Ace of Base: 2017 Jeep Wrangler Sport

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy

Jeep is fixin’ to launch a redesigned Wrangler as early as next calendar year, meaning this generation of the venerable off-road brute is slowly marching towards its best-before date. When we last looked at the base Wrangler ten months ago, we found it to be an agreeable steed whose Mohawk Vodka price point more than made up for any deficiencies compared to its snazzier cousins.

Has anything changed for 2017? Let’s find out.

There’s been plenty of digital ink spilled over the forthcoming Wrangler and pressure is on FCA to design a vehicle that appeals to the public and placates the hordes of rabid Jeep fans. These are, after all, the same people who have been known to rival those diagnosed with Metathesiophobia in their staunch dislike of change.

For this model year, though, Wrangler changes are limited to a few minor changes and a $100 price hike to new starting price of $23,995. The base model is still cleverly called the Sport. The now-ubiquitous 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 remains under that flat hood. It makes 285 horsepower in the Jeep, seven fewer than the same mill in my Charger due to packaging.

A manual transmission is standard equipment in the base Wrangler and should be the sole transmission considered unless you only have a right leg. Having sampled many Wranglers, Rubicons, and Renegades (think ‘80s), I severely enjoy a manual transmission Jeep, even if its shifter does feel like a Louisville Slugger with only the barest hint of being attached to an actual gearbox.

The Wrangler has more color choices than a Sherwin-Williams production line, offering everything from staid greys to eye-arresting reds and blues, all for $0. The example above is shown in the superbly named Hypergreen. Purists will want to spring for the similarly priced half-metal doors, offered gratis from the good folks at FCA. Nothing wakes you up on a cold winter’s night like a bracing drive in a Wrangler with plastic side windows. Air conditioning is optional on the Sport. You don’t need it.

Jeep owners have long carped about their headlights not actually being headlights but being some fireflies in a couple of jam jars. Remedying this is a new-for-2017 $595 LED lighting option that swaps out those two candles up in the front grille for a couple of snazzy LED units.

Roughly $10,000 cheaper than the more capable Rubicon, the Sport still represents a great value. Not all of that $10,000 premium goes into stouter off-road equipment, so a thrifty Wrangler buyer could take their savings, blow it all on tires, rims, and suspension upgrades, and proceed to embarrass any stock Rubicon on the trail.

That misses the Ace of Base point, though. For under $24,000, any buyer can stroll into a Jeep showroom and drive away with one of the most capable factory off-roaders on the planet. A gravel driveway will probably be the sole non-pavement adventure for most, but they’ll be living the lifestyle. As long as economies of scale mean I can get into a Wrangler with cruise control, eight speakers, a Dana 44 rear, and half-doors for only $925 more than a base Camry, I don’t care what other people do with theirs.

And just to stoke the fires, you should know: I’d take this thing over last week’s 4Runner.

Not every base model has aced it. The ones which have? They help make the automotive landscape a lot better. Any others you can think of, B&B? Let us know in the comments. Naturally, feel free to eviscerate our selection.

The model above is shown in American dollars with American options and trim, absent of destination charges and available rebates. As always, your dealer may sell for less.

Matthew Guy
Matthew Guy

Matthew buys, sells, fixes, & races cars. As a human index of auto & auction knowledge, he is fond of making money and offering loud opinions.

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2 of 49 comments
  • Syncro87 Syncro87 on Jun 13, 2017

    Finding a base, manual Wrangler on the lot in my city is akin to finding a Leprechaun.

  • Pete Zaitcev Pete Zaitcev on Jun 16, 2017

    A manual in JK Wrangler is a poor bet. Reliability is bad, longevity is bad. It's going to start popping out of a gear, or even worse - gets a ring snapped somewhere. The only upside is that you don't have to maintain it as much as you do with the auto. The 42RLE auto in a JK after 2009 is essentially bulletproof and lasts forever. To sum it up, you should take a manual in Crosstrek or Accord, but not in Wrangler. P.S. They hint of an all-new manual in 2018+. The current one is too flimsy to take the torque of the VM 3.0 diesel and 2.0 "Hurricane" turbo, so they are making a new manual transmission to go alongside the 8sp auto. Maybe that one will be better.

  • Tane94 If there is market demand, build the vehicle. That's what Ford is doing. Kudos
  • Cprescott Looking like that? Egads
  • The Oracle This thing got porky quick.
  • Kwi65728132 I'll grant that it's nicely kept but I'm not a fan of the bangle butt designs, and I know better than to buy a used BMW while living anywhere in the world other than in the fatherland where these are as common as any Honda or Toyota is anywhere else.
  • ChristianWimmer When these came out I thought they were hideous: now they’ve grown on me. This one looks pretty nice. Well-maintained, low mileage and some good-looking wheels that aren’t super fancy but not cheap-looking or boring either, they are just right.