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This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, May 5, 2002

By: The LACar Editorial Staff



American Heritage

We weren't exactly looking forward to driving this vehicle. The LA CAR staff tends to have a sports car-sports sedan bent, and some of us roll our eyes at America's love affair with the sport utility vehicle (SUV). Everything that's bad about SUVs (rollover propensity, truck-like ride, poor handling, poor gas mileage, view-of-the-road blocker), the Wrangler has in spades.

After spending a few days in it, we must admit to enjoying it. There's something about being in a vehicle with a folding front windshield, plastic side rear quarter windows, short wheelbase, and a look (and heritage) that dates back to WWII that's appealing.

The Jeep As Daily Driver

This vehicle is perfectly capable of being driven on public streets and highways. The high ride height aids in visibility on the freeways, and the vehicle has good rearward visibility (while the plastic windows are still new). Just remember that it's not a sports car (or, for that matter, a normal passenger car). Be sure to take those turns carefully. And parents: Keep this vehicle away from your hairpin-turning high school kids.

The Rubicon Special Edition Jeep. There's a Special Edition for all occasions.

The Jeep In Its True Element

This vehicle's real forte is off-road. Jeeps are still one of the best means for off-road transportation. And the fact that you can remove the doors, remove the top, and wash down the floor certainly has off-road appeal. However, be sure to give yourself a full half hour to put the top up if rain is in the forecast. The 4.0 litre in-line six cylinder motor gives the Jeep decent power but the 3-speed automatic transmission that this vehicle is equipped with (optionally) earns its reputation as a slushbox. The 5-speed manual does a better job of power delivery. This is not the most aerodynamic vehicle around. It probably accounts for the fact that we averaged 10 mpg on a trip to Vegas in this mode (15 mpg with the top up) in our automatic-equipped Wangler.

What The Others Say

CAR - "The classic stager rumbles on. Instantly recognisable form but never suited to UK roads or taste. Leaks, creaks, and near total lack of security are the negatives. Looking like the lead of a bad 1980s man-on-the-run TV series the limited upside. Strong and durable, but very thirsty. The word we're looking for certainly sounds like Wrangler."

Consumer Reports - "Consider the Wrangler a vehicle for off-road use rather than highway travel. While its off-pavement credentials are impeccable, this Jeep is perhaps too true to its roots. The ride is noisy and uncomfortable, with nearly every pavement irregularity eliciting snappy, rubbery kicks. The steering is vague and imprecise. The driving position is unpleasant, and outward visibility is poor, particularly for short drivers. While the optional 4.0 liter inline six-cylinder engine is responsive when paired with the five-speed manual transmission, the optional three-speed automatic blunts its performance. Reliability has been average." - "Pros: Cheap, fun to drive, classic styling, go-anywhere capability. Cons: Soft top a handful to manipulate, difficult ingress/egress, slow steering. Overall: It has a stiff ride, offers about the same noise isolation as a motorcycle and has a soft top that's a nail-buster to operate. That said, the Wrangler also offers a visceral motoring experience like no other and the off-road ability of a mountain goat."

It's All A Matter Of Perspective

In the end, enjoyment of this vehicle all depends on your frame of mind. Yeah, it's a Jeep Wrangler, but this is the best Jeep Wrangler ever. And at a price hovering in the low $20,000 region for the Apex Special Edition that we drove (Cognac Ultra-Hide seats and surprisingly good stereo/CD system with seven speakers, including two instrument panel tweeters, two dashboard speakers, two overhead Sport Bar speakers and a center console subwoofer, special graphics, chrome wheels, and the 190 hp six-cylinder motor), that ain't bad.

Jeep Wranger Powertrain Data

* Base Number of Cylinders: 6 * Base Engine Size: 4 liters * Base Engine Type: Inline 6 * Horsepower: 190hp @ 4600 rpm * Torque: 235ft-lbs. @ 3200 rpm * Maximum Payload: 800 lbs. * Maximum Towing Capacity: 2000 lbs. * Drive Type: 4WD

Fuel Data

Fuel Tank Capacity: 19 gallons  EPA Mileage Estimates (city/highway): Automatic: 15 mpg / 17 mpg

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