2001 Wrangler New Car Test Drive
It's a long way from Omaha Beach to Malibu Beach, and today's basic Jeep really isn't the same vehicle that helped save civilization some 60 years ago. But even though the original 1941 part numbers are long gone, somehow the persona of the Jeep has remained the same: A light, compact, but rugged truck, capable of scouting uncertain terrain, and burdened with a minimum of bodywork.
At various times it's been called the Universal Jeep, the CJ (for Citizen's Jeep), and, since 1987, the Wrangler. The current model, which debuted in 1997, is by our count at least five generations removed from the World War II original. But it's still the hot setup for off-roading, the undisputed king of mud, swamp, and sand. At the same time, it's also much easier to live with than ever before. Wrangler is still no Cadillac, but it is quieter, roomier and more comfortable than any of its predecessors. It rides better. It handles better. It's even more capable off-road. It's still affordable.
And it gets better every year. For 2000, the six-cylinder engine used in up-market models was re-engineered for reduced emissions, and a new five-speed gearbox was introduced. Now, 2001 brings additional refinements, most notably a new soft top designed for better sound isolation and durability. Side windows are now deep-tinted in the best current fashion. The redesigned center console includes rear cupholders. There's an accessory locker available called Add-a-Trunk. Sahara models come with a CD player integrated into the radio, and a subwoofer option will help your neighbors appreciate that new top's sound insulation.
Underneath, the fuel-tank skid plate is thicker, too.
Wrangler is available in three models. At first glance, the base SE looks attractive, but its low price quickly rises when upgraded upholstery, a rear seat, rear-seat-area carpeting, a stereo and other options are added-although not having a rear seat is certainly an option for those who don't think they'll ever use it. The SE comes with a four-cylinder engine that is best teamed with the standard 5-speed gearbox.
Sport and Sahara models come with a much more powerful 4.0-liter six-cylinder engine. Sport ($19,155) includes an AM/FM stereo, too, along with a back seat and full carpeting. The top-of-the-line Sahara comes with more features, more style and adds more than $2,000 to the price of a Sport. You can also add significantly to the cost of the Sport by ordering a lot of options. You can see prices of some of them on the specifications page, but you'll have to do your homework at the dealership to obtain an accurate bottom line.