$32,500 – $49,000
Good: The original ‘Willy’ styling with excellent contemporary off-road ability! The ‘Unlimited’ four-door brings a big improvement in interior space PLUS not only can the roof be removed, so too can the doors, AND the windscreen also folds down – that’s a CONVERTIBLE!
Not so Good: Petrol V6 is thirsty and lacks low-down torque. On-road ability not as exciting as the off. Interior plastics seem a little cheap…
Design and Engineering
Good : All-new model arrived here in ’07, yet thankfully the design stays faithful to the famous Willy’s Jeep shape from the 1940’s. This definitely ain’t no soft-roader; it has separate front guards, removable doors, a windscreen that folds flat (for hunting on the go?) and it even has drain holes in the cabin floor! Tiny front and rear overhangs are yet another hint of the Jeep’s off-road capabilities. This is also the first generation Wrangler to be offered with four doors (the longer wheelbase ‘Unlimited’ offering over 50cm extra interior length space than the two-door).
Not so good : An ol’ school ladder-frame chassis ensures the Wrangler is quite heavy…and the Petrol V6 engine still has pushrods and overhead valves.
Interior and Styling
Good : The October 2009 upgrade brings along a useful drop-in bin added to the centre console and a handy storage net added to the lower centre stack. A wider cabin see’s an improvement in shoulder room compared to the previous model. The Wrangler soft top has a fantastic number of roof adjustments on offer. The convertible grades are also quieter than the previous TJ series soft top.
Not so good : Steering wheel adjusts for tilt but not reach. The driver’s seat could offer more side bolster support. The plastics on the dash are hard, and look a little cheap to our eyes. The rear doors (on the Unlimited) are short, so entry space is tight; rear legroom is fine (however, knee position is not the most comfortable).
The second row passengers lack storage compartments and the two-door model has virtually no rear cargo capacity (behind the second row seats).
Good: 2.8L Turbo diesel engine produces a maximum 460Nm of torque when fitted with the five-speed automatic transmission (the manual makes do with a still respectable 410Nm). These are impressive figures for a four-cylinder engine and thus ensure the Turbo Diesel Wrangler easily keeps up with the traffic. All that torque also performs wonders when negotiating steep inclines off-road…
Not so good : 146kW and 315Nm of torque is no way near class-leading figures for a modern Petrol V6 engine. No surprise that the V6 never feels rapid (and combined with the poor real world fuel consumption) so we’d recommend the Turbo Diesel any day. The Petrol engine also lacks grunt down low, and the four-speed auto is outdated (the Turbo Diesel automatic gearbox has five-speeds).
Ride and Handling
Good : The current JK series Wrangler benefits from a significantly stiffer chassis than the previous; no doubt this is a more refined handling vehicle and overall, the ride is pretty good. Steering has acceptable levels of weighting, providing decent feedback. Live axles all ’round contribute to excellent 4×4 ability. Tick the optional Off-road Group for the electronically-controlled rear axle differential lock and electronic front sway-bar disconnect to further improve the Wrangler’s off-road skills!
Not so good : A ladder-frame chassis may help off-road but it certainly doesn’t help on the tarmac (compared to the majority of modern SUV’s which now have almost car-like handling coming from the car-based monocoque platforms). Yes, on-road dynamics have improved over the previous generation, but really that’s not saying much. Turning circle of the longer wheelbase Unlimited takes you by surprise when performing your first u-turn in busy traffic.
Buying and Owning
Good : Standard ABS brakes and Electronic Stability Control are important safety features. If you’re after a four-door convertible then look no further.
Not so good : We certainly prefer the Turbo Diesel out of the two engines on offer; however the price difference over the V6 petrol is significant. If you’re not planning to take it off-road, you must really love the unique styling, as it can feel cumbersome in an urban environment. Curtain airbag count at two is nothing to shout about.