The driving experience in the 2011 Jeep Wrangler by no means exciting or rewarding on the road, but overall it's deft enough to get out of its own way. The V-6 is perfectly adequate with either gearbox—though it's winded on the highway, and neither as torquey as Jeep's former straight six nor as refined and responsive as the new 3.6-liter in the Grand Cherokee. With its stiff, jittery ride, combined with just-adequate handling, imprecise steering, and a somewhat tall, tipsy feel—imagined, we should add, as the Wrangler's quite stable—you'll be very much aware of the road surface and probably keep to the speed limit.
Take off to the trail—pretty much any trail—and you'll 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.
Off-roading toughness of the Wrangler is assured by live axle front and rear suspensions, with 10.2 inches of ground clearance and the availability of a four-wheel-drive system with heavy-duty axles, locking differentials, Rock-Trac transfer case with the sway-bar disconnect, extra-low gearing, and knobby BF Goodrich tires on Rubicon versions. And for those who shop by the numbers, the critical ones for the Wrangler are 44.3 degrees approach, 25.4 degrees breakover, and 40.4 degrees departure—that's all for the top-of-the-line, off-road-pedigreed Rubicon.