First Drive: Jeep's Full 2011 Lineup

A. J. Mueller
#Jeep, #Jeep

2011 Jeep Wrangler

What's New? Fiat knows the Wrangler is an icon and the ultimate expression of the Jeep brand. Ever since the first MB was assembled in Toledo, Ohio, Jeep has been known for its four-wheel-drive, doorless wonder. There's no real competition for the Wrangler, but Jeep needs to keep upgrading it to give shoppers a reason to buy new instead of simply picking up a used version. For 2011, the Wrangler gets its biggest upgrade since moving to the JK platform in 2007 in the form of a revised interior. Now soft-touch plastics abound and the new corporate steering wheel can be found in every Wrangler model. Improved sound deadening efforts make the hard top 2011 Wrangler eerily quiet at speed if you've spent any time in an older Jeep.

How Does it Drive? The incremental improvements to the interior don't change anything in terms of the Wrangler's on-road performance, but they make a driver much more comfortable on longer journeys and just might be enough to bring in new buyers for the Wrangler. There's no apologizing for the utilitarian interior now that the materials used on it are almost as nice as you'd find in a traditional SUV with a fixed roof and doors that aren't designed to be removed once the temperature tops 70 degrees. Two-door models can still be a bit of a handful on the road at times due to the short wheelbase, but overall the Wrangler is remarkably composed on the highway. Like the Liberty, the next major upgrade the Wrangler needs is that 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 and a better automatic transmission.

Do I Want One? Unless you're bent on the luxury of a Grand Cherokee, there's virtually no reason not to buy the Wrangler if you want a new Jeep. If you really want to go off-road, there's no better choice than the Wrangler since it still allows the stability and traction control systems to be completely turned off. Wheelspin is sometimes needed off-road and the number of vehicles that won't intervene with the brakes to stop a slipping wheel is dangerously close to zero these days. Factor in the quieter interior, unequalled aftermarket support for everything from floor mats to lift kits to beefy bumpers, and it's impossible to argue any other vehicle on the market is a better base for off-road fun and short commutes.

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