Nothing is more traditional in the world of sport utility vehicles than the smallest, entry-level Jeep model. Today's Wrangler is a direct descendant of the World War II-era military Jeep. In fact, many consider the Wrangler to have pioneered the SUV category, even though the term "SUV" didn't emerge until after Jeeps had been around for decades.
In the 2003 model year, a super-duty Rubicon model debuted with locking front and rear differentials and all-disc brakes. In 2004, an extended-length Wrangler Unlimited emerged that used a wheelbase 10 inches longer than that of its mates. A Rubicon edition of the Unlimited goes on sale during the 2005 model year and is aimed at hard-core offroad enthusiasts.
A six-speed-manual gearbox replaces the five-speed unit in 2005 Wranglers, and an in-dash six-CD changer is available. A new Premium Package for the Wrangler Unlimited includes a bright grille and body-colored fender flares.
DaimlerChrysler's Jeep division produces the two-door Wrangler convertible in two forms: with a folding soft-top or an optional removable hardtop. The Wrangler was last redesigned for 1997.
Even at a glance, there's no mistaking the heritage of the Wrangler. Its upright vertical grille echoes the World War II version. The windshield and soft convertible top can be folded down when driving conditions permit. Half-steel doors contain zip-out plastic side windows, which adds to the vehicle's rugged appearance.
The folding soft-top is a four-ply design. A metal hardtop with full steel doors and roll-up side windows is optional, which makes the driving experience considerably more civilized. Regular-size Wranglers are only 154.9 inches long overall, measure 68.3 inches wide and ride on a 93.4-inch wheelbase. Unlimited models are 15 inches longer. With its soft-top in place, the Wrangler is 71.2 inches tall.
Two front bucket seats and a folding two-place bench in the rear are installed. An optional Add-A-Trunk feature provides a lockable storage compartment in the cargo area. It features thumbscrews for easy removal or sliding forward.
Under the Hood
Installed in the SE model, the Wrangler's base power plant is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that produces 147 horsepower. All others models get a 190-hp, 4.0-liter inline-six-cylinder, which is optional in the SE. Both engines team with either a six-speed-manual transmission or an optional four-speed automatic. Part-time four-wheel drive is intended for use only on slippery or loose surfaces.
Antilock brakes are optional only on Sport models. Side-impact airbags are not available.
Modern-day Wranglers are a lot more civilized than their ancestors from the early 1990s and before. Whether the Wrangler is motoring down the highway, whipping through urban byways or traversing the most demanding offroad obstacle, this vehicle is nimble, quick, precise and fun to drive. Wranglers can get noisy, but not nearly as much as previous-generation models. The Wrangler Unlimited adds welcome extra space for rear passengers.