Jeep Wrangler: Will it stay true to its heritage?
A purist could also argue that a 4-door Wrangler is sacrilege, but there’s no denying that the 4-door Jeep Wrangler Unlimited has sold in record numbers since it was introduced for model year 2007.
The question on the minds of many is whether or not FCA will continue to design and build a Jeep that will keep purists happy while also being able to function as a comfortable and economical (Don’t laugh) daily driver that you’d not only want to drive across town but across the country. The Wrangler is slated for a redesign around model year 2018, so there’s already been wild speculation and rumors flying around the Internet. One of the most shocking reports was that the solid axles and their excellent articulation, which helps make them such great vehicles for tackling obstacles off-road, would be replaced with independent suspension.
Thankfully, that rumor was quashed and the solid axles will remain a part of the next-generation Jeep Wrangler (Codename “JL”). However, current reports indicate that the folding front windshield and soft-top options are likely to disappear. I don’t suspect many will miss the folding windshield, but the lack of a soft-top is sure to be a deal-breaker for many potential buyers.
I have been around and involved with Jeeps for nearly as long as I can remember. I learned to drive with my father’s Willys M170 and M38, we had a number of adventures in an original Jeep Cherokee that was affectionately called the “Pink Flamingo.” I have personally owned 6 Jeeps so far, including a 1947 Willys CJ-2A and my current 2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon. Interestingly, I had the pleasure of taking my CJ-2A on the Rubicon Trail about 15 years ago.
So, I’ve had my 2015 Wrangler for 11 months and have put over 18,000 miles on it. It’s been in the desert of Southern California, it’s seen the red rocks of Sedona, Arizona, it’s crossed the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, and has driven 3/4 of the way across the country. Twice. The only mechanical issue I’ve had was with a defective radiator cap, so it’s been virtually trouble-free. It’s not the most fuel-efficient vehicle out there, but who are we kidding?
It’s a rolling brick with noisy, knobby tires and enough ground clearance to climb over a Prius (Well, almost). Decent fuel economy isn’t something that you usually find accompanying those other features, but it’s not as bad as you might think. At 70MPH on the freeway it’s not uncommon to see 18 MPG, cut the speed down and you could even see 20. Around town I see about 16, and my average 25-mile commute (70% freeway, 30% city) nets me just over 17 MPG on average. Not too far below the EPA estimated 18 MPG combined.
The real question, though, is “Do I like it?” It depends. This is the first Jeep that I’ve owned as a daily driver and have had to deal with on a daily basis. Taking the “Freedom Top” panels off when the weather is nice isn’t something that you get to experience with other vehicles. Then again, neither is the wind noise when driving down the freeway like that. Even with the top fully on the wind noise is still very noticeable. On the bright side, the wind noise makes the howl from the BF Goodrich Mud Terrain tires much less noticeable.
You may see a pattern emerging here. This isn’t exactly the best vehicle for people that want a quiet, comfortable ride or one that you’re likely to be excited about loading the kids into and taking off for Wally World. In all honesty, the Rubicon wasn’t designed for that anyway. It was designed to go just about anywhere on the planet, and it definitely does that. Being able to load up the family and hit the trails without getting dirty is almost cheating, but if you’re anything like me at my age then you really don’t want to get dirty if you don’t have to.
I will be saying goodbye to my Jeep Wrangler within the next few weeks, but not due to any fault of the Jeep. I’ve simply decided that I have to go back to my one true love; The Dodge Challenger: a true muscle car.
Will there be a 7th Jeep in my future? I’d probably be lying if I said no.