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A BREED APART

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 29, 2005

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

THE GRIN FACTOR By HAROLD OSMER

The modern Jeep is pretty much what you expect from a company that's been building utilitarian vehicles for 60 years. The Wrangler provides solid, basic transportation, and is best suited for areas where tight maneuvering and loose road surfaces are expected.

A spartan interior is nonetheless comfortable, with seating for four. Cloth bucket seats up front fully recline, as well as fold up and out of the way when loading passengers. The rear bench folds up-and-away to expand the cargo capacity. A soft top with tinted plastic side and rear windows unzips, unvelcros, and folds down to allow under-the-stars mountain cruising. The folding procedure takes a few practice tries, but can be done in a couple of minutes.

Owning a Jeep entails giving in to an outdoor lifestyle and attitude. Urban owners will find the ride just rough and bouncy enough to make it tiring. The ultra-tight turning radius is handy for any and all parking adventures, but will not make up for the uncertain feel of highway traveling. Take your Wrangler off road, though, and the world is a different place. I didn't venture very far afield, but there was a noticeable change in the vehicle's character, once I slowed down and drove over some rough dirt roads. Maybe it was the slower speeds. Maybe it's the short wheel base. Maybe it's the fact that I'm paying attention to what a Jeep can do in its own element. Maybe, just maybe, it's actually fun to get a little dirty without the worry of bottoming out.

Overall, the Jeep Wrangler is a competent vehicle. It can prove to be an indispensable piece of camping equipment, if one is so inclined. The low gearing and 4000 pounds of weight make it tiring to drive on paved roads, yet sturdier off them. With base prices running from $18-$28,000, you can select from many options.

There's also the grin factor. Folks who long for the Jeep mindset will throw dreamlike stares your way. Other Jeep drivers passing by on the road will elicit friendly 'we're all in this together' waves. And be aware: after driving around in a Jeep Wrangler for awhile, you might well find yourself staring long and hard at the sleeping bags you used to ignore at Costco. Slowing things down a bit, looking at the stars, and getting off the pavement are all part of the Jeep culture. It's an alluring thought, brought to you by your friendly neighborhood Jeep dealer.

For more information about Jeep products, go to www.jeep.com. SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2005 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Trail Price: Base $28,365 as tested $29,765 Engine type: 4.0L Power Tech Inline-6 Horsepower: 190 @ 4600 rpm Torque: 235 @ 3200 rpm Drive configuration: 4:1 Rock-Trac Part-Time 4WD, 4:11 axle ratio Transmission type: 6-Speed Manual Suspension: Front/rear stabilizer bars Heavy Duty Dana Axles High-Pressure Gas-Charged Shocks Wheels: 16" x 8.0 "MOAB" Silver Tires: LT245/75R16E BSW 31" MT/R Brakes: Four Wheel Disk Electronic Stability Program (ESP) Overall length: 167 inches Overall width: 68.2 inches Overall height: 70.9 inches Curb weight (lb): 3,740 EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway: 15/19

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