Nothing is more traditional in the world of sport utility vehicles than the smallest, entry-level Jeep model. The Wrangler is a direct descendant of the military Jeep that provided invaluable assistance for the Allied victory during World War II. In fact, the Wranglers predecessors are considered by many to be the pioneers of the SUV class, even though the term SUV didnt come into existence until after Jeeps had been around for decades.
A new, more affordable X model aimed at younger buyers joined the lineup for 2002; it is equipped with a 4.0-liter engine and cloth seats. Details on changes for the 2003 model year have not yet been released. Automotive News reports that Jeep sold 68,830 Wranglers during 2001, which represents a drop of 16.3 percent from the previous year.
DaimlerChryslers Jeep division produces the Wrangler in two forms. It is built as a two-door convertible with either a folding soft-top or an optional removable hardtop. A reworked Wrangler is thought to be nearing production, but DaimlerChrysler has not made an announcement. The Wrangler was last redesigned for the 1997 model year.
Even with a quick glance, theres no mistaking the heritage or toughness of the Wrangler starting with the upright vertical grille that echoes the World War II version. The windshield and soft convertible top fold down when the driving situation permits. Half-steel doors contain zip-out plastic side windows, which adds to the vehicles paramilitary appearance. The folding soft-top is a four-ply design. A metal hardtop and roll-up side windows are optional, which makes the driving experience considerably more civilized. The Wrangler is only 155.4 inches long, and it rides a 93.4-inch wheelbase.
Two bucket seats are equipped in the front. A folding two-place rear bench seat is standard on the X, Sport and Sahara models and optional on the base SE. An optional Add-A-Trunk feature provides a lockable storage compartment in the cargo area. It is made of injection-molded compound and features thumbscrews that make it easier to remove or slide forward.
Under the Hood
All Wranglers have four-wheel drive (4WD), and a choice of engines is available. Installed in SE model, the Wranglers base engine is a 2.5-liter, inline-four-cylinder that produces 120 horsepower. The upper models get a 190-hp, 4.0-liter inline-six-cylinder power plant. Both engines team with either a five-speed-manual transmission or an optional three-speed automatic. Part-time 4WD is intended for use only on slippery surfaces. Antilock brakes are optional on all models but are not available for the base SE.
Modern-day Wranglers are a lot more civilized than their ancestors from the early 1990s and before. Whether the Wrangler is motoring down the highway, whipping through urban byways or traversing the most demanding offroad terrain, it is nimble, quick, precise and fun to drive. Wranglers can get noisy, but not nearly as much as they did in the past.