Before there were sports utility vehicles, there was Jeep.
Actually there was the Army Jeep of World War II. After the war, the little Jeep added other models -- a station wagon and a four-door convertible called Jeepster.
The Jeepster is back as the 2007 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. Only one thing is missing from the Jeep heritage. The Wranger Unlimited is limited -- it comes in two-wheel as well as four-wheel drive.
Somebody thought it would be a good idea to take the mountain bashing Jeep Wrangler and make it a four-door SUV -- with two-wheel drive. That's like sending Babe Ruth up to the plate without a bat.
The 2WD Wrangler Unlimited is designed to appeal to the suburbanite whose clamor for a fold-down windshield has been fairly muted. Of course, the new Wrangler target would need only two-wheel drive -- negating the only purpose a Wrangler has: mastering anything off road.
True, ugly can be cute even if it's in a regurgitated green as the test vehicle. And taking a true two-door vehicle and making it a four-door is always a hit --just look at the old Ford Thunderbird.
Base price of the 2WD is $24,075, as tested $26,940. The newly installed 3.8L V-6 of 205 horsepower gets the rig to 60 mph in 9.8 loud seconds.
|JEEP WRANGLER Unlimited
•Engines: 3.8 V-6, 205 hp
•Dimensions: 116" wheelbase, 173" length
•Base price: $24,075; $26,940 as tested
•Fuel economy: 17/21 mpg
It lacks the nice road manners of more elegant SUVs. Yet this is where it all started with the WW II Jeep, which was even worse on the road. Compared with Wrangler, just about all the car-based SUVs are a bit effete.
Despite a wheelbase stretched to 116 inches, the ride even in the 2WD is between stern and punishing on road. Steering is imprecise, and turns are taken at high speed only by those with a good insurance plan. Seats are said to be stain/odor resistant.
With the Wrangler rough ride, vague steering, high noise level and difficult entry, it is the brute of the utes. In proper four-wheel drive, it will go where the car-based SUVs fear to tread. That's helped by a wider stance -- wheels are 3.5 inches further apart.
There's a host of other safety enhancements never even hinted at in the original. They include airbags, brake assist that can apply maximum braking power, electronic stability control and electronic roll mitigation that estimates the potential for rolling over down a hill. Antilock brakes are adjustable for on/off road.
Most telling, it's a convertible. True it takes a while to get the tops up and down, but Wrangler is a convertible and a four door one at that. Roofs include a three-piece hardtop and a soft one with a sunroof.
While power windows are available, the doors (all four) come off. And the windshield folds onto the hood. And the top comes down. And there's four-wheel drive with low, low and mule team.
What more could you want?