A friend of mine who drove a Jeep Wrangler bristled a few years ago when I suggested that the only reason to drive that vehicle was the image factor. You know, “I’m a rugged Colorado dude, so I drive this Jeep.”
Need I say more?
But here’s the thing: If you’re driving a Wrangler to make a statement about how tough and rugged you are . . . so what? Own it! Hell, when the rest of us pull up beside you at an intersection, we assume you like the reputation, so why not soak it in? Besides, nobody will buy the notion that you’re in it for a silky smooth ride and outrageously good gas mileage. Dude, wrong car.
I spent a week tooling around in the Rubicon, and the first day I was essentially just tolerant. This thing is not at home on the highway or in downtown traffic. That’s not why it was created. Oh, it manages, and it won’t be painful, but this is a creature that wants to run wild. It’s tough in Denver to run wild down Colorado Blvd.
Then a funny thing happened on the second day. I started to like it. Just a little, of course, but still. On day three I actually went the long way on an errand so I could play Mr. Macho. (Well, as macho as you can be in a lime-green-colored car.)
And that, my friend, is what the Wrangler offers. It isn’t necessarily a good car – or an easy one, for that matter – to drive. I found myself wrangling (sorry) it to keep it in its lane on the highway one day. It’s like the difficult child. You know, you might have two or three of them, and one is always off somewhere when you’re not looking.
But back to the basics. There’s a two-door and four-door version available, and three trim styles for each: Sport, Sahara, and Rubicon. I gotta tell you, the two-door Rubicon I drove might as well not have a back seat, because you’d need to be a gymnast to get into it if the detachable top is in place. I suppose when you pop the top it’s just a matter of springing into the back. Again, image, dude.
The V6 engine puts out about 285 horses, which in town is fine. Off the beaten path it relies more on the assorted trail goodies that are tucked inside. Things like “transfer case with low crawl ratio.” You know, the stuff you mutter in your sleep.
And don’t even get me started on the limited-slip rear differential. I don’t wanna turn you on too much.
As for safety ratings . . . Hey, how about that rear differential? (Yeah, let’s not talk about the safety ratings. Which is another way of saying they aren’t stellar.)
Wanna know something that I really liked? The heater. And in almost twenty years of writing car reviews, those are nine words I’ve never strung together before. But I swear, when I started the car on a 14-degree morning, there was hot air blowing out the vents in less than twenty seconds. That never happens. And in Colorado, that’s a huge plus.
I mentioned the detachable top. You can choose the soft-top or hard-top. For security reasons I’d opt for the hard shell, but just know it’s not generally a one-person job to maneuver that thing. Trade-offs, man.
So basically we’re looking at one of the original SUVs – or THE original, according to legend – that runs sorta rough, has a fairly big appetite for fuel, isn’t the all-time safest machine, and still (with the options on my test car) demands north of $40k.
Yeah, but the damned thing wins you over. Unless you’re sitting next to a Tesla at the red light, you’re pretty much the coolest person at the intersection. What should that option cost?
Reviewed by Dom Testa
Vehicle provided by manufacturer