Falling in love again with the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
"A perfect excuse to skip work and play", says LAWRENCE ULRICH in his review of the new 2010 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. This review below is from the New York Times and is dated March 7th 2010. His review is titled:
A Very Old-School S.U.V. With Useful New Tricks
WHAT IS IT? A four-door all-terrain conquistador.
HOW MUCH? Base price, $32,800; as tested, $35,975.
WHAT MAKES IT RUN? A 3.8-liter V-6 (202 horsepower, 237 pound-feet of torque); 6-speed manual or 4-speed automatic.
IS IT THIRSTY? Does a Jeep drink in the woods? The economy rating is just 15 m.p.g. in town and 19 on the highway.
ALTERNATIVES Land Rover LR2, Toyota FJ Cruiser.
REUNIONS are often a letdown, as anyone who's been reintroduced to a high-school flame can tell you. (Who is this psycho and why does she want to dance to "Lady in Red?")
So when a Jeep Wrangler appeared on my doorstep, I kept my expectations low. I had a serious crush on a Wrangler Sahara I owned in the '90s, but I was single and carefree then. The Jeep's kidney-shaking ride, intermittent heat and nearly useless back seat were all part of its charm.
I knew that the Wrangler was still around, doing its woodsy, back-road, ski- and beach-bum thing. But as with a Facebook "friend" from the old neighborhood, being aware of the Jeep's existence didn't mean I wanted to rekindle a relationship. But then it happened. After a 10-minute reintroduction to the Wrangler, I was ready to hightail it to the nearest mountain hideaway or find some muddy ruts to wallow in.
The Wrangler is as fun to drive as ever, even in unlikely places - like my cobbled Brooklyn street. And while "icon" is used loosely in the auto business, the Wrangler - like the VW Beetle or Mini Cooper - certainly is one.
The Jeep, of course, is a direct descendant of World War II military vehicles, and the Wrangler name can be carbon-dated to 1987. And from its school-bus-style manual shifter to its painted-metal interior and fold-down windshield, the Jeep's authenticity and stout, old-school feel could melt the hardest automotive heart.
In that vein, the Jeep makes trendy, boxy urban crossovers like the Kia Soul or Scion XB look as dweeby as a Dungeons and Dragons convention.
By Jeep standards, the addition for 2007 of the stretched four-door Unlimited model constituted a near revolution, adding a roomier, more accessible back seat. And while any Wrangler is a nearly unmatched off-roader, the Rubicon version - named for the fearsome off-road trail in the Sierra Nevada - is the hardest of the hard-core. It adds a two-speed transfer case with a burly low-range gear ratio, steel-plate underbody armor and rock rails; electric locking for the front and rear axles; an electronic sway-bar disconnect; and knobby 32-inch off-road tires.
If you find yourself conversing with off-road types - perhaps when they're rescuing your "crossover S.U.V." from a slushpile - you may hear them refer to their Jeeps' "breakover and departure angles." These gents are referring to the Wrangler's short body overhangs, which, combined with 10.5-inch ground clearance, let the Wrangler climb and descend incredibly steep obstacles.
A standard Hill Start Assist feature keeps the Jeep from rolling back on steep grades; optional electronic trailer-sway assist helps to ensure that jet skis and dirt bikes don't perform tricks before they reach their destination.
The Jeep's Freedom Top is another recent development. The three-piece modular hardtop features two front overhead panels that can be quickly removed and stored on board. A more complex disassembly removes the entire roof cap (along with the doors if you like) for the full naked-Jeep effect. Adding the dual-top option lets you pop the hardtop and unfurl a fabric top over the exposed roof bars. (A softtop with a built-in sunroof is also available.)
These and other changes have made the Jeep just civilized enough, but not so much that its rough vitality is lost. There's an optional touch-screen navigation system, satellite radio, Bluetooth capability and a hard drive for music.
The steering still feels truckish and slack, yet pleasingly mechanical: like its brethren dating back a half-century or more, the Jeep makes you feel alive and attuned to every sensation. That's both compliment and criticism: once my nostalgic glow subsided, I had to admit that the Wrangler is not everyone's cup of jittering tea. The ride is noisy and jouncy, it's a taxing climb in and out and the reliability record is poor.
I'll admit two other things. First, I had no idea that the Wrangler could reach $36,000. Second, I would never pay 36 grand for a Wrangler.
But with a two-door Wrangler Sport 4x4 starting at $21,915, the Jeep remains a dream date for the young - a perfect excuse to skip work and play. LAWRENCE ULRICH
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