The Right Spec: 2021 Jeep Wrangler

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy

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.

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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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.

  • MaintenanceCosts "But your author does wonder what the maintenance routine is going to be like on an Italian-German supercar that plays host to a high-revving engine, battery pack, and several electric motors."Probably not much different from the maintenance routine of any other Italian-German supercar with a high-revving engine.
  • 28-Cars-Later "The unions" need to not be the UAW and maybe there's a shot. Maybe.
  • 2manyvettes I had a Cougar of similar vintage that I bought from my late mother in law. It did not suffer the issues mentioned in this article, but being a Minnesota car it did have some weird issues, like a rusted brake line.(!) I do not remember the mileage of the vehicle, but it left my driveway when the transmission started making unwelcome noises. I traded it for a much newer Ford Fusion that served my daughter well until she finished college.
  • TheEndlessEnigma Couple of questions: 1) who will be the service partner for these when Rivian goes Tits Up? 2) What happens with software/operating system support when Rivia goes Tits Up? 3) What happens to the lease when Rivian goes Tits up?
  • Richard I loved these cars, I was blessed to own three. My first a red beauty 86. My second was an 87, 2+2, with digital everything. My third an 87, it had been ridden pretty hard when I got it but it served me well for several years. The first two I loved so much. Unfortunately they had fuel injection issue causing them to basically burst into flames. My son was with me at 10 years old when first one went up. I'm holding no grudges. Nissan gave me 1600$ for first one after jumping thru hoops for 3 years. I didn't bother trying with the second. Just wondering if anyone else had similar experience. I still love those cars.