June 19, 2011

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

                Here’s a bonus review this week, since without Fathers we wouldn’t be here and wouldn’t be trying to con dealerships into letting us drive their prized possessions.  Dads, we salute you and appreciate you gracing our website.  Keep checking back!  Our usual review will be up Tuesday or so.  Thank you again for everything you do, Dads.  Now back to our regular scheduled programming!

                As we continue the Summer Car Series, the 2011 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara Edition is next on our list.  Our last experience with a Jeep Wrangler was in 2004.  We absolutely loved our ’04 Wrangler except for the gas mileage and ride.  We wanted to keep looking at convertibles for the summer months and this entered into the conversation as a rugged, go-anywhere, manly convertible. 

                The Interior is practical and almost all of them are matte black.  The durable plastic is accented by chrome everywhere.  The seats were noticeably more comfortable than those in our ’04.  We used to "camp out" in the old Wrangler and the back ache would remind us for days what a horrible idea that was.  We think we could sleep comfortably in this Unlimited for at least a half hour. 
                The instrument panel was easy to read.  There are two information centers; one under the tachometer and one under the speedometer.  The one on the left gives useful information like the outside temperature/compass direction, your mpgs, and trip distances.  The information center on the right only lets you know when the cruise is on and when you are driving “eco-friendly”.  It literally says “Eco” and when you’re driving conservatively a little “on” appears next to it.  The salesperson didn’t understand this feature (she was new), and we don’t see the point, much like the open-convertible meter in the Mini.  The tachometer has green paint on it from 1,000 to 2,000 rpms.  This is there to let you know you are being “eco-friendly,” as long as you keep your revs in this range.  Basically with all of the eco reminders in this car, it feels like the designers of the Wrangler Unlimited are trying to guilt you into not driving your Jeep.  Constant reminders of how you’re killing trees will eventually drive anyone to insanity, to a bike, or to a room padded with the most “eco-friendly” bamboo and cork padding… 
The big black circles are air vents!
                The legroom in the back is impressive compared to past Wranglers.  The 37.2 inches is larger than the 35.5 inches of the 4-door VW GTI, but still a small space.  We wouldn’t spend a lot of time in the back seat, but we could make it work if it was a life or death situation.  The rear cargo space is noticeably larger compared to past Wranglers.  The kids' bikes would be a tight fit, but three suitcases could fit easily. 
Overall, the interior of this Wrangler is much more practical than past models.  It even comes with keyless entry, power mirrors, power locks, and power windows (yet another car company to place the window controls on the middle of the console).  Who did the study that shows the drivers want all of the passengers to have access to the driver’s window?   How many awkward situations come up where the driver needs a passenger to be able to roll down his/her window?  We are already imagining the slap fights between driver and front passenger as they lock and unlock the window controls.  We were impressed with the amount of power features in this Wrangler and the amount of thinking that has gone into the quick release wires on the doors to still be able to detach them quickly.  We enjoyed the power options, but the Wrangler’s mystique is built around the fact that it’s a rough and tumble, go anywhere, straight-forward machine.  The power options are simple and normal on most cars, but feel over the top on this vehicle.
Upgraded sound systems always help!
The exterior of the 2011 is brilliant!  18 inch tires are standard on the Sahara Unlimited and look rugged and strong.  The wheel flares are thicker than those of the ‘04’s and painted to match the rest of the exterior.  We love the inlaid fog lamps on the front bumper.  There are nine exterior colors available on the Sahara model that we drove and you only have to pay $225 extra for Cosmos Blue and Deep Cherry Red Crystal Pearl Coat (When you think Cherry isn’t Red implied).  We think they cost extra to make sure you really want those two colors, since they aren’t that attractive anyway…  With the hard top roof, you can pull away modular sections of the roof.  If you only want the sun roof open above the driver, just remove his/her’s.  You can choose just the driver, just the front passenger, the whole front row, and then the whole back seat/cargo area.  We wanted to pull the hard top off the back and leave the driver and passenger ones on, but the salesperson wouldn’t let us.  Something about trying to sell cars and that would cause it to look horrible.  Guess we aren’t actually going to buy one from them…  Who are we kidding?  Until someone starts paying us for these, we aren’t buying anything…  We do take donation cars, but they have to be fastish (That’s not a real word).
The ride and performance of the Wrangler were two different arguments.  The ride of the ’11 compared to the ’04 was as far apart as the opposite rims of the Grand Canyon.  We barely felt the crinkles in the road compared to the memories of feeling every single bump and even some that weren’t there.  The ride was so much improved that at first we didn’t seem to notice the missing power.  The 3.8L V6 produces 202hp.  That is only 21 more horsepower than last week’s Mini on a vehicle that is 1.5 times heavier.  The gear ratios are great for off-road driving, but trying to zip around in an urban environment was difficult in this Jeep.  We drove the six-speed manual transmission, which was also noticeably better than our last Jeep.  The shifts were smooth, but that’s probably because we sitting still.  To really cause the Wrangler to accelerate, you had to wrap the rpms to almost redline.  We did get close to 55mph in second gear in a Jeep, but really felt like we were causing a lot of unnecessary stress on the engine.  Nothing about this vehicle says fast.  There was one section of interstate where at 70mph in sixth gear with the accelerator floored, we were slowing down.  Sixth gear has almost no power and is really there for fuel economy improvement, which is defeated by the fact that you must down-shift to pass anything or maintain speed on anything but a downhill.  We even considered fourth gear on the highway to really power past some slower vehicles.  In the city the 3.8L V6 averages 15mpg, 19mpg on the highway, and 17mpg combined.  The company Denali can average that with two more cylinders and 100 more horsepower.  Jeep advertises the Wrangler having 382 miles of off-road range…  That’s averaging better than 16 mpg’s off-road.  Yeah, and most of us are attractive and in shape.  For a vehicle whose appearance screams tough, rugged, and manly, the overall power train is a letdown.
Legally, they have to post this, but it only made us laugh!  Eccccccoooooo!
Overall, we were pleased with the look and the feel of the redesign for the Wrangler Unlimited.  The “feel” of driving this car just didn’t live up to our expectations.  For a vehicle with 200 horsepower and a V6, the power just wasn’t there.  We drive too many highway miles for this to be a viable option as a daily driver.  The mileage alone would put us in a hole with only 22.5 gallon capacity and the horrible mpg’s.  The unsecure feeling of plastic windows is also something to consider.  You can’t put anything inside that you don’t want stolen.  We never locked the doors on the ’04 because what was the point of locking a vehicle that could be entered by undoing the zippered windows.  The same logic applies here, but now we own some stuff that we actually care about.  You can purchase the full doors and hard top to defeat the robbers, but it’s going to cost you.  The Wrangler is exactly what it has always been, a specific purpose vehicle that is good at what it does.  Everything else about them doesn’t measure up to industry standards.  With everything that is wrong with them, we would still have one!  Not as a daily driver, but as one to have when the weather turns gorgeous, crappy, or to use as an excuse to get to those “road less traveled” places. 

Happy Father’s Day!  We hoped you enjoyed your bonus review this week!

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