What it is: The Wrangler is Jeep’s legendary, off-road-capable, mid-size SUV. It’s offered in both two-door (Wrangler) and four-door models (Wrangler Unlimited) and America is buying more Wranglers than ever before. Sales have been roughly 200,000 Wranglers per year, an increase of 50 percent from 2011/2012 and the story is the same for 2017.

It’s easy to fall in love with the romantic visions that come with potential Wrangler ownership. The top is off, you have your significant other and a dog or two in the car with you, and you’re headed down a rugged trail to some remote and beautiful mountainside lake. And bang, you snap out of your daydream and you’re back sitting in traffic trying to get to work. There’s a heat index of 102 and you haven’t even taken the top off of your Jeep in three months.

While the Wrangler is undoubtedly the most capable and flexible of available SUVs this side of a $85,000 Range Rover, there are compromises that need to be made. All of my grievances from my article last year are still here and won’t be corrected until an all-new Wrangler is released some time in the next 12-24 months. Major grievances: 1) Stereo sounds terrible. 2) Unconscionable to charge $1,200 for the option touchscreen navigation system. 3) The five-speed automatic transmission is mediocre at best. 4) The base equipment for each trim is minimal. 5) The Wrangler itself and each option seem too expensive.

The driving experience isn’t too terrible, but it’s not something you’ll be looking forward to every day. It’s a little difficult to get in and out of, but that comes with the territory. It is equipped with the wonderful 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine, so while it produces plenty of power, don’t expect any big acceleration due to the Wrangler’s heavy weight.

Lets run through the $10,000 in options my top Sahara trim had added on. Five-speed automatic transmission ($1,400), Dual Top Group ($2,185), body-color three-piece Freedom Top ($1,100), leather-trimmed bucket seats ($1,350), Bluetooth audio, TPMS display system, and USB port ($695), supplemental front air bags ($495), Trac-Lok differential rear axle ($495), automatic temperature control ($395), 6.5-inch infotainment with navigation ($1,195), and remote start system ($495). A few of these items make sense, like the transmission or leather seats, but $3,285 in roof options is brutal.

I complained about the stereo being bad, and Jeep does offer a $2,000 Alpine premium stereo (with premium leather seats included?) but I’ve heard it, and it’s not much better. Most cars have speakers located on the doors, so Wrangler designers are a little restricted when the doors of the Wrangler are designed to be removed.

MPG: 18 combined/16 city/20 highway

Price: Base Wrangler Unlimited $27,895. Base Sahara $34,245. Sahara as-tested with destination: $45,045.

Upsides: Unique. Capable. Interesting.

Downsides: Expensive. Not fun to drive everyday.

Wrap-up: You can get a lot of vehicle out there for $45,000. They won’t necessarily have you crawling over rocks on the trail, but they are immeasurable better in almost every other task. One thing that may sway you towards the Wrangler is a legendary resale value. According to Kelly Blue Book, you can expect to retain 64 percent of the value after three years and 51 percent after five years, which is in the top five of all vehicles. Part of this is due to almost non-existent factory incentives, so since you’ll be paying nearly full price, why not wait for the brand new model in a year or so?

 

 

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Wilson Calvert
Author: Wilson CalvertEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Columnist / Director of Operations
I am a long-time Houstonian and am obsessed with cars, soccer, traveling, bourbon and airplanes. I write a regular car review column for The Tribune and travel articles a few times per year.