Jeep Wrangler – First Four Door
Firsts for Wrangler: Four Doors and Seating for Five
Further meeting the Even More promise Jeep made with the introduction of the latest Wrangler in January, the Wrangler Unlimited adds twenty inches to the wheelbase, two doors, and creates enough room to seat five. Jeep ensured that Wrangler Unlimited includes the open-top driving aspect of the Wrangler appeal. The new Unlimited benefits from the mechanical, interior, and exterior changes of the standard Wrangler, including a standard Sunrider softop (introduced on the 2004.5MY two-door Unlimited, it has a sunroof area that can be opened over first- and second-row passengers if you don’t want to take the whole thing down) and the optional new three-piece Freedom top hardtop. Jeep takes the liberty of calling the Wrangler Unlimited the only four-door convertible on the market; you’ll find it in dealers in fall 2006 though information can be found on Jeep‘s consumer web site now.
Jeep unveiled the four-door model at the 2006 New York auto show, with the help of local firefighters, as they washed away more than six tons of mud to reveal the star of Jeep’s show stand. The Patriot was unveiled alongside the Wrangler, but the Wrangler is still the heart of the brand. AutoPacific and VehicleVoice contributors were there to see the unconventional reveal, keeping out of the path of flying mud.
New Wrangler Competition
Wrangler, whether two doors or four, has long occupied a special niche in the SUV segment. Since the departure of the Land Rover Defender, there hasn’t been quite anything like it on the new-car landscape. This changes for 2007 model year with Toyota’s all-new FJ Cruiser. Toyota’s FJ takes cues from its own history to create an SUV with as much character and personality as the Wrangler offers. The FJ Cruiser may not offer quite the degree of off-road capability as the Jeep, but it won’t be any slouch in those conditions, either. Jeep has history, Jeep loyalists, and Jeep tradition behind it, but the FJ is the new kid on the block, which can be an advantage, and has the strength of the Toyota brand and its reputation for quality behind it. We haven’t had the opportunity to drive the Wrangler yet, but Jeep will need every ounce of improvement they have put into the vehicle to counter the threat laid by Toyota.
Wrangler also has some competition from within its own brand from the Patriot which goes on sale in fall 2006 as the least expensive Jeep in the range. Though the Patriot is smaller and cheaper, there may be buyers who realize that the Patriot is capable of handling what most livestyles demand and in a more fuel efficient, less expensive, but still clearly Jeep package. For serious Wrangler buyers and off-road enthusiasts, the Patriot will not be an acceptable substitute. But for those more into looking like they can go off road in a less-expensive package, they may opt for Patriot rather than Wrangler.
Wrangler Unlimited True to Jeep Roots
As a longer version of the new-for-2007MY Wrangler, the Unlimited gets removable full-framed or half doors and fold-down windshield. The powertrain and suspensions carry into the larger Wrangler as well, bringing a new five-link solid axle rear setup and a 205HP 3.8L V6. (A six-speed manual transmission is standard, four-speed automatic optional.) Whether two doors or four, there is the same 100 percent stiffer frame underneath. And just like Wrangler, Unlimited can be had in two- or four-wheel-drive versions. Three Unlimited models will be offered, including X, Sahara, and Rubicon. Jeep promises hundreds of different top, door, and windshield combinations; nine exterior colors; and 16-, 17-, or 18-inch wheels.
Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited share the same instrument panel, center stack, and high-back front bucket seats. The Wrangler Unlimited’s rear folding 60/40 seats can fold flat for 83 cubic feet of cargo space, a number Jeep claims is higher than the Hummer H3, Nissan Xterra, or Toyota FJ Cruiser, plus a lockable underfloor storage area.
Just as is the two-door Wrangler, the four-door Unlimited earned its Trail Rated badge. The available systems and components are similar between the Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited. The Unlimited gets an approach angle of 44.4 degrees, breakover angle of 20.8 degrees, and a departure angle of 40.5 degrees. As does the Wrangler, the Unlimited can be ordered with an electronic-disconnecting front stabilizer bar for an increase of 28 percent in wheel travel; the system is called Active Sway Bar System.
Unlimited X and Sahara models have a slightly different setup compared with the Rubicon model. All three get Dana front and rear axles, but the X and Sahara have 30 fronts and 44 rears, where the Rubicon gets heavy-duty 44 axles front and rear. When ordered with four-wheel drive, the X and Sahara models get the second-generation Command-Trac NV241, part-time, two-speed transfer case wit a 2.72:1 low-range gear ratio. These models can be supplemented with an optional Trac-Lok limited-slip rear differential for low-traction situations. Also beefed up in its 4×4 system, Rubicon models get an Off-Road Rock-Trac NV241 two-speed transfer case, with a 4.0:1 low-range gear ratio, electric front- and rear-axle lockers, the Active Sway Bar System, and 32-inch off-road tires.
Three skid plates protect the fuel tank, transfer case, and automatic transmission oil pan for four-wheel-drive models, while two-wheel-drive Wranglers only get one skid plate protecting the fuel tank.
Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited should prove to be more civilized on road, even as they continue to live up to their off-road promise. The new rear suspension, though still solid axle for Jeep purists, has new upper and lower control arms, full-width forged-steel track bars, and lower suspension spring rates. The X models get low-pressure twin-tube shock absorbers tuned to match softer coil rates, with the goal of balancing off- and on-road manners. Sahara and Rubicon models get standard high-pressure monotube shocks with low-speed tunable technology. A three-mode Electronic Stability Program is standard. The three modes are full on, full off, and partial on. For those with towing needs as well, the Wrangler Unlimited can two 3500 pounds and an optional towing package with a 4.10 axle ratio, front tow hooks, and a class III hitch can be ordered.