2013 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

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Road Test
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Key Specs

of the 2013 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. Base trim shown.

Our Take

From the Cars.com Vehicle Test Team

The Good

  • Off-road capability
  • Convertible versatility
  • Cargo room
  • Rugged styling

The Bad

  • Unrefined handling
  • Highway noise
  • Side airbags not standard

Notable Features of the 2013 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

  • New limited-edition Moab version
  • New seats, auto-dimming rearview mirror standard
  • Four-door Wrangler Unlimited's soft-top now easier to raise or lower
  • 285-hp V-6 engine
  • Manual or automatic transmission
  • Standard four-wheel drive

2013 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Road Test

Joe Wiesenfelder

I have a problem with the saying "It's a Jeep thing; you wouldn't understand." Often asserted by hardcore Jeep fans, it's part celebration, part explanation and part admonition. Sure, it's a little bitchy and defensive, but that's not why I object. The problem is that it's outdated. No longer is there much to misunderstand about most Jeep models, from the Compass to the Grand Cherokee, whose sophistication compares more favorably to competitors. The saying should be, "It's a Wrangler thing; you wouldn't understand." This I agree with. The legendary Wrangler off-roader is a singular entity. I understand it, as do many other rabid fans, but you might not.

Recent upgrades make the 2013 Jeep Wrangler more appealing for the true believers — and maybe even some agnostics — but they won't be enough to sway nonbelievers.

The Wrangler is available in two body styles: the two-door and the Unlimited four-door (see the specs). Both are convertibles, though it's not always obvious to the casual observer because an optional removable hardtop is available in lieu of the traditional soft-top. The three shared trim levels are the Sport, Sahara and Rubicon. The Unlimited adds a Sport RHD above the Sport. In the higher two versions, the fender flares and removable hardtop are body-colored.

Changes for 2013 include redesigned seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, new wheel designs for Rubicon and Sahara trim levels, an ...

I have a problem with the saying "It's a Jeep thing; you wouldn't understand." Often asserted by hardcore Jeep fans, it's part celebration, part explanation and part admonition. Sure, it's a little bitchy and defensive, but that's not why I object. The problem is that it's outdated. No longer is there much to misunderstand about most Jeep models, from the Compass to the Grand Cherokee, whose sophistication compares more favorably to competitors. The saying should be, "It's a Wrangler thing; you wouldn't understand." This I agree with. The legendary Wrangler off-roader is a singular entity. I understand it, as do many other rabid fans, but you might not.

Recent upgrades make the 2013 Jeep Wrangler more appealing for the true believers — and maybe even some agnostics — but they won't be enough to sway nonbelievers.

The Wrangler is available in two body styles: the two-door and the Unlimited four-door (see the specs). Both are convertibles, though it's not always obvious to the casual observer because an optional removable hardtop is available in lieu of the traditional soft-top. The three shared trim levels are the Sport, Sahara and Rubicon. The Unlimited adds a Sport RHD above the Sport. In the higher two versions, the fender flares and removable hardtop are body-colored.

Changes for 2013 include redesigned seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, new wheel designs for Rubicon and Sahara trim levels, an optional Alpine premium stereo and a new optional premium soft-top that has nicer material than the regular top and three layers for better noise isolation (or when it's too hot and you just need air conditioning). See the 2012 and 2013 models compared here.

The Drivetrain Hat Trick
The Wrangler comes with a 3.6-liter V-6 engine and five-speed automatic transmission that replaced a less powerful 3.8-liter V-6 and four-speed in the 2012 model year. Jeep kindly continues to offer six-speed manual transmissions.

What does all this give you? The drivetrain hat trick: more power, higher efficiency and improved noise and vibration performance.

The rough, old 3.8-liter V-6 produced 202 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 237 pounds-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. The new 3.6 puts out 285 hp at 6,400 rpm and 260 pounds-feet at 4,800 rpm. The torque peak is now higher up the rev range, but there's also more range to work with: The new engine's redline is almost 1,000 rpm higher at 6,600 rpm. There's plenty of grunt at lower rpm to get the Jeep moving swiftly off the line and to scramble over obstacles that would put some SUVs in an early grave. All Wranglers come with standard part-time four-wheel drive, which means you can use rear-wheel drive in normal conditions, then activate four-wheel drive when it's needed.

The current Wrangler hits 60 mph in about 8.4 seconds, down from roughly 11 seconds in the 2011 model. The transmission is also well-behaved, with only occasional hesitation, which is sometimes a problem among newer automatics with higher gear counts.

Odds Are You Won't Understand
Now we get to the stuff most people won't understand — aspects of the Wrangler most motorists would fairly view as inferiorities. Just stick with me.

The Wrangler doesn't ride smoothly. It has improved dramatically over the years and is more livable than ever, especially in the relatively new Unlimited version, thanks to its longer wheelbase. But there's no overcoming its design and heavy-duty hardware. The Wrangler has non-independent front and rear axles that optimize suspension travel and thus off-road capability. Optional locking front and rear differentials and giant, aggressively treaded off-road tires (as on the Rubicon trim level) make the Wrangler even more formidable in the wild — and less genteel on pavement.

Perhaps more than anything, the Wrangler illustrates the trade-offs that accompany high ground clearance. You get your first taste when climbing in — and it definitely is climbing. Old-school SUV ride height combines with a shortage of grab handles to test your ground clearance. Tubular step rails, which are optional on lower trim levels and standard on the higher ones, aren't much help: They're nearly as high off the street as the cabin's floor, with the apparent priority of clearing obstacles, not assisting passengers. They're actually an obstacle for tall people because they widen the sills. In my time with the Unlimited Sahara, the steps proved most adept at collecting and transferring dirt and road salt to my pant leg.

You'd be better off with a step that splits the distance between the street and the interior — something you might find in the aftermarket.

Don't Look Back
Once inside, you'll find a high dashboard, which shorter drivers might not like. Thankfully, there's a standard seat-height adjustment, and the steering wheel tilts, though it doesn't telescope. Visibility is mixed: High ride height provides the usual eagle's perch, but the rear view has one obstruction after another. The spare tire eats up much of the rear window, the rear wiper mechanism encroaches and the two backseat head restraints (which don't fold down) also conspire to block your view.

Upgrades from the past couple of years have classed up the cabin, and the noise level in there is better than ever, though by no means class-leading. You'll hear low-rev engine rumble, and the other sounds vary greatly depending on tire and roof choice.

The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited's longer wheelbase and extra doors make for a larger backseat than the regular Wrangler provides, but this model still reflects the norm for fully capable off-roaders: Large on the outside doesn't always equal roomy on the inside.

The backseat is snug and it doesn't slide forward and back as some do, and the backrests don't recline. They do fold forward, however, in a remarkably simple single step. The head restraints are hinged to fold back and spring-loaded to return upright along with the backrest. (It would be nice if you could keep them down to improve the rear view.)

The cargo area is a similar story. The Wrangler has 12.8 cubic feet behind the backseat and 55 cubic feet when it's folded. That's well below four-doors like the Nissan Xterra's 36.3/65.7 cubic feet and the Toyota FJ Cruiser's 27.9/66.8 cubic feet. The Wrangler Unlimited compares more favorably at 31.5/70.6 cubic feet.

The Wrangler benefits from its square shape. The longer Grand Cherokee's maximum cargo volume is 68.3. But respectable numbers don't always reflect usable space. The Wrangler's cargo floor is quite narrow due to large wheel wells and a small opening when the swing gate is open.

Rather than a conventional liftgate, the Wrangler has a swing gate to accommodate the spare tire, which swings out with it. Another off-roader trade-off, the spare is back here so it doesn't gobble more cargo area or ride under the chassis, where it would diminish the truck's departure angle.

Again, because of the spare tire, the liftglass doesn't raise independently until the gate is out of the way. And I'm surprised the gate swings toward the curb in this American vehicle; it forces you to load from the street side.

Safety
The Wrangler's crash-test ratings are below average. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests, the two-door scored the highest rating, Good, in a frontal crash, but Poor (the lowest rating) in a side impact and Marginal for protection in a rear impact. This makes the Wrangler the worst performer out of 15 models in IIHS' Small SUV class.

The Wrangler Unlimited is slightly better, with a Marginal side-impact rating, but it, too, places last in the IIHS' Midsize SUV class when all three tests are considered — among 21 competitors.

The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited hasn't been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but it earned three stars out of five in the organization's rollover rating, which indicates a higher-than-average center of gravity and greater rollover potential than most SUVs, which achieve four stars. Direct competitors, the Xterra and FJ Cruiser, are also in the three-star club.

The Wrangler has standard frontal airbags and offers front-seat-mounted side-impact airbags as a stand-alone option. There are no side curtain airbags. As is required on all new cars as of the 2012 model year, the Wrangler has standard antilock brakes, an electronic stability system and traction control. A backup camera and blind spot warning system aren't offered. See the full safety feature list here.

Overall, we found the Wrangler Unlimited accommodates three different types of child-safety seats well. See the Car Seat Check.

What Wrangler Fans Understand
Frankly, there's a lot about the Wrangler for shoppers not to understand. Yet both body styles sell like mad, and their fans are simply mad about them. I happen to be one of them.

There are drivers who like to laugh at speed bumps, to get unmatched open-air driving and unassailable winter-weather performance in the same vehicle. These are people for whom activating (and deactivating) four-wheel drive by hand is not a drawback, but rather part of the experience. Anyone who doesn't understand this — or manual transmissions, for that matter — can go to the auto mall, throw a Frappuccino in any direction and hit an alternative that does everything for you, and in some circumstances does it better. For the rest of us, there's the Wrangler.

During most of the SUV revolution, models were based on trucks out of necessity. Now, most SUVs and "crossovers" are lighter — and lighter duty — and satisfy most buyers as well as the trucks did — or better. But there are still buyers who want the ruggedness and/or off-road ability. It's fitting that these buyers are finding refuge in the Jeep brand. The Wrangler is a survivor. Its predecessor came to prominence in The Good War, and it has outlived its military successor, the Hummer, as a consumer product.

True, most Wranglers never tread on anything more challenging than a dirt road, but people buy them anyway. Likewise, most SUVs never tow trailers, many sports cars spend all their time in bumper-to-bumper traffic, and I've met countless Americans who own a pickup truck so they can make one or two trips a year to the home store. People who park in glass garages …

I'll buy a Jeep Wrangler someday — probably the previous-generation, known as the TJ. The current generation, the JK, is too big for my needs, and a little too slick. Wranglers aren't for everybody. If ever they are, I just won't understand.

Send Joe an email  

 


Latest 2013 Wrangler Unlimited Stories

Consumer Reviews

Exterior Styling
(4.8)
Performance
(4.5)
Interior Design
(4.6)
Comfort
(4.4)
Reliability
(4.6)
Value For The Money
(4.4)

What Drivers Are Saying

(5.0)

Bad to the bone!

by Rocknoyd from Utah on October 2, 2018

Bought it brand new, built it the way I wanted it, it?s the best Jeep I?ve ever owned! It?s unique, it?s a head turner, it?s super capable of anything you throw at, and it brings a smile to the face ... Read full review

(5.0)

2013 Jeep

by DDJ from Hixson, TN on July 4, 2018

3rd Jeep I've owned. Love the color and so far performs well. Would recommend a Jeep to anyone who wants a fun vehicle to own. Read full review

Safety & Recalls

Recalls

The 2013 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited currently has 0 recalls

IIHS Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

Based on 2013 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport

IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal, or poor.

Head Restraints and Seats

Dynamic Rating
marginal
Overall Rear
marginal
Seat Head/Restraint Geometry
acceptable

Moderate overlap front

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Left Leg/Foot
good
Overall Front
good
Restraints
good
Right Leg/Foot
acceptable
Structure/safety cage
good

Side

Driver Head Protection
marginal
Driver Head and Neck
good
Driver Pelvis/Leg
good
Driver Torso
poor
Overall Side
marginal
Rear Passenger Head Protection
marginal
Rear Passenger Head and Neck
good
Rear Passenger Pelvis/Leg
good
Rear Passenger Torso
good
Structure/safety cage
acceptable
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a nonprofit research and communications organization funded by auto insurers.

Manufacturer Warranties

Backed by Jeep
New Car Program Benefits
  • Bumper-to-Bumper

    36 months / 36,000 miles

  • Powertrain

    60 months / 100,000 miles

  • Roadside Assistance

    60 months / 100,000 miles

Certified Pre-Owned Program Benefits
  • Maximum Age/Mileage

    5 model years or newer/less than 75,000 miles

  • Basic Warranty Terms

    3 months/3,000 miles

  • Powertrain warranty

    7 years/100,000 miles

  • Dealer Certification Required

    125-point inspection

  • Roadside Assistance

    Yes

  • View All Program Details

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The Wrangler Unlimited received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.
For complete details,

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker