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2017 Jeep Wrangler Overview
The Jeep Wrangler isn’t for everyone, but as the years have shown, it has a timeless appeal and presides over an enthusiast and aftermarket community that is equaled by very few automobiles in size and scope. In a Wrangler, the ride is typically poor, build quality can be shoddy, and safety isn’t much of a consideration at all, but none of that matters to the people who love the model. It’s a back-to-basics, wind-in-your-hair type of automobile, and however poorly it rides on the road, that's soon forgotten once it gets off it. There just aren’t many other things like the Wrangler anymore.
While the classic Jeep lost any trace of the old World-War-II Jeep decades ago, the 2017 Wrangler still has the same familiar shape and rugged character, although it’s much more refined than Wranglers of even the not-so-distant past. While the next-generation Wrangler may come as soon as 2018, changes for 2017 are minimal; they include available LED headlights and fog lights as well as a new Sport S trim and a Cold Weather package. There is still a wide range of trims available, from the bare-bones Sport, starting at $23,995, to the loaded Rubicon Hard Rock, at $38,445.
The sole engine available for the 2017 Wrangler is a 3.6-liter V6 with 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. It’s mated to either a 6-speed manual or a 5-speed automatic, which is actually a Mercedes unit carried over from the Daimler-Chrysler days. It may be old, but the automatic is a tried-and-true transmission that works well, and the 6-speed functions well enough for what it is. It has a long throw, as with any truck, but shifts smoothly enough and with relative ease.
The Wrangler is still far from the fastest car on the road, but it’s not as painfully slow as some of the Wranglers of the past and will certainly get out of its own way. At anything much faster than highway speeds, though, occupants will get a quick lesson in aerodynamics, as a Jeep Wrangler cuts through the wind about as well as a shed. This affects the Wrangler’s fuel economy, which in 2-door guise stands at 17 mpg city/21 highway/18 combined.
Just as the Wrangler wasn’t meant to go fast, it also isn’t meant to go around corners. It has solid axles, a high ride height, and body-on-frame construction, which are all ingredients for poor handling. The circulating ball steering can also be vague at times, but the things the Wrangler can’t do on the road mean it’s thoroughly capable off it. Unlike many of the so-called “Sport Utility Vehicles” buzzing around the suburbs these days, Wranglers have been tearing up terrain all over the world for generations. To aid in the fun off-roading, the 2017 Wrangler has underbody skid plates, plenty of ground clearance, and an electronic sway-bar disconnect system. Trims like the Willys Wheeler, Sahara, and Rubicon also add special heavy-duty or off-road suspension and the choice of different axle ratios.
The inside of a Wrangler used to be a fairly basic, even cheap-feeling affair. The newest models, though, have taken fit and finish to a different level. The interior is still a utilitarian space, but everything from the materials used for the dash to the gauges and chrome shift knob leave occupants feeling like they’re in a more premium space. While the base Sport trim is fairly basic and doesn’t even have air conditioning, moving up the price ladder adds features like Bluetooth, USB ports, voice recognition controls, satellite radio, auto-dimming mirrors, power outlets, premium audio, and heated front seats. The range-topping Rubicon Hard Rock even comes with a 552-watt, 9-speaker sound system with a subwoofer as well as power heated mirrors.
One of the big appeals of the Wrangler is open-air motoring, and the Jeep takes it a step further than most vehicles, with removable doors, a completely removable top, and a fold-down windshield. The soft tops are difficult to remove and the hardtops are too heavy for one person to handle, and both allow plenty of wind noise to penetrate the cabin at speed. Storage in the back is accessed by a swing-out tailgate under either a fold-out window hinged at the top or a plastic rear window held in by zipper. With the rear seat folded, there is 56.5 cubic feet of storage space, but with the rear seats up there's only 12.8 cubic feet. It’s not the roomiest vehicle, then, but that’s an issue addressed with the slightly larger 4-door Wrangler Unlimited.
Safety is a bit of an issue with the Wrangler. It always has been and maybe always will be. Vague steering and the high ride height (which isn’t helped by the always-popular lift kits) mean that an emergency jerk of the steering wheel at speed has seen plenty of Wranglers flip over the years. The model's thin skin and lack of a roof don’t help matters, either. The Wrangler is one of the lowest-rated new vehicles in crash testing and doesn't offer many more safety features than the ones required by law, other than a few extra airbags, hill-start assist on manual models, and trailer sway control. Safety isn’t everyone’s primary concern, however, and a poor safety rating isn’t going to stop yet another generation of off-roaders and free spirits from turning to the Wrangler.
Andrew Newton first got into cars through vintage racing a 1969 Lynx Formula Vee. After receiving two degrees in history, he followed his passion for cars and became a contributor for sites like Sports Car Digest, BoldRide.com and JamesEdition.com in addition to serving as Education Manager at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline, MA. Andrew currently covers the collector car market full time as Auction Editor for Hagerty Classic Car Insurance.
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