For years folks have had a love affair with the Jeep Wrangler. It was cute and cuddly in a crude sort of way, and it was rugged enough to climb up hills, over boulders and logs and through streams.
The motto “Only in a Jeep” could just as well have been “Anywhere in a Jeep.”
Trouble was it was small, bordering on cramped. Getting in and out was a chore. Finding room to put stuff was a challenge. Stowage capacity meant holding it on your lap. Small lap? Leave the item home.
Youth didn’t mind. Wrangler stood out in the crowd. You could take off the doors, remove the roof and fold down the windshield. Try that in a Chevy, Ford or Toyota!
Trouble is that youth who like to go door-less tend to buy used, while adults who prefer doors tend to buy new. Used makes dealers, not Jeep, money.
Jeep hinted better things were coming when it offered two Wrangler versions for 2004 1/2, a regular-length and a 15-inch stretch called Unlimited. Each had a little more leg and cargo room but still just two doors.
It did, however, set the stage for solving the size problem with arrival of the 2007, stretched by 20.6 inches in length and more than 5 inches in width.
And that made way, for the first time, for four doors so folks can get in and out of the back without proficiency in acrobatics.
Where to put the stuff? Behind the back seat, where there’s cargo room to hold whatever you need to take along–on- or off-road.
Unlimited is now the designation for the four-door Wrangler, where the spacious cargo hold includes even a small, under-floor compartment. Ample room for gear or groceries, something at a premium in the two-door.
The redesigned 2007 Wrangler comes with both door choices and two- or four-wheel-drive in three trim versions–X, Sahara and Rubicon.
We tested the 2007 Unlimited 4×4 Rubicon. Though all new, there’s no doubt it’s a Jeep and a Wrangler with its traditional seven-slotted grille and exposed hinges on the doors and tailgate with huge buttons to push to open.
And you can remove the top and all four doors as well as fold down the windshield.
The added length and width mean Wrangler delivers what older folks have been asking for: ample wiggle room upfront and storage space in back.
But keep in mind that this isn’t a limo; the name is Unlimited, not Totally Unlimited. Don’t expect to stretch your legs in back like you can in a Chrysler 300 sedan. Better room, but reserve the rear seat for smaller, more slender, lighter weight and shorter limbed friends and relatives.
And those of the shorter limbs may have a hard time climbing in without running boards, a $395 option that addresses high step-in height.
You’ll also be reminded that this is a Jeep and not a sedan when driving. Expect a little spring, bordering on bounce, in the ride. The suspension is meant to be forgiving and cushion you off-road. Sometimes that means a little more up-and-down movement on road.
The standard 17-inch radial tires are giants meant for better grip and grab off-road than on. Those oversized tires are another good reason to pony up for running boards.
Though the Unlimited stands high for off-roading and good down-the-road view, the center of gravity hasn’t been raised to the point of wobble. Still, with those off-road tires, it’s wise to back off the accelerator when taking sharp turns and corners.
To ensure safety, stability control with rollover control, traction control and four-wheel anti-lock brakes are standard. And shifting into 4WD is as easy as grabbing the transfer case lever. There’s a low setting for when the snow gets very deep or the hill very steep.
For 2007, the 2.5-liter, 147-horsepower 4-cylinder and 4-liter, 190-h.p. inline 6 engines are gone. Only a 3.8-liter, 202-h.p. V-6 with a 6-speed manual or 4-speed automatic is offered.
Jeep said the 4 was dropped because so few people ordered it. And while the 3.8 liter is more potent than the 4 liter, it delivers 3 m.p.g. better city and 1 m.p.g. gallon better highway mileage.
Unlimited is spirited. The V-6 reacts quickly to pedal input. But though it gets better mileage than it had, the rating is still only 16 m.p.g. city and 19 m.p.g. highway, numbers more closely associated with mid- to full-size SUVs, not compacts.
The seats are well cushioned and very supportive on- or off-road. They are finished in a new fabric called Yes Essentials that makes them not only soft and smooth, but also stain and odor resistant. Nice touch in a machine that can venture off-road.
However, no heated seats in a Wrangler. Seems bun warmers don’t fit the rugged image.
There are a few other amenities you can’t get in Wrangler, such as power seats and mirrors or side-curtain air bags, in part to keep the cost down, in part to keep that image. The removable hardtop ($695) rules out the curtains.
The 4×4 Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon tested starts at $28,235, or about $2,000 more than the two-door.
Standard equipment includes air conditioning AM/FM stereo with in-dash CD player, tilt steering, 12-volt power outlet and fog lamps.
Strange, but though you can’t get power seats or mirrors, you can get an optional navigation system, maybe to help you find your way off-road.
You can get power windows and locks with remote keyless entry and alarm in an $800 option package.
The test vehicle came with manual windows and locks. Yup, had to use the key upfront and a button in back. The aggravation of going door to door to lock makes the $800 option worthwhile, as does not having to roll up the windows.
A four-door was overdue, but most welcome, as shown in November, the first full month the Unlimited was on sale, when Wrangler sales skyrocketed 95 percent from a year earlier. Thank the two extra doors.
At the end of November, Jeep was holding 62,000 sold orders for Wrangler, most of the four-door. Reportedly it’s running about 20 days between arriving at the store and parking in a customer driveway.
Through November Jeep sold 71,648 Wranglers, the bulk 2006 models. The outlook for 2007 with the Unlimited tops 100,000 by a wide margin.
Better late than never.
– – –
2007 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 4×4
Price as tested: $30,790*
Wheelbase: 116 inches
Length: 173.4 inches
Engine: 3.8-liter, 205-h.p. V-6
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
CITY: 16 M.P.G.
HIGHWAY: 19 M.P.G.
$825 4-speed automatic
$695 Three-piece, removable hardtop with rear wiper/defroster and tinted rear window
$490 Side air bags upfront
$350 AM/FM stereo with six-disc in-dash CD player/MP3 player
$195 Sirius satellite radio with one-year free service
*Add $660 for freight.
Finally two more doors.
Wrangler with more room for people and their possessions though still rugged enough to go off-road.
Back seat a little snug.
Rides and handles a little ruggedly on the road.