2014 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Review
As the unsung hero of many wars over the past seven decades, the Jeep remains a popular icon. Our tastes have changed, as have Jeep. At its core is still an icon that draws us to the brand – the Wrangler. This purpose-built SUV remains one of the toughest vehicles on the planet.
It starts with traditional Jeep traits – the seven-slot grille, round headlamps, boxy cabin, front fenders and a hood that is latched with clips on each side. As traditional as the Wrangler looks, it is still contemporary.
The Unlimited is an outgrowth of the Wrangler’s legacy by adding an additional set of doors. This expands the boxy look further to accommodate passengers both front and back, along with their cargo. Our tester is the Sport model with the Freedom package, which includes a couple of star-in-circle decals and two chromed “Oscar Mike” badges serving as a salute to our armed forces and their families. Though it comes with a soft top as standard, our tester has a three-way removable fiberglass cover keeping the elements in place. The fiberglass offers a rear glass liftgate that opens after you unlatch the side-hinged cargo door with a full-sized spare tire attached.
The mix of traditional and contemporary is found inside the cabin. The plastics may seem hard, but are of better quality and materials. The instrumentation is simple and straightforward, despite some older read outs from Chryslers over the past decade or so. As long as you know that the power windows are on the center stack and the power mirror adjustments are below, then it becomes clear how much the Wrangler is more for adventure than luxury, comfort and refinement.
There is a pair of comfortable seats for the front row occupants. The driver’s seat offers manual adjustments for rake, recline and height, which offer a good mix of support and comfort. The leather-and-cloth upholstery for the Freedom package is very durable for everyday use, but not exactly usable when tackling harder terrain. Rear seat room is fine for average-sized adults. Rear door access makes life easy for those who need to sit in the back. There is also plenty of cargo space behind the second row for a weekend adventure into the woods.
Controlling the seven-speaker audio system is an older UConnect touch screen system that still works very well. Your Bluetooth-connected phone, your music files and SiriusXM also goes through this system.
Chrysler offers up its Pentastar V6 under the Wrangler’s hood. The 3.6litre engine gives the Wrangler the most power it ever had in its history. There is 285 horsepower on tap with 260 pound-feet of torque ready to tackle anything. A five-speed automatic transmission drives this Pentastar V6-powered Wrangler. Jeep’s Command-Trac 4WD lurks underneath the frame-mounted body. The shift-on-the-fly system uses a two-speed transfer case to leverage torque and grip to all four wheels, when needed.
The biggest surprise about driving the Wrangler Unlimited is its poise. The solid ride you get from the lowest possible model in the Wrangler lineup is due to its extended wheelbase to accommodate the four-door body and the rigidity that went into securing the midsection of the Jeep. The suspension is taut, but absorbent over bumps and road imperfections. Minimal feedback is transmitted to the cabin.
The Wrangler can take a curve or two. It is not without some roll on extreme turns, but the suspension at all four corners control the body and frame reducing frightful reactions from meek drivers. Brakes are responsive and sharp for regular and panic stops.
The steering rack has great turning reaction for tight turns in 2-HI. The response from the wheel is quick, but you could feel a loss of road feel and some play at center. It is not enough to affect the Wrangler’s agility at every turn. However, if you switch the transfer case to 4-HI, it becomes a different story. Because the front axle is engaged, it retards the steering system from making sharp turns. To accomplish u-turns or even tight turns into a driveway, you would have to switch the transfer case to 2-HI to quell the struggle between the steering box and the front axle in 4-HI.
One of the issues that had been brought up in the past with the Wrangler is fuel economy. Now that the Pentastar V6 is part of the package, there is a marked improvement on efficiency even with more performance. The Wrangler Unlimited averaged 19.0MPG – above par with other SUVs these days.
There is price to become a hardcore Jeep fan. The two-door Wrangler Sport starts at $23,390. If you want the four-door Wrangler Unlimited, the Sport model opens up pricing at $27,190. This Freedom Edition Unlimited model with several additional options came out to $35,875. For the optimal Jeep experience, you need to tick the Rubicon with a trove of additional equipment that a true off-roader would need. A fully equipped Rubicon X Unlimited will set you back $48,775.
The point of the Wrangler is to be ruggedly simple. It is refined as it needs to be, but its primary job is to get you through the rough stuff all year round. This is why it remains an icon for all of us.
**If you are interested in a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, log onto CarSoup.com to find out what is available on sale. **
Photos © Chrysler Group LLC