2021 Jeep Wrangler

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Aaron Cole Aaron Cole Managing Editor
August 31, 2020

Buying tip

The Wrangler Rubicon isn’t cheap, but it’s what a Jeep is supposed to be and do. Buy it, then hit the trail.

features & specs

80th Anniversary 4x4
Freedom 4x4
Islander 4x4
22 city / 24 hwy
17 city / 25 hwy
17 city / 25 hwy

The 2021 Jeep Wrangler SUV is an iconic off-roader that endures because it’s capable and cool.

The 2021 Jeep Wrangler SUV doesn’t just look cool, it is cool.

The boxy off-roader hasn’t fundamentally changed since our grandparents drove one. Neither have their drapes or dinnerware, but we digress. 

It earns a 5.2 TCC Rating, which is a little deceptive. The Wrangler’s right angles are a drag on gas mileage; its value is only slightly better than “bad”; and its off-roadability is second to none, but its on-road comfort is pretty poor. Still, we’d love to have one in the driveway because our ratings system doesn’t factor in cool. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

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Not much has changed with the Wrangler for this year, which is a phrase that’s almost as old as the Wrangler itself. Offered in Sport, Sport S, Sahara, and Rubicon trim levels with a handful of packages thrown in the middle, the Wrangler is still offered as a two- or four-door SUV. It starts just north of $30,000 and can cost upward of $60,000 in top trims.

Bad news: That’s a modern price for a throwback off-roader.

Good news: At least all of the available powertrains are present-day appropriate.

The base powertrain is also the most common, and it’s good. A 3.6-liter V-6 makes 285 horsepower in the Wrangler and it’s paired to a 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic. The next step up is a step down in cylinder count. A 2.0-liter turbo-4 makes 270 hp but more torque and it’s available in every Wrangler (even the off-road Rubicon, where it performs well) paired to an 8-speed automatic, although we like it best in the two-door versions.

A 3.0-liter turbodiesel is a pricey upgrade but offers 442 lb-ft of torque for supreme off-road capability. It’s marginally more efficient than the gas engines, and only available in four-door Wranglers with an 8-speed automatic.

Top off, doors off, sunnies on, is how we like our Wranglers. That’s a different kind of comfortable, we’ll admit, but we’ll take it because the Wrangler doesn’t adhere to most norms. The seats are cushy but not extremely comfortable, and the back seat isn’t all that great. Cargo capacity is limited by your imagination with the roof off, and Wranglers can tow up to 3,500 pounds.

Safety scores aren’t yet complete, and what’s in isn’t great. Automatic emergency braking is available, but not standard on any model.

That’s in line with the Wrangler, which asks a lot for its open-air freedom. Base SUVs cost more than $30,000 and don’t offer much in the way of anything: crank windows, no air conditioning, lousy radio. It’s not a far throw to reasonable comfort in Sport S or Sahara models, although they cost a few thousand more than they probably should. Top Rubicon trims have few equals off road with beefy shocks and chunky tires. Swallow hard before cutting a check; all-in the Wrangler can cost about $60,000.


2021 Jeep Wrangler


Why mess with success? The Wrangler (still) looks great.

Grade-schoolers get it. Jeep gets it. Why doesn’t everyone else get it, too?

The 2021 Wrangler is a few boxes, a few wheels, and the road or trail ahead. What more do you need? Of course, it’s a little more complicated than that, but not too much. That’s what makes it great. An 8 on our style scale reflects our high opinion.

Few cars on the road are as instantly recognizable as the Wrangler. The new model, which was released just a couple years ago, easily could be confused with older models. There are new taillights, new headlights, new small touches (fenders), and new Easter eggs (we won’t spoil the surprises for you).

Inside, the Wrangler is more dramatically improved with better ergonomics, better technology, but a low dash for good outward vision. Base Wranglers look very cheap, but top trims dress up with leather, an 8.4-inch touchscreen and creature comforts.

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2021 Jeep Wrangler


On road or off road, the Wrangler is just as capable and comfortable. Read into that how you will.

Wranglers can crawl, lumber, clamber, climb, scramble, or shimmy to the top of just about anything other than our performance scale. What it gives us in exceptional off-roadability, standard four-wheel drive, and good power, it takes away in a poor ride and worse steering. It’s a 5 for performance, not that anyone should care.

We don’t, even if our rating indicates relative indifference. Our opinion is anything but.

More Wranglers will leave the Toledo, Ohio factory floor with a 3.6-liter V-6 that makes 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. It’s an improvement in every respect over yesteryear powertrains in older Wranglers—the 4.0-liter inline-6 and 3.8-liter V-6, especially. The 3.6-liter is more refined, more fuel-efficient, more capable. Our only knock is a lack of low-end grunt, which can be solved in one of two ways.

A 2.0-liter turbo-4 with 270 hp and 295 lb-ft is available in all Wranglers. Its grunt comes on lower in the rev range, compared to the V-6: 3,000 rpm vs. 4,800 rpm. That pays on the trail where low-speed twist is king (or queen). The turbo-4 is just as confident as the V-6 and we wouldn’t blink at putting one in our driveways, especially in a two-door Wrangler.

A 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 is the torque champ, but a pricey upgrade at about $4,000 more than a V-6. It’s modestly more efficient on the highway, but not enough to pay for itself with savings at the pump in a single presidential term. It spins out 442 lb-ft at just 1,400 rpm, and it’s mighty on any trail. It’s only available in four-door Wranglers, and it’s exceptional: smooth, refined, unobtrusive, and expensive.

A 6-speed manual transmission is available on Wranglers with a 3.6-liter V-6 only. Its most significant contribution to the lineup is nostalgia. The throws are pretty long, it’s not especially efficient, and it’s limited to just one engine. It’s cheaper than the automatics—we'll concede that point—but time and a great 8-speed have passed it by.

Jeep’s 8-speed automatic knows only seamless shifts and the right cog for off-roading. It’s impressive in every application, and our pick for overall driveability and comfort.

The Wrangler’s ladder frame construction is what you’re here for and it’s a blessing and a curse. Every Wrangler is supremely capable off road; Rubicon models venture to the edges of our imagination with a tough suspension, locking differentials, disconnecting sway bars, and approach and departure angles of nearly right angles. A two-door Rubicon could run to the ends of the world on its 33-inch tires, so long as it’s not on pavement.

That’s because the Wrangler’s steering—while improved over outgoing models, and without a “death wobble” anymore—is still worse than most anything else on the road. Two-door Wranglers still require constant attention at highway speeds, and four-door Wranglers are better, but still not great.

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2021 Jeep Wrangler

Comfort & Quality

Comfort isn’t the 2021 Wrangler’s first priority.

Capability is in the 2021 Wrangler’s wheelhouse, but comfort takes a figurative back seat. If it took the literal back seat, we’d probably never hear the end of it.

The Wrangler nets an average score for comfort with some math involved. The cargo space is above average, the fit and finish is below average.

Like last year, the Wrangler is available with two or four doors. The two-door model is great for empty-nesters, single buyers or couples, but that’s about it. If carrying more than two people is a regular chore, the four-door is the way to go.

That’s because the front seats are supportive and comfortable—although not as comfortable as the Grand Cherokee or even Cherokee. The dash is low and wide for good outward vision on the trail, which we suppose is the point.

The four-door Wranglers have a back seat that’s more easily accessible, compared to two-door versions. Rear seat riders get more than 38 inches of leg room once aboard, but it’s not as spacious as that number would indicate. Getting into the Wrangler can be a chore for old or very young legs, and three adults in back is a big ask. Two-door Wranglers offer 35.7 inches of rear-seat leg room.

Behind the second row, both Wranglers offer 31.7 cubic feet of cargo storage that can expand to your imagination when the roof comes off.

Although the Wrangler has become a pricey trucklet off-roader, shoppers may not know that in interior material quality. Base models feel built to a price, but that price certainly isn’t the more-than $30,000 sticker on the window. Bummer.

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2021 Jeep Wrangler


Crash-test results aren’t yet in for the Wrangler.

Federal crash-testers aren’t yet done with the Wrangler, but what scores are available don’t bode well on our scale.

We’ll withhold our score here, but let common sense be your guide: A boxy off-roader without standard active safety tech, but removable doors and roof panels, doesn’t inspire confidence in crashes.

The IIHS rated the Wrangler “Good” in most of its crash tests, except the driver-side small overlap test, where it netted a “Marginal” score. The NHTSA reported a four-star score for front crash safety and a worrying three-star score in the rollover test.

Jeep’s automatic braking system, which is optional on all trims except Sport where it isn’t available at all, was rated by the IIHS as “Superior” at avoiding forward crashes at 12 and 25 mph.

Outward vision is OK in the Wrangler but improves dramatically with every door and roof panel that is removed.

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2021 Jeep Wrangler


Base Wranglers are spartan. Somehow they’re not cheap either.

Few vehicles on the planet are as infinitely customizable as a Jeep Wrangler or as iconic. That’s not the same as a good value, however.

What the Jeep offers in possibilities, it takes away in nearly endless spend-up charges that rivals only furniture stores in frustration.

Starting from an average score, the Wrangler gets points for its options availability, but loses two thanks to a poor value and base version that doesn’t impress. It’s a 4.

Like last year, the Jeep is available in Sport trims that are workaday Wranglers (or blank canvases for customizers); Sahara trims that lean into luxury; or hardcore, off-roaders like the Rubicon.

The Sport version doesn’t offer much for nearly $30,000 to start: hand-crank windows, 17-inch steel wheels, cloth seats, two doors, a 5.0-inch display for infotainment, and climate control via Mother Nature (Read: No air conditioning). It’s as basic as new cars come, and aimed mostly at upfitters who’d rather start from scratch, but still pricey.

Shoppers are more likely to spot Sport S versions that add power windows, alloy wheels, air conditioning, but the same 5.0-inch display. An options package adds a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, which we recommend for shoppers who are looking for the cheapest way into a daily-driver Wrangler at about $36,000 to start.

The Sahara models steer toward luxury—if that’s a thing for Wranglers. They’re available only with four doors, and add 18-inch wheels, dual-zone air conditioning, uprated cloth upholstery, a 7.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment, and plenty of options, including an 8.4-inch touchscreen and leather upholstery. Wrangler Saharas start north of $40,000, and we’re not done yet.

The hardcore, off-road Rubicon models are really what the Wrangler is best at, but at a breathtaking price of more than $43,000 to start for a four-door version. They get beefy off-road gear, 17-inch wheels with knobby tires, a 7.0-inch touchscreen, and plentiful options to drive the price to more than $60,000.

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2021 Jeep Wrangler

Fuel Economy

All things considered, the Wrangler isn’t that bad with a gallon of fuel.

The 2021 Jeep Wrangler leans hard on tradition for its looks, but not necessarily for its gas mileage. A four-door Wrangler with a V-6 and automatic transmission nets 19 mpg city, 28 highway, 21 combined, according to the EPA, which is a 4 on our scale.

That’s not bad for the Wrangler’s brick-in-the-wind shape. With a turbo-4 and four doors, the Wrangler improves to 21/24/22 mpg. With a manual transmission, that sinks to 17/23/19 mpg.

Opting for a two-door Wrangler may improve your fun, but not necessarily your fuel economy. The EPA rates those versions 1 mpg higher combined across the board with similarly minimal gains in city efficiency.

Diesel-powered Wranglers have the longest legs and stretch out visits to the pump at 22/29/25 mpg, according to the EPA. They’re available only with an automatic transmission and with four doors. It’s hardly a good long-term investment, though. It would take more than seven years to realize any savings at the pump compared to gas-powered Wranglers, so diesel-powered Wranglers are more of a convenience for off-roaders or long-haulers.

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MSRP based on 80th Anniversary 4x4
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Expert Rating
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Styling 8
Performance 5
Comfort & Quality 5
Safety N/A
Features 4
Fuel Economy 4
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