All Things Jeep Blog & Musings

Falling in love again with the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

Posted by Jean Wnuk on Mon, Mar 08, 2010 @ 07:06 PM
 

"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

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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

Tags: 4 door Jeep Wrangler, 2010 Jeep Wrangler Review

2010 Jeep Wrangler Review

Posted by Jean Wnuk on Sat, Dec 12, 2009 @ 06:38 AM

Give Dan Neil, from the LA Times a hand for writing such a "right on" article. I especially like this line:

"You know how penguins are awkward out of the water and once they dive in become ballistic torpedoes? Like that."

His email is posted below if you want to send him a note.

Reprinted in full, below, from the Los Angeles Times:

By Dan Neil

December 11, 2009

In November, during a marathon eight-hour press conference I'm delighted to have missed, Fiat Chairman Sergio Marchionne outlined how Fiat and its new corporate holding Chrysler would collaborate on future products.

It comes down to this: Fiat will build compact cars for Chrysler. Chrysler will build mid-size and large vehicles for Fiat. And both companies will sell in the other's home markets.

From now on it's the Fiat-Chrysler Italian-American Friendship Society. Shiny suits for everybody. Fuggetaboutit.

And in all those dreary death-by-PowerPoint hours, in all that chatter about synergy and shared architecture and homologation (whatever that is), you know whose name was never called? Jeep Wrangler.

According to Fiat-Chrysler's five-year plan, the Wrangler will get a long-overdue diesel engine option at the end of 2010, and make some concessions to fuel economy (a start-stop system) and creature comforts (a restyled interior). But otherwise, the Italian bosses are going to leave the old donkey alone.

Other Jeeps? Sure, why not. Fiat can build the next generation of Jeep Patriot or Compass on an all-wheel-drive Fiat Panda chassis and lose nothing in translation because those fraudulent nebbishes are about as Jeep as I am a great Italian tenor.

But the Wrangler -- a stumpy, clumsy, body-on-frame clodhopper, as hopelessly out-of-date as it is unbeatable off-road -- is the heart and soul of the brand. The Italians are justly famous for their cultural antennae, and I think it served them well here. They appreciate the semiotic enterprise of Wrangler, which speaks to a kind of four-wheel American primitivism: nativist, nationalist, armadillo-eating, off-grid, off-road, mil-spec.

You can't alloy Wrangler, you can only anneal it, which is to say, make it harder.

Take our test car, for instance. The Rubicon-package Wrangler Unlimited is full of drop-forged orneriness, starting with a couple of bigger-badder Dana 44 axles with electronic locking differentials; a two-speed transfer case with extra tall gearing; and electronic front sway bar disconnect, which will give you a little more wheel articulation when you're driving over, say, a Honda Accord.

Rock rails, skid plates and various other bits under undercarriage armor protect the body and chassis.

Unlike most other off-roaders, the Jeep retains the old-style, manually engaged transfer case, and let me tell you, it ain't smooth. To stick it in Low Range 4x4, I really had to muscle the lever in the gate.

There are some nice electronic additions to the Wrangler -- hill-start assist, which keeps the vehicle from rolling back on a hill as you put it in gear -- but the vibe of this vehicle is very mechanical, very unreformed. Old school, thy name is Wrangler.

Also, unlike a Porsche Cayenne or Land Rover LR4 -- whose onboard computers and electro-hydraulic differentials do a lot of the off-roading work for the driver -- the Wrangler requires more driving skill, lest you bury it to the axles in mud, which I almost did.

Under the latched hood is Jeep's 3.8-liter, 202-hp V-6, a unit that has approximately the refinement of a Soviet-era wheat thresher, buttoned to a similarly antiquated four-speed automatic. Shod with a set of howling 255/75, 17-inch mudders, the Unlimited -- that's what they call the model with four doors -- is a lolling, keel-showing, dead-slow mess on asphalt. There's no acceleration, unintended or otherwise. Hustled down a winding mountain road, the Wrangler handles like it's been drinking bug spray.

But then it goes off-road and suddenly, as if a special kind of gravity ensues, the Wrangler is transformed. Everything that seemed misguided or badly arranged suddenly makes perfect sense.

The ratty iron-block engine that huffed and puffed on the freeway is now purring along at 1,200 rpm, making just enough torque to climb a rutted timber road, without churning the mud. The gear ratios are perfect. The bedspring suspension -- which seemed to threaten to throw you out the driver's window -- now terrain-follows with an eerie suppleness.

You know how penguins are awkward out of the water and once they dive in become ballistic torpedoes? Like that.

Our test vehicle was up-fitted with what's called the Preferred Package 24R, including the removable plastic hardtop. The two small panels over the front seats come off without much trouble, but you will need Pharaoh's slaves to get the larger part off.

If you've got an afternoon to kill, you can also take the doors off, which is a pretty good trick, considering they have power windows and locks.

Be advised, however, that riding around town in a doorless, open-air Jeep Wrangler sends, well, signals. You've got to own that look.

The Wrangler -- still built in Toledo, Ohio, using more or less the same cartwrighting and blacksmithing as ever -- is about as pure an expression of brand and country as can be imagined.

The only comparable product would be Harley-Davidson. Both Jeep and Harley are, by many measures, fairly antiquated products.

Some of the Jeep's textures are downright hilarious, including the 30 miles of electrical tape used to wrap up loose ends on the wiring harness, or the webbed-nylon check straps holding the doors on, or the crude stamped-steel brackets that hold the seats to the floor. I've seen license plates with more commitment to craft.

But the Wrangler is a pure, expressive product, full of history and meaning, designed to do one job fantastically well. I regard it as the last American Chrysler. Long may it wave.

[email protected]

Tags: 4 door Jeep Wrangler, 2010 Jeep Wrangler Review