- Off road, it's the king
- Real truck toughness
- Nothing else like it
- On-road handling
- Bouncy, jittery ride
- Prices can be steep
The 2013 Jeep Wrangler is just as ready for adventuring as it looks--and surprisingly tolerable for the commute.
Automakers love to point to their vehicles and say that there's nothing like it on the market. That's usually utterly false, but in the case of the 2013 Jeep Wrangler, it's the whole truth.
From the outside and conceptually, the Wrangler has been kept as true to its past as possible, within the bounds of vehicle regulations. Seemingly miraculously Jeep has managed to preserve features that will surprise you in 2013--like the ability to completely remove the top, or flip the windshield down. And within the iconic look, flat sheetmetal, exposed hinges, and toughness-on-wheels look is a cabin that looks more modern--and is far more comfortable than you'd guess.
Two-door Jeep Wrangler and four-door Wrangler Unlimited variants are offered. A couple of years ago, Sahara trims get a new body-colored hardtop, and last year the new top scheme was extended to the Rubicon. Now for 2013 a new Moab edition has pretty much the same look, but without the Rubicon's front locker and super-low 4:1 'creeper' transfer case.
Last year Jeep introduced its Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6 to the Wrangler, along with a new five-speed automatic transmission, and it's made this a A six-speed manual is still offer, too. But together, the V-6 and automatic combination can now dash to 60 mph in a much faster 8.4 seconds for the Wrangler Unlimited (or 7.7 seconds for the two-door Wrangler. There's surprisingly strong passing pep, and revs are kept low. About the only complaint we have is with the old (but very rugged) recirculating-ball steering gear and its dullness. Well, that and its 16-mpg EPA city rating.
The sacrifices might well be worth it when you take to the trail—pretty much any trail—and experience the Wrangler's reason for being. The tough body-on-frame chassis and solid front and rear axles that established the Wrangler as one of the most capable off-road SUVs on the market continues to wow, with lots of clearance, a rugged underbody with protective skid plates, and terrific boulder-scrambling prowess. The traditional four-wheel-drive system is also supplemented with some modern tech, including an electric sway-bar disconnect that permits impressive wheel articulation without the expense of floppy on-road cornering.
Refinement has been improved incrementally on the Wrangler in recent years, and last year's powertrain changes brought more of a transformation. The Wrangler no longer either keeps with the parts-bin look inside; instead its instrument panel is modern and curvy yet upright, with soft-touch materials provided in a few spots where they'll be noticed.
When you don't mind a little turbulence and wind in your hair, with the top removed (and even in some low-speed cases, the windshield folded down) the Wrangler can hit the spot, bringing the sensations of a convertible in a very capable off-roader—it's the only four-door convertible SUV. The removable tops are one of Jeep's best features—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 a hardtop Jeep into a convertible SUV. Jeep has improved its soft top design, making it much easier to use, and the Sahara's body-color hardtop is now offered in the Rubicon.
The lineup includes base Sport, popular Sport S, showy Sahara, and super-off-road-focused Rubicon. Across the upper trims there's a wide range of choices in top configurations--including a body-color hardtop now offered in Sahara, Rubicon, or Moab form. Wrangler models can be equipped with air conditioning, navigation, automatic climate control, and streetwise alloy wheels. And this year, new Alpine speakers are available. Its utter flexibility, along with those options and others like Bluetooth connectivity, MyGIG music storage, Sirius Satellite Radio, heated seats, automatic climate control, and a hard-core off-road package have us still quite amazed at all that's offered—more than any other off-roader.The 2013 Jeep Wrangler costs as little as $23,190, but those base prices can be misleading, as Sahara and Rubicon models cost thousands more, and you'll want a number of options to make the off-road package (and appearance) complete. At the top end, Rubicon models can top $40k--a price point that could create a little anxiety if you're headed out to scrape against boulders and brush.