Jeeps entry-level SUV, a direct descendant of the World War II military Jeep, carries over with a handful of new features for its final season in this form. A restyled Wrangler is due as a 2002 model, and expectations are that it will retain its traditional rugged, sporty character. Wrangler was last redesigned for 1997. Major mechanical changes, including a new suspension, are expected for 2003.
The 2001 Wrangler comes as a two-door convertible with a standard folding soft-top and an optional removable hardtop.
Theres no mistaking the Wranglers heritage, starting with an upright vertical grille that mimics the World War II version. A folding windshield, folding convertible top and half steel doors with zip-out plastic side windows add to the paramilitary appearance.
The folding soft-top is a thicker, four-ply design for 2001 that Jeep says will be more durable and will create lower decibel levels inside. A metal hardtop and roll-up side windows are optional.
All models come with front bucket seats. A two-place folding rear bench is standard on the Sport and Sahara models and optional on the base SE.
The optional Add-a-Trunk feature, which provides a lockable storage compartment in the cargo area, is now made of injection-molded compound and comes with thumbscrews that make it easier to remove or slide forward.
Under the Hood
The base engine is Jeeps trusty 2.5-liter four-cylinder, which generates 120 horsepower. A 190-hp 4.0-liter six-cylinder is optional. Both engines come with a three-speed automatic or a five-speed manual transmission. Part-time four-wheel drive (for slippery surfaces only) is standard across the board.
Though Wrangler is far more civilized than the original Jeep, it maintains the same rugged character and appearance. It clearly is not for everyone, catering mainly to adventurous younger buyers who are willing to overlook the unrefined nature of this beast. Wrangler remains an icon of the SUV market and a true offroad vehicle.