By Beth Palmer on January 19, 2009
A Jeep Wrangler may be a terrific summer escape vehicle, but it didn’t wow our two testers during winter excursions, especially in downtown Chicago. However, it was clear which one of our dynamic duo liked Jeep’s four-door Wrangler more.
Amanda: The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited is a tricky car to review. From what I can tell, many Wrangler fans are fans for life, and most of the issues I had with the rugged off-roader probably wouldn’t bother a driver who is likely looking for very different things in their SUV than I am. I had never driven a Wrangler prior to this, and overall I did like the four-door version much more than I thought I would.
Beth: I just couldn’t figure out the appeal. I like the look of the two-door Wrangler — though probably not enough to buy one — but the four-door version doesn’t even have that going for it. It looks like a Dodge Nitro and was about as enjoyable to drive — and neither of those statements are compliments.
Amanda: Maybe I’m more forgiving of the Wrangler considering I typically like SUVs more than you do. I thought the looks of the two-door version translated pretty well to the four-door. I could easily see how someone who had a Wrangler in, say, college would graduate to the Unlimited once he needed to carry a child-safety seat in the back instead of a couple of buddies on a camping trip. I was expecting the seats to be incredibly uncomfortable and the ride to be rocky and jostling, but I didn’t find that to be the case at all. Although I wouldn’t want to spend hours and hours on the interstate in it with its iffy gas mileage and sluggish acceleration, that’s not really what this car is for.
Beth: Fair enough, but my issues with the Wrangler had more to do with the interior than anything else. Everything inside this car is straight up and down; I felt like I was driving a school bus. Apart from it all being kind of severe to look at, it also created a practical visual problem for me: With the seat pulled up far enough for my admittedly short legs to work the pedals, I couldn’t even see the tops of the climate-control dials — and, more importantly, what setting I was switching them to — because they were blocked by the stereo above them. Speaking of that stereo, it includes auxiliary and USB jacks for my iPod, but there’s nowhere to rest the player while it’s plugged in. The whole thing just felt illogical and poorly planned.
Amanda: If you can’t get into a comfortable driving position I can definitely see why you wouldn’t be all that thrilled with the interior. The plastic, plain interior was pretty much what I was expecting, so I was neither impressed nor let down. My major issue with the interior was that with the hardtop installed I had a very difficult time parallel parking this thing. The rear window was so tiny and the Wrangler was so high off the ground that I had to get out of the car a few times to see how close I was to the car behind me. If you’re not dealing with tight city streets, though, it probably wouldn’t be as much of an issue. It’s too bad we didn’t get a chance to drive the Wrangler in the summer minus the hardtop — I have a feeling it would be a much different experience.