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.
After more than two decades' absence, a Golden Eagle package can be installed on 2006 models. It includes a Dana 44 heavy-duty rear axle, 30-inch tires, gold-finished 15-inch aluminum wheels and two-tone premium seats.
DaimlerChrysler's Jeep division produces the two-door Wrangler in both short- and long-wheelbase Unlimited forms. A removable hardtop is optional.
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.
The folding soft-top is a four-ply design. The optional hardtop has full steel doors and roll-up side windows; it makes the driving experience more civilized. Short-wheelbase Wranglers are only 154.9 inches long overall, but Unlimited models stretch to 167 inches.
Two front high-back reclining bucket seats and a folding two-place bench in the rear are installed. Vinyl upholstery is standard in the SE, but other trims have cloth upholstery. A CD player is standard.
Under the Hood
A 2.4-liter four-cylinder that produces 147 horsepower is standard in the SE. All other models come standard with a 190-hp, 4.0-liter inline-six-cylinder, which is optional in the SE. The four-cylinder teams with a six-speed-manual transmission, while the inline-six-cylinder drives either the manual gearbox or a 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 SUV 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.
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