Find a lonely, twisting road on a clear, dry day and you’ll have a very wide grin on your face when you climb out of the Porsche.

    Mr Johnson, borrow that Jeep again as spring thaws, and the mud thickens. Join up with the local Jeep Club for their first excursion of the season (google and you’ll find a group close by – introduce yourself as a journalist doing a review and be prepared to be given a royal treatment by some of the friendliest, most helpful people you may ever have the privilege to meet). Report back to us with a follow-up review. If you do not give the Wrangler five stars after your adventure, along with a deep appreciation for this off-road tool, I will be shocked.

  • avatar

    The wife drives a 2000 XJ with the 4.0 as her DD. For jetting around town it is slow and loud, and brutal on the highway as well. On a highway trip with 65 mph max we have gotten up to 24 MPG in that sucker. For camping trips, and the winter, it is my favorite thing in the world. Nothing stops it. Maintaining the XJ has been cheap and it runs like a champ.

    The 4 door wrangler is the modern Cherokee. The old XJ is just a 4 door wrangler to begin with. It is a crude road car with exceptionally refined capabilities elsewhere. And rear doors.

  • avatar

    What are you calling bad gas mileage?

    To be fair, lets throw some numbers out there so it isn’t such a subjective comment.

    To a large degree it depends on how you drive.

    Would anyone believe my Miata gets 7 MPG with a stock engine?

    It does, because its a race car and on track the engine rarely goes below 6000 RPM.

    Before it was a racer, it got 28 MPG or so on the street.

    Lets use some numbers. I think 18-20 MPG is reasonable. I can afford it and it doesn’t bother me.

    Would I like 30 MPG? Sure, but not if I have to drive a little tiny car, no matter how nice it is once I fold myself into it. And don’t get me started on the misconceptions surrounding crash test ratings….

  • avatar

    When I drove my ’91 Cherokee into the dealer parking lot,a saleman came over to me and  said ” Have I a vehicle for you!”  He was talking about the Unlimited.The turning radius with that long wheelbase was offputting. I went with a Ram 3500 and a Can-Am 650 quad. But yes, it is a Jeep thing.

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