While I am a card carrying member of the so-called indifferent Generation X, I am quite a nostalgic person. It’s why I listen to Louis Armstrong and Frank Sinatra, live in a 1920′s beach cottage and own a classic Porsche. And being a car guy, nothing is more nostalgic than a Jeep-I mean a real Jeep. Being a car guy, cars are significant to me in a major way, even more so when they intermingle with major life events. We love to brag about horsepower and 0-60 times, but the magic and romance of a car trumps hard numbers. Days after I married the love of my life, we were on our honeymoon on Nantucket Island. We rented a Jeep Wrangler Sport for the day, and it was one of the greatest days of my life. We deflated the tires and cruised the dunes, right alongside the Atlantic Ocean. That night we hit Nantucket nightlife for dinner on the picture-perfect cobblestone streets before heading back to our waterfront hotel room. The Jeep Wrangler is forever intertwined with our lives.
But this isn’t 1998, and the Jeep Wrangler is not the same either. The Garage is no stranger to the Wrangler, as we last tested one in 2010. That was a four door Unlimited Rubicon. This time around, we sampled a two-door Sahara. Jeep is obviously very cautious in the evolution of its most iconic car, but there have been changes that improve the capability and livability of the Wrangler. The profile of the Wrangler is critical, as much so as the Porsche 911. It simply cannot be messed with. Our test car was finished in a gorgeous True Blue Pearl Coat set off with attractive 18″ alloy wheels. Kudos to Jeep for keeping the Wrangler’s classic looks.
The cabin of the Wrangler has never been heralded as a model of refinement, but that sort of goes against the grain of what the Wrangler is about. This is not a Lexus, and Wrangler buyers do not want a distilled version of a car they feel passionate about. That said, our Wrangler offered the latest in in-car technology. The seats were fairly comfortable. In an ironic twist of fate, the Wrangler which was a part of our honeymoon, the 2013 Jeep Wrangler would be our ride to celebrate my 40th birthday. We spent our weekend at the swanky Hotel Northampton.I figured if it was good enough for John F. Kennedy, it would be ok for me. Sadly, the Jeep was not a friendly travel companion. For a weekend trip the Jeep’s trunk would not take our suitcase, I had to shove it behind my seat. Shopping over the weekend did not help matters either.
All Wranglers are powered by a 3.6L V-6 rated at 285hp. Buyers can choose from a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic. Naturally, all Wranglers are all-wheel drive. The new Pentastar V-6 is is a massive improvement over the outgoing engine, with a dramatic increase in power and fuel economy. The old Wrangler was sort of charming with its ancient drivetrain, but the new engine is a the right step to keep the car relevant. I had the opportunity to off-road a Jeep Wrangler at the 2012 IMPA Test Days events held in the Catskill Mountains in New York. With an off-road course designed by Land Rover, and punished with rain, to say the course was challenging is an understatement. A Honda exec asked to ride with me. He, as well as myself, were near speechless at the off-road capabilities of the Wrangler. It makes me sad most Wrangler owners will never know what their cars are capable of.
Our test car was a 2013 Wrangler Sahara 4×4 two-door, the middle of the line between base Sport and top of the line Rubicon. Showing its truly legit off-road capabilities, the standard equipment lists items like Dada heavy duty axles and skid plate shields. For as tough as the Wrangler is, it is hardly a dinosaur with air conditioning, power locks and windows, leather wrapped steering with with controls, Alpine audio system with SiriusXM satellite radio, 18″ alloys, and power heated exterior mirrors. Options on our test car included the Connectivity Group (UConnect Voice Command, Bluetooth, Tire Pressure Monitor display, remote start), 5-speed automatic transmission with Hill Descent Control, Anti-Spin rear differential, auto climate control, soft top, and GPS navigation. Including delivery, our Wrangler rang in at $32,610USD.
It is a remarkable feat that Jeep has been able to maintain the Wrangler’s outstanding off-road ability and unique character in an age when all odds seem stacked against it. Amazingly, Wrangler sales are up, and Chrysler is hiring 200 additional workers where it is built to meet increased demand. With the more refined V-6 and improved interior, Wrangler sales are on the rise. No, the Wrangler is not for everyone, and on-road as an every day car, you are making compromises in exchange for its off-road ability. But, I challenge you to find a car with more character and personality at this price. The Wrangler is the car the defines their brand, and The Garage is pleased to say the Wrangler continues to improve with age.