Strengths and weaknesses:
- off-road ability
- brand prestige
- cabin access
Jeep Wrangler attracts the rugged off-roady types
"Some solidarity thing that connects us by some unspoken bond – forever linked because of the vehicle we drive."
Everywhere I go in the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, people in other Wranglers wave at me.
You know that little flick of the fingers usually seen between motorcyclists heading off in different directions as they pass each other? Yeah, that.
It must be some kind of brotherhood – some solidarity thing that connects us by some unspoken bond – forever linked because of the vehicle we drive.
I wish they’d stop it. After all, it’s not as if I’m a member of the family. I’m just visiting – just crashing on the couch for a week until I move on to the next person’s couch.
I wonder if people in Toyota Corollas would think me weird if I start waving to them as I pass by – “you and me, bro! We got that fuel-efficiency thing happening!”
But then it occurs to me that maybe those are sympathetic waves, from people who know the misery and inconvenience of driving one of the most legendary off-road names on city streets.
Wranglers are hard to get into; they’re a pain to ride in; they have probably the worst ride of anything outside your father-built soap-box derby racer …
What’s not to love and wave cheerily about, right?
Let’s start with teeny tiny doors that barely offer enough space to crawl through. Take into account the vehicle’s 10.5-inch ground clearance and it becomes quite the hurdle even for adults. Add in the tubular side-steps and it becomes more like trying to clear the water jump in a steeplechase race.
Then you factor in that the doors don’t open very wide and don’t stay open (if you’re on even a slight incline). I had to resort to carrying one of those wood wedges just to make it easier to get into the vehicle with a couple large coffees, and to keep the door off me when I was unloading my computer and lunch bags from the back seat at work.
Getting stuff into the cargo area was equally annoying, thanks to the folded up soft top mechanism that basically cuts the access hole in half (and it’s even worse when you try to load up bulky items, like a bag of soccer balls). Understandably, a Wrangler owner will remove one or the other top according to the season and needs.
The rear seats fold down completely flat (in a 60/40 split) leaving just enough of a gap for oranges to scoot into, once they escape their grocery bag captors. Putting the seats down and up is not a one-hand task, either, especially when the gap to the front seats is reduced – the headrests sort of slip back as the seat goes down, so sometimes they catch on the contour of the front seatback when you’re trying to pull the seat back up.
There is a comfortable centre position on the slab-like bench, but you’ll want to limit it to smaller passengers, since there’s no head-rest in that position.
The seats themselves are generously padded for long-term comfort, and the upholstery seems durable enough, but they can’t take the edge out of the traditionally jittery ride (it’s something that’s not uncommon among off-road machines, but it’s no less annoying on a daily basis over even mildly broken pavement).
About the only saving grace to my weekly trek is the 3.6-litre Pentastar V6, which grants the power you’d expect in a Jeep and the excellent economy you don’t. The latter is helped by a six speed manual, when you get used to it (which obviously takes longer than a week, since I never get the hang of the excessively tight gates and a reverse-knockout that often leaves me grinding when trying to find fifth).
And then there’s the as-tested price that tops $39,500. WHAT THA?
I’m sorry but I can think of a lot more user friendly small-mid conveyances for that price, though I’m sure many Jeep enthusiasts will disagree … bring it on!
Apparently, Wrangler “is a Jeep thing” and I guess I don’t understand.