By on June 24, 2021

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.

2021 Jeep Wrangler

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.

2021 Jeep Wrangler

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.

2021 Jeep Wrangler

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.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

45 Comments on “The Right Spec: 2021 Jeep Wrangler...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Good choices, especially the 3.6/6spd. I’d choose a brighter color, but the price would be the same.

    I always see Wranglers as $40k beasts (4-door, I guess), but they don’t have to be.

  • avatar
    mikein541

    While the 6mt might be cheap, it’s not want you need for real off-roading.
    Spring for an AT so you can spend your time off-road paying attention to
    the rocks/ruts/hills of the trail (or lack thereof) instead of on shifting.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      I agree on the MT versus AT. Wheeling with a manual is considerably more challenging depending on your gear ratio’s and transfer case ratio.

      The crawl ratio’s are as follows:

      Rubicon MT- 84.2:1 Auto- 77.2:1
      Sport/Sahara MT – 48.18:1 Auto – 44.2:1

      Rubicon’s with the manual take a real lame operator to stall out with those ratio’s. The standard Jeeps much taller ratio’s would be much more a problem offroad. That would be another reason to opt for an automatic and make sure you spec lower diff ratio’s.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    In many respects one is much better off with a closer to base Wrangler. The Rubicon has a few advantages such as electronic crawl control, raised diff vents as well as front and rear lockers.

    The Rubicon electronic sway-bar disconnects are a well known piece of sh!t that tend to fail regularly if one runs in deep mud and water. I’ve known of fellows with Jeeps going into a limp mode due to failure. The common fix are “quick disconnect” sway-bar links and a “tuner” is then required to shut off any “limp” settings. There are dealerships that will “look the other way” because it’s less hassle than dealing with warranty on the disconnects.

    Extending diff vents is a necessity if one offroads a vehicle and is easy to do. Any standard 4×4 has a fording depth equal to the centre of the wheel which isn’t very deep.

    I agree that A/C is a good idea. Wheelin’ in Moab isn’t fun in the desert heat just like wheelin’ in Northern BC surrounded by a billion mosquitoes looking for a meal isn’t fun. Top down driving is more of a “let’s look cool in town” thing anyways.

  • avatar
    ajla

    2-door Islander
    Hellayella paint
    Premium Sunrider top
    Soft top window storage bag
    Technology group
    Islander Plus Package
    Turboz with 8A
    Anti-spin rear axle

    $39,900

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I like these but would never go off road, so I think I’d just get a basic two door Wrangler Sport in Nacho, with the Machined Granite Crystal wheels, side steps and a hardtop. $38215.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    4xe High Altitude. But I really don’t care much since I’m just not a Jeep guy.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I like the 4xe but for some reason the Sahara and High Altitude trims come with 20 inch wheels. The Rubicon 4xe uses 17s so it isn’t like the hybrid requires giant wagon rims.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        They have bigger brakes than the regular Wranglers (13.6″) but I don’t think that should require 20s. And I also don’t like black rims. So in this weird hypo world where I have any interest in a Wrangler I’d look to swap the 18s from an 80th Anniversary gas model.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Just curious… Is the Wrangler the only vehicle for sale in the US wherein air conditioning is an option and not standard? I can’t think of another…

  • avatar
    Goatshadow

    The dreamy 2 door Nacho Rubi hardtop that I specced out came to 48K. But I would not kick the Willys out of bed. It would just need the hardtop.

  • avatar
    Dan

    There isn’t a right spec in my book. The four is a four, the six is torqueless, the diesel is a long term ownership nightmare, the 392 is overkill and too expensive.

    Given those unappealing choices I suppose I’d take the diesel and trade it in every five years to stay ahead of the emissions blowing up, but you can’t get the diesel in a two door and a four deer Jeep is missing the point.

    My runner up is then the 3.6 / 8A ($3250 for the normal transmission! They should be ashamed.) in a cheap and cheerful trim to not feel too ripped off by the bad motor. Even that cheap and cheerful is getting awfully close to $40,000. For that money I’d feel disappointed every time it downshifted to make it up a hill.

    The right spec is a 2.7 Bronco.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I saw my first real life Bronco today, nice. It won’t replace the Jeep but judging by looks alone it certainly will give it a run for it’s money

  • avatar
    IH_Fever

    Gimme a beat up old Cj7 with a 258, mild lift, and lockers. It’ll do everything the bloated wrangler will do off road, cost half as much, and you don’t have to worry about wheel scrapes and door dings like the mall crawlers. Folks like to complain about pickups being too big and overpriced, the Wrangler is the epitome of that.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      If you own an old CJ you’ll need to wear a kidney belt. The leaf spring suspension pounds you. Lifts can be cheap i.e. shackles, blocks, re-arched springs, relocating axles.
      Buying lockers depends on your budget. Detroit lockers aren’t cheap and air lockers are very pricy. Do you put a lockers in front?
      The transfer cases on those old Jeeps can be a pain to shift. Some will change them to a 2 lever set up like the original mil spec WW2 Jeep.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        No kidding, I call those old Jeeps “ball-busters”

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          @Lie2me
          A buddy of mine has a 4 year old Unlimited, a 70’s era CJ with the V8/3 speed and a WW11 era Jeep that he plans on restoring. I have yet to drive the CJ but my son has driven it. He jokingly said that he pees blood each time he drives it off-road.

          My neighbour has a V8/3 spd CJ with a hardtop, winch and 35’s he wants to sell but he wants $4,500. I’m told that’s a good price. I’m just waiting and watching. I’m sure his girlfriend will pressure him to drop the price further.

          He had a diesel Toyota Landcruiser which he sold. That’s what my son and I wanted but it was amazingly expensive. He had zero problems selling it.

  • avatar
    bradfa

    I don’t think you can tow more than 2000 lb with the manual transmission. The automatic can tow 3500 lb in the 4 door with the V6 but it’s unclear from jeep.com if the 2 door can tow that much even when specifying the tow package regardless of transmission.

    It’s annoying that manufacturers make finding tow ratings so difficult. At least many newer GM trucks have a special towing sticker now, so before you sign on the line you can at least know what the factory says your specific configuration of truck can tow.

  • avatar
    stuki

    Thanks!

    I had no idea you could even get a reasonably optioned Wrangler for that “little” these days. I’ve simply assumed that were $50K and up vehicles, such that pickups would always make the most “sense” if going off pavement.

    The two door is also soooooo much more handy in the woods than the 4d, that it’s worth going through quite some contortions, in order to squeeze oneself, with belongings, into the former if at all possible. Nothing wrong with the 4d, it just drives more like pickup than a “jeep” on tight trails.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    The soft top makes it tolerable with no AC, even black, if you can deal with ambient temps. It’d shift that money to a regular V8, 4.7 range if they offered one. Why is it Devil engine or nothing? Am I street racing nights? The Penaltystar is an absolute joke. I mean it’s OK in a Dodge Intrepid but Geeze.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    “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.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “It’s an underpowered POS.”

      Geez, tough crowd. I’m not going to write a poem about but it seems fine enough. Certainly not “POS” or “joke”. It’s a 10 year old port-injected naturally-aspirated V6 that run on 87. What kind of output are you looking for and what is the competition offering that is world’s better?

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        @ajla – All of the Jeep guys I know have complained about reliability and a lack of torque. They don’t call it a POS because…well… it’s a Jeep thing.
        I encountered a fellow with a Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon who had a 5.7 litre V8 installed. It is stock and he loves it. My friend had an engine failure last year with the V6 in his Rubicon. it was just off of warranty. Jeep washed their hands of it. The rebuild went sideways and he had to buy a V6. He’s mad at himself for not going the 5.7 hemi route since it would have been cheaper overall. 5.7’s appear to be more plentiful at the wreckers and less expensive to rebuild than the V6.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          “and a lack of torque”
          It doesn’t lack torque. Its torque output is right in line with nearly ever other V6 on sale today.

          It sounds like the issue is more with the application rather than the engine itself.

          • 0 avatar
            Flipper35

            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.

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          “Lack of torque” just means torque better suited to low range driving. And to driving around in stop and go traffic in a vehicle which is notoriously prone to pitching.

          I won’t vouch for it’s reliability, but for driveability, I personally find the Pentastar, with either a manual or the ZF8, about as good as mass production engines get.

          I did have, and miss, an Integra R and an S2000 (eventually modified for another 500 revs…), though. And do hit the magical 16000rpm tenor C on my 636 on pretty much every trip to the store. I suppose if one suffers from rpm allergies, the Pentastar, in a heavy vehicle, may not be one’s cup of tea.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        I see two groups of people here: those who are willing to rev the pants off a DOHC V6 and those who are not.

        No, it’s not going to make its power right off idle like an old pushrod V8.

        That’s OK! It’s meant to rev, and when you rev it, you find class-competitive acceleration.

        If you want your torque right off idle, get the 2.0T.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          Up high, means the power is short lived. And you’ll always be fighting the trans, stomping on it to kick-down 2 or 3 gears once you let off.

          A manual trans would help, and the problem is systemic for the class. Every year they keep getting bigger with more payload, yet minimal power increases.

          If not a V8, then similarly power and power curve. And it wouldn’t amount to much added fuel consumption since your foot wouldn’t need to have the gas pedal buried deep in the carpet fibers all the damn time .

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Just as comparison:
      Honda Passport [email protected] [email protected]
      Chevy Blazer [email protected] [email protected]
      Jeep Grand Cherokee [email protected] [email protected]
      Hyundai Palisade [email protected] [email protected]
      VW Atlas [email protected] [email protected]
      Toyota 4Runner [email protected] [email protected]

      So the Pentastar doesn’t seem like it is really lagging other V6s. It isn’t like it is a Subaru or something.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        @ajla – point well taken but in a Jeep Wrangler, especially the Unlimited, it seems crude and underpowered. I’m not impressed with it or the Wrangler. Most of my seat time has been a passenger off-road. My son’s full-sized F150 with an 8 inch lift on 35’s with the 90’s era stock 5.0 (195 hp) feels much more lively and entertaining. I even like my son’s 90’s era Cherokee with inline 6 more than the V6.
        I’ve test driven a pentastar Ram 1500 and found it to be okay but in a Jeep… nah.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        If you stick to 2-doors, leave it stock height/tires, never tow, etc… no it’s still underpowered! The others aren’t built like a billboard either and who says they don’t suck too?

        300 HP sounds OK, if conditions are otherwise optimal, but in a truck, look for max torque that’s quite a bit higher than its HP. If it’s equal or less than, it’s way up the rev band and short in duration. Take the Honda 2000; 200 HP and 90 lbs/ft of torque!

        On the other end, we have diesels. 300 HP usually means around 600 lbs/ft or more, starting right off idle.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          “and who says they don’t suck too?”

          Lol, it seems like you have some strong engine opinions and a very low threshold for calling something a “joke”.

          Anyway, I disagree with your conclusions but I’m not in the market for a utility vehicle.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            “Enthusiast” can mean all sorts of things around here. Being a gear head, it don’t care one bit about laughable panel gaps, soft-touch plastics, infotainment and other gadgets/fluff.

            To others, those are their whole entire world, and really don’t care what happens (or doesn’t) when they hit the gas. It’s laughable though, the attitude dudes in lifted/pimped Wranglers (and Tacomas) high on Redbull and Axe body spray, passing everyone, driving like a-holes, but once they get caught at a light (they can’t run) all they can do is creep away, then everyone in a Kia Soul, CUV, etc, makes it a point to blow their doors off..

            I just make sure they here my V8 as I go by!

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        As you’ve demonstrated the other mommy mobiles are no better, and let’s not kid ourselves about who it is that buys 18 of the 20,000 copies of these that go out every month, so this doesn’t have to be either.

        But against the half tons and Mustangs and such that fill in the rest of the no-prestige 50 grand toy market it’s exactly like a Subaru or something. Too slow to seriously consider.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          How fast do you think a base engine Wrangler should be?

          Caranddriver.com/reviews/a19423222/2018-
          jeep-wrangler-unlimited-v-6-awd-
          automatic-test-review/

          Certainly not thrilling, but seems acceptable. And, from what I can see that’s actually a tick quicker than a ZR2 or 4Runner.

          I think if you’re comparing it to a $50k PP1 Mustang GT then you are kind of off in the wheatfield.

          • 0 avatar
            Dan

            I’d like it to be as fast as – and more importantly similar power delivery to, I don’t care what it does at 6000 – a mid motor half ton.

            I’ve never driven a ZR2 but the Colorado with little tires and no skid plates already isn’t great and the 4Runner is an absolute dog.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            The Wrangler has been uncontested for too long, so buyers just accept its flaws. The 4Runner and Tacoma have no rivals (in the minds of their buyers) so Toyota does/spends the bare minimum.

            V8 Wrangler swaps are a thing though. If they’re leaving it stock, and or never leave the city, yeah who cares?

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            When you are off-road torque is important. Requiring revs just increases the odds of breaking things. Granted, most of these will never see an off-camber hill or get scratched on a tight trail. Most buyers think “Off-road” is the 1000 yards of dirt to the cottage.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            Jeep does offer 4 higher torque engine options on the Unlimited for people that really want that. I’m a little surprised that *serious* off-road types would be opting for the base engine.

            The Wrangler’s problem is that the cheapest V6T Bronco is $37K. That’s $3K less than the cheapest Ecodiesel, and $5K less than the cheapest *after rebate* 4xe (with the Ford being less complex than either). Then the 392 costs GT500 money and the Ford V6 outpowers the 2.0T and V6eTorque.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @ajla _ I have yet to see a Bronco in Canada (other than the sport). I did read that they were targeting the USA market first which makes sense. Bronco’s are a runaway fad in the USA. I do know a hardcore Bronco guy.(2 full-sized Bronco’s, 2 original ones, a pair of 70’s era F250’s) I’ll have to get his opinion on the new Bronco next time I see him.
            The Bronco has created a buzz in the off-road community here but most aren’t going to drop that amount of coin on a new rig. Jeep guys will most likely remain Jeep guys. The wannabee’s might jump ship to the newest shiny thing.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    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.)

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      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.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Maxb49: “Some design cues as well as Easter eggs like this show the heritage of the brand.” Maybe? Kinda?...
  • jkross22: Musk is a grifter. Look at recent statements he’s made essentially licking the boots of the Chinese...
  • Maxb49: Why does every electric car concept have to look like some cardboard/MDF futuristic piece of garbage out of a...
  • FreedMike: Not sure reviving Chrysler is a waste of time. But trying to revive it with this generic-looking thing is...
  • jkross22: Yes, every politician does this, but the one in office is the one we should focus on – regardless of...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber