(All photos courtesy of Jeep)
Relationships are complicated. No matter how much you love someone or something, there is always a measure of give and take to ensure smooth sailing between parties.
For decades, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the iconic Jeep Wrangler. I hated the fact that at 6’9” tall, I could never get my long legs under the dashboard of a Wrangler, missing out on the opportunity to drive the iconic sport-ute when I attended a “Jeep Jamboree” off-road event and was forced to drive a larger nice-but-not-a-Wrangler Jeep Grand Cherokee.
I’ve also lamented the general lack of safety equipment in previous generation Wranglers. Some models had narrow tracks – not a good thing for a vehicle’s rollover dynamics. Also, airbags were basically limited in some models (if they had any at all) to front airbags. There were no side airbags or curtain airbags as the Wrangler did and still has removable doors and convertible roofs in some models.
I recently had the opportunity to drive the all-new 2019 Wrangler on a national media launch. Off-road, the new Wrangler continues to improve on the vehicle’s legendary capability. Wet rocks, mud, three-foot streams, and serious inclines and declines were nothing to the new Wrangler. Folks, this is a super-capable off-roader!
On road, the new Wrangler in all trim levels is relatively quiet (as expected, you do hear wind noise through the canvas roof, Sahara Hardtop excluded), composed and compliant, and well equipped with all the things you would expect in an off-road vehicle like UConnect telematics, premium audio, heated leather seats, air conditioning, and a power retractable convertible roof.
Of course, I’m being facetious about the luxury gear standard or available in the new Wrangler. You get the best of both worlds: brawn and luxury. Make no mistake about it, the legendary, “Trail Rated” capabilities of the Wrangler are still intact, and for 2019, much improved.
So what’s new? First and foremost, safety is a real priority in the new Wrangler. My test Rubicon came standard with front and side airbags (no curtain bags available due to roof and door configurations), electronic stability control, electronic roll mitigation, rear back-up camera, fuel tank skid plate shield and trailer sway damping. Rear Park Assist and Blind-Spot/Cross Path Detection are part of the very affordable ($795) Jeep Active Safety Group.
Stylewise, new LED headlights and Daytime Running Lamps add flair and functionality to the front end, and provide superior nighttime illumination. The new manual folding top (power optional) is super easy to use and can be fully opened by one person in about 30 seconds. Compare that to 30 minutes and a whole lot of cussing for previous generation hard-to-open roofs.
Inside, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between the Wrangler and a Chrysler 300. They share similar UConnect telematics screens, and my test Wrangler Rubicon’s seats were shod in comfortable leather. The only giveaway that this isn’t a luxury sedan (provided you don’t look up at the canvas roof!) is the four-wheel drive gear range selector, sway bar disconnect button, and other 4×4 switchgear.
And yes, I mentioned a sway bar disconnect button. So when you are rock crawling in your new Wrangler in Moab Utah (Mecca for off-roaders), you can electronically disconnect the front sway bar, giving you more wheel travel/articulation over serious obstacles. Other “Trail Rated” goodies include Rock-Trac HD 4wd system, Tru-Lok front and rear axles, Dana 44 front and rear axles, rock rails, full underbody skid plates, and more.
Jeep Wranglers start at $28,045(2-door Sport), and top out with the model I tested, the Unlimited Rubicon at $41,545 (4-door). Options brought my tester to $52,890, with a whopping $1,495 destination charge the total was $54,385.
Worth the money? You better believe it. This is an incredibly fun vehicle to drive daily, on road or off. I now have a great relationship with the superb new Wrangler.