Wrangler is a direct descendant of the World War II Jeep that many regard as the original SUV. Wrangler descends from a line that started in 1941 with the military Jeep and morphed into the post-war CJ series. The modern-day Wrangler arrived in 1987 and was redesigned for 1997. A new Wrangler is expected to arrive as a 2002 model.
Like the Chevrolet Tracker and its twin, the Suzuki Vitara, the Wrangler is targeted at younger drivers who will enjoy the low price, top-down driving and not be put off by the relatively Spartan amenities.
It is easier to enjoy tunes this year with the addition of a standard cassette player on the Sport model and a CD player on the top-line Sahara. Both also come with four speakers, two more than last year's standard fare. All models come with front bucket seats. A two-place folding rear bench is standard on the Sport and Sahara, optional on the base SE.
There's no mistaking the Wrangler's heritage, starting with an upright vertical grille that mimics the World War II version. A folding windshield, folding convertible top and steel half doors with zip-out plastic side windows add to the paramilitary appearance. A metal hardtop and roll-up side windows are optional.
Under the Hood
Jeep's trusty 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder remains the base engine, and a 190-horsepower 4.0-liter inline six-cylinder is optional. Part-time 4WD (for slippery surfaces only) is standard across the board.
Though Wrangler is far more civilized than the original Jeep, it maintains the same rugged character and appearance. It clearly is not for everyone, but it remains an icon of the sport ute market and is a true off-road vehicle.