When you’re shopping for cars, you can make the safe choice or you can choose something thrilling. If you’re a play-it-safe shopper, the Jeep Wrangler isn’t for you. However, if you want more from your vehicle, read on to learn more about this iconic off-road SUV.
The Wrangler has some downsides, including a high price, low fuel economy, and sub-par reliability. Yet, none of that matters to Jeep drivers. What they care about is the Wrangler’s outstanding off-road capabilities and undeniably cool design.
The fourth generation, the Wrangler JL, was introduced for the 2018 model year. The previous generation, the Wrangler JK, was manufactured for ten years previous to that. Whether you opt for a JL or a JK, the Wrangler offers tons of options to design an off-road toy that is perfect for you. Here’s everything you should know before buying the Jeep Wrangler.
Price and Value: A new 2019 two-door Jeep Wrangler starts at $20,045, while the four-door Wrangler Unlimited will set you back at least $31,000. The Rubicon trim costs more than $40,000 new. To save money, consider purchasing a used Wrangler. The JL was introduced for the 2018 model year, but there are lightly used models available. The Wrangler JK ran for ten years before that, so there are plenty of used Wrangler JKs available. Overall, the Wrangler has a higher starting price than other five-seat SUVs, but it delivers more value for people who want four-wheel drive capability.
Body Options and Capacity: The Jeep Wrangler is available in two-door and four-door options for both the JK and JL generations. The two-door Wrangler seats four people with 35.7 inches of legroom in the back seat. It has 12.9 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats. The four-door Wrangler, called the Unlimited, has seating for five people with an additional three inches of legroom. It has 31.7 cubic feet of cargo space. The Wrangler has a max towing capability of 3,500 pounds, comparable to other mid-sized SUVs.
Top Options: One of the most iconic parts about the Wrangler is its ability to be driven without a top and even without doors. When you shop for a Wrangler, you’ll have four top options to choose from. They are:
- Sunrider (soft top): This is the base top for the Wrangler. It comes standard in black vinyl, but is available in body color at some trim levels. There are also upgraded versions of the Sunrider soft top that use enhanced materials to give a quieter ride.
- Freedom Top (hard top): The Freedom top is popular because it can be entirely removed. Although this is reportedly easier on the JL than on the JK, you’ll still need two people to get the Freedom top off entirely. However, the JL has panels over the front seats that can be removed by one person, letting you take advantage of the sun even when you’re on your own.
- Sky One-Touch Power Top (combination). The Sky top has hard panels on the sides, but a soft-top on the roof that can retract with the push of a button. With this top the rear windows are removable, but it’s not possible to take this entire top off. The Sky top was introduced in 2019 and is only available on that model year and later.
- Dual Top Group: This option allows four-door Wranglers to come with a hard top and a soft top. When the Freedom Top is on, the Sunrider top is stored in the cargo area (diminishing some cargo space). Still, having both a hard and soft top is a good choice for drivers who want to experience everything the Wrangler has to offer.
Trims: The Jeep Wrangler is available in five trims: Sport, Sport S, Sahara, Rubicon, and Moab. The main differences are the four-wheel drive capabilities, and how the SUV is tuned. Here’s what you’ll find on each (using specs from the 2019 model year).
- Sport: The base Wrangler comes with standard four-wheel drive, cloth seats, a 3.5-inch black and white infotainment display screen, an eight-speaker audio system and a soft top.
- Sport S: The Sport S adds power windows, air conditioning and keyless entry. It also give you access to many more options, including an upgraded soft top for a quieter ride and heated seats.
- Sahara: The Sahara has a seven-inch color infotainment screen, Satellite Radio, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. It also has enhanced off-road capabilities with heavy-duty suspension.
- Rubicon: The Rubicon has a performance suspension, front and rear locking differentials, a vented hood and a bumper designed for higher clearance, making it the best Wrangler for off-roading. Cloth seats are still standard, but leather is an available option.
- Moab: Introduced for 2019, this limited-edition trim has comes standard with a body-colored hard top (the only trim to come standard with the Freedom top). It also has leather-trimmed front seats and front and rear tow hooks.
Engine Options and Drive trains: All Jeep Wranglers come standard with four-wheel drive, but you’ll have to select the system you want. You’ll also need to choose between the Wrangler’s standard 285-horsepower V6 base engine, which gets an EPA-estimated 20 mpg combined, or an optional 270-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder that gets 24 mpg combined. Note that the turbo-four is only available on the JL, not on the previous generation JK.
Here are the different four-wheel drive systems available on the Wrangler JL:
- Command-trac 4×4 System: This drive train switches between two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive automatically. That means your Wrangler can adapt to road or trail conditional at speeds of up to 45 mph. This is the standard system on the Sport, Sport S, and Sahara.
- Selec-Trac Full Time 4×4 System: This upgraded system, an option on the Sahara and standard on the Moab, provides more traction.
- Rock-trac 4×4 System: This system has a 4:1 low gear ratio and provides increase torque to the wheels for optimal performance. This system comes standard on the Rubicon.
Safety: The Jeep Wrangler isn’t a vehicle that is known for its safety. The Wrangler JL has not been crash-test rated in the United States, but the European New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) gave it the lowest possible rating of 1. The previous generation of the Wrangler, the JK, had a crash-test rating of 3 of 5 from The National Highway Traffic Safety (NHTSA) and mediocre ratings from The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
The Wrangler doesn’t have many standard safety features. Although it comes standard with a rear-view camera, parking sensors, automatic braking, and blindspot monitor are optional upgrades that don’t come standard on any trim level.
Reliability: Jeeps aren’t known for being particularly reliable, and the Wrangler is no exception. The 2019 Wrangler JL has a reliability rating of 2 out of 5 stars from JD Power and Associates. Years 2016 through 2018 had a slightly better reliability rating of 2.5, but even that was well below average.
There are currently two recalls on the 2019 Wrangler, and eight recalls on the 2018 model. There are four recalls on the 2017 model. Before buying a used Jeep Wrangler, check the VIN to see if this vehicle was subject to recalls.
The Takeaway: The Jeep Wrangler is a great off-road vehicle. It’s perfect for drivers who are looking for a toy, or who don’t mind sacrificing some convenience and comfort to get optimal off-road performance.
However, the Jeep Wrangler isn’t a great everyday vehicle. It’s expensive, and comes with few standard features. It’s not very safe or reliable, and its ride tends to be bumpy and loud on the road. Still, people who are shopping for a Jeep usually know what they’re looking for, and are likely to embrace the Wrangler, flaws and all.