The Right Spec: 2021 Jeep Wrangler

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy
the right spec 2021 jeep wrangler

We briefly thought about covering the new (and thirsty) Grand Wagoneer for this week’s entry into the Base Camp series, given the model’s excellent retro name and propensity to induce rose-colored myopia in adults who mis-remember the Malaise Era. However, we all know there’s only one way to order such a rig: fully loaded.

Which is why we’re focusing our efforts on the Wrangler. It serves as Jeep’s trademark since it is the image that pops into most people’s minds – even non-gearheads – when they hear the word ‘Jeep’. Plus, in most guises, it approaches something that can even be called affordable.

There are no fewer than fourteen different trims of Wrangler currently available to American shoppers – and that’s before you start adding the myriad of powertrains which range from turbocharged four-bangers to electrified plug-in hybrids. Your author maintains the OG 3.6L Pentastar V6 is the best choice, given that the company has produced millions of the things making for abundant future parts supply abundant and low maintenance costs.

This ignores the mighty 392 V8, of course, which is an absolute blast to drive and is guaranteed to plaster a rictus grin on the faces of driver and passenger alike. But at very nearly 80 grand, it’s tough to recommend it for The Right Spec. Given remarks made earlier, it’ll surprise no one that our Wrangler will be powered by the V6-engine mated to a 6-speed manual transmission.

Let’s take a closer look at the Willys Sport trim. Just the second rung on Wrangler’s ladder, it has a (two-door) sticker price of $30,900 and features several off-road goodies for which one had to pay dearly not too long ago. Chief amongst these items are the Rubicon shocks, 32-inch mud-terrain tires, and a limited-slip diff outback. Useful features, then, especially for those of us who enjoy picking our way over and through off-road obstacles.

Those same features lend a butch appearance to the Willys Sport, though every single paint shade save for Bright White costs an irritating $245. Might as well pop for Sarge Green to stay on brand. Retro-cool half doors are tempting but cost an outrageous $2,550, so we’ll leave that option unchecked. Better to spend $1,295 on the optional air conditioning, which we recommend. You won’t have the top and both doors off 24/7, after all.

The only choice left to make is whether or not to splash out $795 on the Trailer-Tow & HD Electrical group. It adds 4- and 7-pin trailer wiring harnesses plus a Class II hitch (remember, the Wrangler can only tow 3,500 lbs) and – critically for those of us planning to accessorize our Jeep – a quartet of auxiliary switches. These handy little things are wired right into the rig and can be programmed for either constant or momentary power once pressed. The former is good for light bars, for example, while the other is perfect for something you want to run for short periods of time, like a winch.

So equipped, we’ve managed to push our Willys Sport to $33,235 and built ourselves a capable off-road beast with a hint of Rubicon but without breaking the bank. What’s your take?

[Images: Jeep]

Please note the prices listed here are in American dollars and currently accurate for base prices exclusive of any fees, taxes, or rebates. Your dealer may (and should) sell for less (obscene market conditions notwithstanding). Keep your foot down, bone up on available rebates, and bargain hard.

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22 of 45 comments
  • Lou_BC Lou_BC on Jun 24, 2021

    "The Penaltystar is an absolute joke.' Planning on incurring the wrath of EBFlex? LOL I have to agree. It's an underpowered POS. It isn't reliable and in the Jeep mpg isn't all that good for something this small.

    • See 18 previous
    • Flipper35 Flipper35 on Jun 28, 2021

      @ajla I think this is the case. It moves our 5150 pound Pacifica just fine. Of the line it is an issue of traction more than power. Same in our Avenger.

  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Jun 24, 2021

    Jeep Thoughts (I know you can't wait to hear): • My [halfway through college] daughter's Two Major Complaints regarding her upbringing: a) Never got a battery-operated ride-on vehicle [Barbie Jeep or otherwise] and b) Wouldn't (and still won't) let her get a Wrangler • When I am on a long interstate drive and Wranglers pass me with oversize tires going 80 mph, I feel sympathy due to 0) Tire noise 1) Poor isolation/short wheelbase 2) NVH 3) Fuel bills 4) Payments 5) Maintenance [esp. due to modifications] 6) [Un]Crashworthiness • If I ever have more land, I would like to get a dog - a fairly large dog (and not to be allowed in the house per my current spouse). If I had more land than that, I would maybe consider getting a Jeep as a fourth vehicle. But a CJ-7, not a Wrangler. (It would be fun to work on and bomb around in.)

    • Lou_BC Lou_BC on Jun 25, 2021

      I've seen some of those Mahindra diesel Jeep clones. They might make a good "farm" rig. My buddy hit a moose this spring with his Unlimited Rubicon. He did fair reasonably well in the crash. The 5 inch lift/35's and brush deflectors shifted the impact away from that tall square windshield. It also wasn't highway speeds. I do agree that durability is an issue. He's done more repairs to it that my son has had to perform on his 90's era lifted F150 and Cherokee combined. Your daughter wanted one? Here age group appears to be the demographic for the Wrangler and soccer mom's are the demographic for the Unlimited.

  • BklynPete So let's get this straight: Ford hyped up the Bronco for 3 years, yet couldn't launch it to match the crazy initial demand. They released it with numerous QC issues, made hay for its greedy dealers, and burned customers in the process. After all that, they lose money on warranties. The vehicles turn out to be a worse ownership experience than the Jeep Wrangler, which hasn't been a paragon of reliability for 50 years. The same was true of the Aviator, Explorer, several F-150 variants, and other recent product launches. The Maverick is the only thing they got right. Yet this company that's been at it for 120 years. Just Brilliant. Jim Farley's non-PR speak: "You don't get to call me an idiot. I get to call myself an idiot first."Farley truly seems hapless, like the characters his late cousin played. Bill Ford is a nice guy but more than a bit slow on the uptake too. They have not had anything resembling a quality CEO since Alan Mulally turned the keys over to Mark Fields - the mulleted glamor boy who got canned after 3 years when the PowerShi(f)t transaxles exploded. He more recently helped run Hertz into the ground with bad QC and a faulty database that had them arresting customers. Ford is starting to resemble Chrysler in the mid-Seventies Sales Bank era. Well, at least VW has cash and envies Ford's distribution reach and potential profitability.
  • Mike Beranek This guy called and wants his business model back.
  • SCE to AUX The solid state battery is vaporware.As for software-limited pack capacity: Batteries are obviously the most expensive component of an EV, so on the rare occasion that pack capacity is dramatically limited (as in your 6-year-old example), it's because economies of scale briefly made sense at the time.Mfrs are not in the habit of overbuilding pack capacity just for fun, and then charging the customer less.Since then, pack capacities have been slightly increased via software because the mfr decides they can sacrifice a little bit of the normal safety/wear margin in the interest of range. We're talking single-digit percentages, not the 60/75 kWh jump in your example.Every pack has maybe 10% margin built into it, so eating into that today (via range increases) means it's not available to make up for battery degradation tomorrow. My 4-year-old EV still has its original range(s) and 100% SOH, but that's surely because it is slowly consuming the margin built into the pack.@Matt Posky: Not everything is a conspiracy to get your credit card account, and the lengthy editorial about this has nothing to do with solid state batteries.
  • JLGOLDEN In order for this total newcomer to grab and hold attention in the US market, the products MUST be an exceptional value. Not many people will pay name-brand money for the pretty mystery. I can appreciate the ambition of selling $50K+ crossovers, but I think they will go farther with their $30K-$40K offerings.
  • Dukeisduke They're where Tesla was when it started - a complete unknown. I haven't heard anything about a dealer network. How are they going to sell these? Direct like Tesla? Franchises picked up by existing new car dealers?