2002 Wrangler New Car Test Drive
Jeep Wrangler remains the undisputed king of mud, swamp, and sand. Light, compact, rugged, equipped with lots of suspension travel and ground clearance, one of these will take you just about anywhere. Spiritual successor to Jeeps that date back to World War II, the Wrangler is an icon, the most recognizable vehicle in the world.
The current model debuted in 1997 and is by our count at least five generations removed from the World War II original. Better off road than any Jeep in the past, it's also much easier to live with than ever before. Though no Cadillac, the Wrangler is quieter, roomier and more comfortable than any of its predecessors. On the road, it rides better and handles better than ever.
And it's affordable: Wrangler starts at just $15,230 for the basic four-cylinder model, not a bad deal for the world's most capable icon. For 2002, Jeep has expanded the Wrangler model line, making the six-cylinder engine available for considerably less than last year. The new Wrangler X comes with the 4.0-liter inline-6, wider tires, full carpeting, cloth upholstery, and other creature comforts for just $18,410; though options may drive you over that figure, a properly outfitted Wrangler X can save you $1000 over last year's prices.
Wranglers get better, and quieter, every year. Increased air flow improves the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, which is quieter than last year. Improved sound is available from a new premium audio system. Last year, the soft top was designed for better sound isolation and durability.
Four models are now available: SE ($15,230), X ($18,410), Sport ($20,080), and Sahara ($23,450).
The SE comes with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 120 horsepower that works best with the standard five-speed gearbox, though a three-speed automatic is available ($625). 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. If you don't want a rear seat and don't mind the easy-to-clean vinyl upholstery, it's a good vehicle for fishing, hunting, and exploring. Having one attached to the back of your motor home comes in real handy. A variety of options are available, including the hard top ($920), which I prefer for security and convenience.
The new Wrangler X and the Sport and Sahara models come with a much more powerful 4.0-liter six-cylinder engine rated at 190 horsepower and 235 pounds-feet of torque. A heavy-duty five-speed manual transmission is standard; three-speed automatics are optional. The inline-6 gives up some fuel economy to the inline-4 around town, but the six-cylinder gets 19 mpg on the highway compared with 20 mpg with the four-cylinder.
Wrangler X comes with cloth upholstery, upgraded front seats, a fold-down rear seat. full carpeting (covering the rear seat area, cargo area and wheel housings), AM/FM/cassette, digital clock, padded roll bar, and P215/75R15 Goodyear Wrangler tires.
Sport adds full metal doors, wind-up windows, fog lights, tilt steering column with leather-wrapped wheel, courtesy and underhood lights, and other features.
Sahara comes loaded with a high-zoot stereo, premium cloth, air conditioning, cruise control, gas shocks, monster tires (30x9.5xR15), premium fender flares, and other features.