2010 Jeep Wrangler Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
January 18, 2010

The 2010 Jeep Wrangler remains a choice like no other—and it's the only true convertible in which you can go off-roading.

To bring you a comprehensive review that wraps up the best reviews information available covering the 2010 Jeep Wrangler, TheCarConnection.com's SUV experts researched a wide range of publications. TheCarConnection.com's editors have also driven the new Jeep Wrangler on- and off-road in order to give you an expert opinion.

The Jeep Wrangler returns for 2010 with the same iconic features (including removable doors and a fold-down windshield) that have brought renown to this unique vehicle, as well as the 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. The Jeep Wrangler is three years old in its current form but retains all the classic lines of Jeep's past. For the 2010 model year, it gets some minor updates in terms of the standard equipment it carries, and the soft top is improved for better ease of use.

The 3.8-liter V-6 engine produces 202 horsepower and comes with a choice of either manual or four-speed automatic transmissions. Fuel economy on rear-drive, manual-transmission models is as high as 16 mpg city, 21 highway, which is good for the Wrangler lineup but not particularly economical. The engine feels strong, but it still makes more noise than you might expect of a more traditional SUV. While the Jeep excels off-road, on the highway the Wrangler can have a jittery, bouncy ride with plenty of road noise and imprecise steering. 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 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.

With room for five adult passengers, the Wrangler Unlimited model remains the only four-door convertible SUV on the market. Last year, 20.6 inches were added to the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited's wheelbase, stretching it to 116 inches and giving it the most cargo space ever offered in a Wrangler, as well more passenger room and comfort with a larger rear seat. 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 improves the soft top for 2010, making it much easier to use.

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The 2010 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. Standard safety features include Hill Start Assist (HSA) to prevent rollback on  graded surfaces and Trailer Sway Control (TSC), which monitors vehicle movement relative to the intended path and activates the Electronic Stability Program (ESP) if the trailer begins to sway outside set parameters. Anti-lock brakes and stability control are now standard, but side-impact airbags remain an option in a class where they're almost always now standard.

Most models of the 2010 Wrangler include air conditioning and cruise control. Sirius Satellite Radio is an option, as are a navigation system and a music hard drive. New standard features for 2010 are fog lamps, tow hooks, a compass, an outdoor temperature gauge, and a system that reveals how economically you are driving.

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2010 Jeep Wrangler

Styling

The 2010 Jeep Wrangler is instantly recognizable and timeless. As a four-door convertible, it's stylistically unique in the SUV market.

Redesigned in 2007, the 2010 Wrangler retains traditional Jeep styling cues, while still essentially being, as Car and Driver notes, a “cult vehicle.”

The Jeep Wrangler returns for 2010 with the same iconic features (including removable doors and a fold-down windshield) that have brought renown to this unique vehicle. Two versions of the 2010 Jeep Wrangler are available: a two-door and four-door model, as well as both soft and hard convertible tops.

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

Edmunds asserts the "Jeep Wrangler firmly maintains its heritage, image and off-road ability while also being more refined." Automobile Magazine 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.”

The interior of the 2010 Jeep Wrangler’s isn't exactly palatial, but it matches 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.

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2010 Jeep Wrangler

Performance

The 2010 Jeep Wrangler performs just well enough for everyday commuting, but off-road is where it belongs.

The 3.8-liter V-6 engine produces 202 horsepower and comes with a choice of either manual or four-speed automatic transmissions. Fuel economy on rear-drive, manual-transmission models is as high as 16 mpg city, 21 highway, which is good for the Wrangler lineup but not particularly economical.

The engine feels strong, but it still makes more noise than you might expect of a traditional SUV. While the Jeep excels off-road, the Wrangler can have a jittery, bouncy ride with plenty of road noise and imprecise steering on the highway.

“This is no commuter car,” Motor Trend warns, even though it “has the most horsepower to date” in a Wrangler. Jeep keeps 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." Two-door Wranglers have standard four-wheel drive; one version of the four-door comes in rear-drive form.

Edmunds notes “the V6 is connected to a standard six-speed manual transmission or an optional four-speed automatic.” Cars.com observes “the six-speed manual rowed the gears in precise, if clunky, fashion.” Automobile Magazine points out the “lack of an optional five-speed automatic.”

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 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.

The 2010 Jeep Wrangler is unhappy on-road, but for hard-core off-roaders, the Wrangler is a trail dream. With “heavy-duty axles, extra-low gearing and electronically locking front and rear differentials,” as Edmunds notes, the 2010 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."

As MyRide.com says, the 2010 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 is built for. In terms of handling, however, the difference in the number of 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 Magazine asserts, “you feel like you're driving a real vehicle rather than piloting a small farm tractor.” USA Today agrees with other reviewers that people who want a practical, everyday SUV shouldn't go with the Jeep—2010 Wranglers are "for the stump jumper who's a Wrangler fan."

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2010 Jeep Wrangler

Comfort & Quality

Don't expect much softness or comfort here; if you need a backseat or significant cargo space, you'll be happier with the Unlimited.

With room for five adult passengers, the Wrangler Unlimited model remains the only four-door convertible SUV on the market. Last year, 20.6 inches were added to the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited's wheelbase, stretching it to 116 inches and giving it the most cargo space ever offered in a Wrangler, as well more passenger room and comfort with a larger rear seat.

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.” While front room is adequate in both versions, the 2010 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited offers quite a bit of comfort and space in the backseat as well. With its 20 inches of additional length, the 2010 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited model has an "even roomier passenger compartment and four-door access," J.D. Power notes.

ConsumerGuide finds the seats "firm and generally comfortable," although they 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.”

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 concedes 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 counters. In terms of noise, though, Motor Trend observes that “though it's much quieter than Wranglers past, it's noisy.”

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 improves the soft top for 2010, making it much easier to use.

Review continues below
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2010 Jeep Wrangler

Safety

The 2010 Jeep Wrangler has reasonably good occupant protection and some aids for off-road safety—but it sorely lacks standard side airbags.

Safety isn't the Wrangler's strongest point, as it has lackluster crash-test ratings and doesn't include the same level of standard equipment as some other SUVs.

The 2010 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. Standard safety features include Hill Start Assist (HSA) to prevent rollback on graded surfaces and Trailer Sway Control (TSC), which monitors vehicle movement relative to the intended path and activates the Electronic Stability Program (ESP) if the trailer begins to sway outside set parameters. Anti-lock brakes and stability control are now standard, but side-impact airbags remain an option in a class where they're almost always now standard.

"Optional side airbags," says Cars.com, are placed in the seats, providing a higher level of safety than the 2010 Wranglers without these airbags. But to the point, they're optional at a time when side airbags are standard on virtually every other vehicle.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the Wrangler Jeep two-doors receive “good” ratings for front-impact safety and “marginal” protection for side impacts; four-doors get “acceptable” front-impact ratings and “marginal” side-impact ratings. 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 NHTSA.

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2010 Jeep Wrangler

Features

There might be one Jeep, but the 2010 Jeep Wrangler can be equipped in many different ways.

The 2010 Jeep Wrangler, like many Jeeps before it, provides features that other SUVs simply can't match. One such feature is the removable top. Although it is also 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. Additionally, the 2010 model year sees an improvement to the soft-top mechanism, allowing easier access to convertible thrills.

There’s a soft Sunrider top, which has a panel that flips back like a sunroof, or 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 and alloy wheels. On top of that, 2010 sees some new additions to the standard equipment found on the Wrangler, including standard fog lamps, tow hooks, a compass, a device that shows how economically you are driving, and even an outdoor temperature gauge. Its utter flexibility, along with those options and others like Bluetooth connectivity, MyGIG music storage, Sirius Satellite Radio, and a hard-core off-road package, convinces TheCarConnection.com’s editors to give it a perfect 10 rating for features.

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7.0
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Expert Rating
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Styling 8
Performance 5
Comfort & Quality 6
Safety 6
Features 10
Fuel Economy N/A
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