The Jeep Wrangler lineup is larger and more inviting than ever for 2014.
Standard V6 power and a new six-speed manual start things off in the two-door trucks from about $23,000 — which is an excellent driver’s package versus previous entry-level Wranglers.
The Wrangler with the four-cylinder and automatic in the 1990s (of my high school days) was a very fun truck to ride around town in. Truly one for those who want to see and be seen doing the coolest things with the coolest people.
But at anything over 50mph, the soft-top Wranglers of the 1990s lost me for good. The ride and wind buffeting are… still quite memorable.
But why not overlook these items for all the Wrangler’s off-road prowess and previously-mentioned cool points? With the old standard engine: there just was nothing to love in the driving experience versus the older, more-powerful 1980s Wranglers.
The old 4.0-liter Inline-six was a great engine. Its robust manual transmission was so strong that it was my first time nailing clutchless upshifts on max throttle. Yes, it could be done — and was glorious!
All this historical powertrain info is just to put the new Wrangler’s improvements in perspective. The new Wrangler’s standard 285-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 engine was the final missing piece of the Wrangler’s full chassis re-do in 2005 or so.
With that potent standard V6 comes a six-speed manual comes standard, but the optional five-speed would be my grown-up choice in a heartbeat these days.
4×4 is also standard, so what are these dozens of various models from which to choose? Lots of special editions for this year, including:
— Rubicon X
— Willys — Color Hardtop not available (at least on Unlimited Willys)
— Polar Edition
— Altitude Edition -NA
— Freedom Sport Edition
— Dragon Edition
These six specials are in addition to the four standard trims of Sport, Sport S, Sahara and Rubicon.
Of course, there is also the choice of doors. The two-door is tagged the Wrangler, while the four-door is called the Wrangler Unlimited as a distinct model. [This confused me at first in the configurator.]
So which to buy? Let’s see… Which can you afford?
My choice is the Sahara Unlimited, which is the first rung of the 4-doors to offer the body-color hardtop as an option.
This body-color unit costs $1,800 and is worth every single penny. It looks amazing on the road and even has three pieces to remove the top and sides alone in Springtime before the whole piece is unbolted.
This is still a two-man job to lift and remove cleanly once unbolted, but it is fun work.
Same allen-wrench steps to remove the doors and lower the windshield — all standard features on all trims.
One caveat about this: the Wrangler offers either full metal doors of the classic half-doors. Let me save you years of frostbite and windburn on your face from unsealed plastic windows on the half-door.
THe full metal doors are highly recommended. Power windows, but still removable completely for your camping expeditions.
In fact, my dream Wrangler Unlimited Sahara with the body-color top might be the first Wrangler ever to not have any zippers in its core weather protection. Zippers are no fun in snow and ice.
Okay, so we’ve selected a Sahara Unlimted that stickers for about $32,000. Adding the body-color top is detailed below.
But what other options are serious must-haves for an adult-able Wrangler for all climates? Any previous owners will concur: a huge OEM stereo is critical to avoid years of wasted time trying to upgrade the original units to audible-on-highway equipment.
Besides those options and and snazzy paint colors — The Wrangler Unlimited is very easy to buy.
Uconnect® 730N CD/DVD/MP3/HDD/NAV
5-Speed Automatic Transmission
Freedom Top® Body-Color 3-Piece Hard Top
Body-Color 3-Piece Hardtop
$1,795 / $29 a month
Delete Vinyl Sunrider® Soft Top
Sunrider is a registered trademark of Bestop, Inc.
Freedom Panel Storage Bag
Rear Window Defroster
Rear Window Wiper / Washer
But be warned, it does get quite expensive in the new Dragon and Rubicon X trim levels, which each base for nearly $38,000. That caused a bit of sticker shock for me, but perhaps not to you.
As equipped, my Sahara is $38,000 as well. So definitely more of an investment than the 1990s Wrangler days of $18,000 base prices.
But as noted above: these new four-door, hardtop V6 Wrangler Unlimited models will be much better long-haul companions for years more than the soft-top’s limited year-round appeal (in cold or hot climates).
What do you think?