2017 Wrangler New Car Test Drive
The Jeep Wrangler remains popular because it's so rugged and pure. It comes as a two-door or four-door, removable hard top or soft. All Wranglers seat five people, although the four-door Wrangler Unlimited is 20.6 inches longer, providing more room in the rear.
The 2017 Wrangler may be the last of this generation. An all-new Wrangler is expected soon.
Changes for 2017 are light: a new Sport S model, and available LED headlamps and foglamps.
All Wranglers use Chrysler's strong 3.6-liter V6, making 285 horsepower and 260-pound-feet of torque, which is more than enough. It's mated to a 6-speed manual transmission or 5-speed Mercedes-Benz automatic that remains part of the powertrain from the time when Mercedes owned Chrysler/Jeep. The Wrangler accelerates smoothly to sixty miles per hour in 7.7 seconds, with good zip at low rpm.
The Wrangler does off-roading better than just about any vehicle made, but its on-road driving dynamics are raw, archaic and sloppy. The old-school recirculating-ball steering is sturdy but dull, the ride is bouncy, and the vehicle leans a lot.
But it might be worth it, if you love the trails enough. The rugged body-on-frame structure, solid axles, big ground clearance with skid plates, and impressive ability to climb over boulders are what make the Wrangler special. And there is modern technology, for example sway bars that electronically disconnect to allow extreme wheel articulation and grip in spots that would bring almost any other vehicle to a crashing stop.
Hill start assist is standard for Wranglers with a manual transmission, and trailer sway control comes on all models.
Safety has some weak spots. The NHTSA gave the top-heavy Wrangler only three stars out of five for rollover resistance, while the IIHS gave the two-door Wrangler a Poor in side impact. Other IIHS scores were better, as both the two-door and four-door earned the top “Good” rating for moderate frontal impact, and Marginal in the difficult small overlap frontal test, while the four-door Wrangler Unlimited got a better Marginal rating in side impact.
The only standard airbags are the mandated dual front bags, while side-impact front bags are optional; we can't think of another vehicle that doesn't have standard side-impact airbags in front. Moreover, there are no available advanced safety features, not even a rearview camera.
The two-door Wrangler gets an EPA-estimated 17 City, 21 Highway and 18 Combined miles per gallon, with either transmission. The bigger Wrangler Unlimited is rated at the same 18 mpg Combined.
The Wrangler comes in Sport, Sport S, Sahara, and the off-road Rubicon; there are also models with specific equipment called the 75th Anniversary, Rubicon Hard Rock, and Willys Wheeler.
Wrangler Sport ($23,995) has manual windows and no air conditioning, but as you move up you'll find things like heated seats, satellite radio, leather seats, and alloy wheels. Options include Bluetooth, navigation, and towing and trim packages.
A well-equipped Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon can exceed $45,000, by which time you might not want to expose it to a bashing in the boonies.