2008 Jeep Wrangler Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
May 29, 2008

The 2008 Jeep Wrangler is a one-of-a-kind vehicle: an extreme off-road convertible with the on-road handling and ride of--well, a true off-roader.

The car experts at TheCarConnection.com studied a wide range of road tests (and off-road tests) of the 2008 Jeep Wrangler to compile this conclusive review. TheCarConnection.com’s resident off-roaders also drove the new Wrangler to help you decide which reviews to trust where opinions differ, and to add more impressions and details and provide you with the best information.

It's an American icon--and this year, the 2008 Jeep Wrangler returns in two- and four-door forms, with a choice of soft and hardtops, rear- and four-wheel drive.

The 2008 Jeep Wrangler's sole engine is a 3.8-liter, 202-horsepower V-6 engine. The V-6 comes with either a six-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy on rear-drive, manual-transmission models is as high as 16/21 mpg, which is good for the Wrangler lineup but not particularly economical. The engine feels stronger than any Jeep before, but it still makes more noise than you might expect if you're coming from a more traditional SUV.

When the new Wrangler arrived in 2007, it brought a four-door, extended-wheelbase Unlimited model to the lineup, a Wrangler first. Also, Jeep added a new three-piece Freedom Top hardtop that's easier to manage than the former one-piece design. The two-doors still offer a hardtop as well as a Sunrider soft top with a front portion that folds back without having to be completely stowed. The removable tops are one of the best features of the Jeep--though they allow lots of road noise in the cabin, they can completely open the cabin of both the two- and four-door models, turning the 2008 Jeep Wrangler into a convertible SUV.

Review continues below

Off-roading toughness of both Jeeps is assured by live axle front and rear suspensions, with 10.2 inches of ground clearance and the availability of a heavy-duty four-wheel-drive system with heavy-duty axles, locking differentials, Rock-Trac transfer case with extra-low gearing, electronically disconnecting stabilizer bar, and knobby BF Goodrich tires on Rubicon versions. There are few places you can't get to in a Jeep.

On the highway, the off-road capability translates into a jittery, bouncy ride with plenty of road noise and imprecise steering. It's far better than before, and it's simply a part of the experience of owning a Jeep that tends to wear thin the older you (and the Wrangler) get.

Though the classic lines remain, the Wrangler is just a year old in its current form. New for 2007, the current Wrangler is larger (and wider) than the previous model. It also has more interior room. The front seats are fine for short trips but lack the support needed for long journeys. The backseats in the Unlimited model don't have enough legroom for adults, but kids probably won't object. The cabin is made from rugged and durable materials, so don't expect a runway experience, unless the runway you have in mind is O'Hare.

Anti-lock brakes and stability control are now standard, with side impact airbags available optionally. The 2008 Jeep Wrangler scores five-star ratings for front and side impact protection. Two-wheel-drive models have four-star rollover protection, while four-wheel drivers have a three-star rating.

Tire pressure monitors are now standard on both short- and long-wheelbase Wranglers, and remote start is a new option for 2008. Air conditioning and cruise control are standard on most models, and Sirius Satellite Radio is an option, as is a navigation system and a music hard drive.

8

2008 Jeep Wrangler

Styling

Although some fans gripe about the four-door 2008 Jeep Wrangler, the "beastly" design still is loved.

The 2008 Jeep Wrangler still maintains its stylish appeal for off-road fans. Two versions are offered—a two-door and a four-door model—and both soft and hard convertible tops are available.

Luckily for truly devoted fans of the Jeep, 2008 doesn’t change much. The Wrangler was completely redesigned in 2007, and most reviewers come down in favor of the Wrangler's style, which maintains traditional Jeep styling cues while still essentially being, as Car and Driver notes, a “cult vehicle.” Edmunds says the "2008 Jeep Wrangler firmly maintains its heritage, image and off-road ability while also being more refined." It’s also “larger and more refined” than the last-generation Wrangler Jeep, they add. Automobile notes some details that disguise the Wrangler’s gains in size: “Black plastic fender flares in place of body-color flares help disguise the fact that the Wrangler is nearly half a foot wider overall,” they write.

Styling is mostly “familiar,” Edmunds remarks. The new four-door, however, brings a new silhouette to the world; it “inhabits its own new market niche: the four-door convertible,” Automobile says. USAToday thinks it’s "fancy and genteel by Wrangler standards," while Cars.com calls it "refined and masculine," and Edmunds, “strangely attractive.” Cars.com says that now, with the extra two doors, "You could almost call it a civilized design."

The 2008 Jeep Wrangler’s cabin is no pleasure palace—and it’s in tune with the rugged exterior. Especially with the Wrangler, “Jeep interiors aren't the top of the class. They often feature too many bulky plastic surfaces, but considering the rugged nature of the Wrangler, we'll give them a pass,” Cars.com says.

5

2008 Jeep Wrangler

Performance

Even though the 2008 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited has better highway handling than the two-door version, Jeeps are still meant for the rough and tough, not the daily commute.

The performance of the 2008 Jeep Wrangler maintains its history of being a toy for the outdoors, which translates into a bumpy highway ride and middling V-6 power.

“This is no commuter car,” Motor Trend warns, even though it “has the most horsepower to date” in a Wrangler. Jeep has kept it true to its off-road mission: “The Wrangler shows it wasn't designed for quick acceleration,” Cars.com says, but “even though it only makes 202 horsepower, the Jeep's 3.8-liter V-6 was plenty powerful for highway driving,” they add. Edmunds, however, believes it is better used as an off-road machine, and states that, for city driving, it has "mediocre acceleration."

Edmunds notes, “the V6 is connected to a standard six-speed manual transmission or an optional four-speed automatic.” Cars.com notes “the six-speed manual rowed the gears in precise, if clunky, fashion.” Automobile points out the “lack of an optional five-speed automatic.” Two-door Wranglers have standard four-wheel drive; one version of the four-door comes in rear-drive form.

As MyRide.com says, the 2008 Jeep Wrangler is "more suited for rolling over boulders than speed bumps." With 10.2 inches of ground clearance, this is exactly what this SUV was built for. In terms of handling, however, the difference in doors can give the Jeep Wrangler a markedly better ride. The longer-wheelbase four-door Wrangler Jeep seems much more settled on the highway, according to reviews researched by TheCarConnection.com. However, “the ride is still stiff, and on the road the Wrangler's modest handling and acceleration abilities can actually be bested by most minivans,” Edmunds reports. “Now when you're in the new Wrangler,” Automobile reports, “you feel like you're driving a real vehicle rather than piloting a small farm tractor.” USAToday agrees with other reviewers that people who want a practical, everyday SUV shouldn't go with the Jeep--2008 Wranglers are "for the stump jumper who's a Wrangler fan."

The off-road Wrangler Jeep is even less happy on-road, but for hardcore off-roaders, the Wrangler Rubicon is a trail dream. With “heavy-duty axles, extra-low gearing and electronically locking front and rear differentials,” as Edmunds notes, the 2008 Jeep Wrangler is "pretty much unstoppable in off-road situations" and "if the Wrangler can't get you there, you're going to need a Sherpa or a helicopter."

6

2008 Jeep Wrangler

Comfort & Quality

The 2008 Jeep Wrangler has far more space in four-door models, but the cabin’s still more utilitarian than luxurious.

The 2008 Jeep Wrangler provides more room than ever before in its Unlimited model, which offers four doors and quite a bit more space. Edmunds says, “increased width helps to improve passenger comfort.”

The two-door model Wrangler Jeep still offers little in the way of comfort in the backseat, mainly because its accessibility is difficult. Some reviewers, however, think that the two-door version also limits the amount of storage space that would allow it to be a daily driver--hence the claim from Cars.com: "not what I would call a utility vehicle.” ConsumerGuide finds the seats "firm and generally comfortable," although they also note that legroom isn't as much as it would be in a larger vehicle--"the two-door's driver seat may not slide far enough back for those long of leg." Car and Driver says, “the classic two-door model has room only for four, with little space for their chattels.”

While front room is adequate in both versions, the 2008 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited offers quite a bit of comfort and space in the backseat as well. With its 20 inches of additional length, the 2008 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited model has an "even roomier passenger compartment and four-door access," J.D. Power notes.

The Jeep Wrangler’s rugged appeal means fake wood and leather are off the menu. Edmunds makes a point that the plastic material of the armrest is "hard and unwelcoming," but also concedes that the comfort is sacrificed in some ways for the rugged, outdoor appeal that is the Jeep Wrangler. “The layout, design and ergonomics deliver, and I was left wanting very little,” Cars.com countered. In terms of noise, though, Motor Trend observes that “though it's much quieter than Wranglers past, it's noisy.”

8

2008 Jeep Wrangler

Safety

As SUVs go, the 2008 Jeep Wrangler provides good ratings for safety, especially if buyers opt for the additional side airbags.

The safety of the 2008 Jeep Wrangler has increased with its introduction of optional side airbags.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rates both two- and four-door Wranglers at five stars for front-impact protection. Side-impact data is unavailable from the NHTSA, but the private Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates both front and side impact protection. Wrangler Jeep two-doors get “good” ratings for front-impact safety and “poor” protection for side impacts; four-doors get “acceptable” front-impact ratings and “marginal” side-impact ratings.

Cars.com points out that there are "optional side airbags," which are placed in the seats, providing a higher level of safety than the 2008 Wranglers without these airbags.

There are numerous safety features included on the standard Jeep Wrangler 2008--many that come in handy for its off-road purposes, such as stability control and traction control. It also features anti-lock brakes and two flavors of four-wheel drive: one suited for more normal use, the other for hardcore off-roading.

10

2008 Jeep Wrangler

Features

The 2008 Jeep Wrangler provides many standard features that can't be found on other vehicles, as well as many additional options.

The 2008 Jeep Wrangler boasts many features that can't be found on any other vehicle.

Three versions are offered, Edmunds reports: “bare-bones X, midlevel Sahara and serious off-road-oriented Rubicon.” There’s also a right-hand-drive version destined for mail delivery.

One such feature is the removable top. Although it is possible to remove the top on a two-door convertible car, "the Unlimited model is the only four-door convertible on the market," Edmunds points out. “That's why you can still fold down the windshield, pull the pins out of the exposed hinges and remove the doors, and peel away all or part of the roof to expose yourself to the admiring world,” Automobile adds. There’s a soft Sunrider top, which has a panel that flips back like a sunroof. Or there’s the “three-piece Freedom Top, which has separate, removable panels over the driver and the front-seat passenger.” With the Freedom Top, the Wrangler Jeep can go roofed, as a targa, or as a full convertible, which definitely increases its appeal. The Freedom Top’s “considerable bulk might turn off fans of open-air driving, but for those in northern climates it's probably preferable to the standard cloth,” Cars.com observes.

Edmunds says of the Wrangler, Jeep’s “new model is actually tolerable on longer highway trips, thanks to a much quieter cabin, more comfortable seats and the availability of luxuries such as a CD changer, a navigation system and full power accessories.” Yes, you heard it right: Jeeps can come with navigation systems, as well as air conditioning, alloy wheels, and tow hooks. Its utter flexibility, along with those options and others like Bluetooth connectivity, MyGIG music storage, Sirius Satellite Radio, and a hardcore off-road package, convinced TheCarConnection.com’s editors to give it a top 10 rating for features.

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March 25, 2016
2008 Jeep Wrangler 4WD 4-Door Unlimited Rubicon

Everything I Wanted in a Jeep

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I think it is fair to say that Jeep owners are a different group. If you ask the professional car folks to rate the Wrangler, they will say that it is outdated and horrible to drive. If I was looking for a... + More »
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April 29, 2015
2008 Jeep Wrangler 4WD 4-Door Unlimited X

Jeep Wranlger Unlimited

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While I love driving it and have taken many road trips in it, road noise with a soft-top and half-doors is a fact of life. Casual conversation at speed is impossible (which...really...is ok). Gas mileage is... + More »
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7.4
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Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 8.0
Performance 5.0
Comfort & Quality 6.0
Safety 8.0
Features 10.0
Fuel Economy N/A
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