Jeep's current best-seller and brand icon, the Wrangler, receives some major updates for 2011, most notably in the form of a new interior. Now that we've seen the fresh Wrangler in person at Chrysler's so-called "Design Dome," we can confirm that the changes are thorough and useful but don't undermine the vehicle's ruggedness or heritage.
Sitting inside a 2011 Wrangler, we had a difficult time spotting any parts that were carryover from our beloved (at least by most staff members) 2007 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited long-term test vehicle. The instrument-panel gauges and the steering-column stalks were the only components that jumped out. The 2011 Wrangler's curvaceous, grained dashboard has been completely redesigned but is still constructed of washable hard plastic. During his spiel in Auburn Hills, Jeep interior design head Klaus Busse defended the Wrangler's lack of soft-touch materials by saying that "there's nothing wrong with plastic if you know how to use it."
He's got a pretty good point in this case, as his team seems to have done an impressive job of responding to some customers' requests for a more livable cabin while at the same time respecting the wishes of die-hard, utilitarian Jeep fans. The door storage compartments can now hold more and larger items but are made of attractive netting rather than pouches of rigid, thin, hard plastic. Interior door panels are softer and finally have real armrests with padding (!) instead of rock-hard plastic. The doors remain removable, despite the addition of power heated mirrors -- both firsts for the Wrangler. (Rest assured, purists, crank windows, manual mirrors, and no air-conditioning are still standard.)
The grab handle in front of the passenger seat now sports a piece of bright trim that says "Jeep SINCE 1941." The thick-rimmed steering wheel is pulled straight from the new-for-2011 Grand Cherokee (and the 2011 Patriot) and, if properly equipped, permits control of audio, cruise control, trip computer, and Bluetooth phone functions without releasing your fingers from the wheel. HVAC controls are now electronically actuated for a smoother feel, Bluetooth streaming audio is now available, and a 115-volt outlet is newly available (optional on Sport trim levels, standard on Rubicon and Sahara).