The Jeep Wrangler received a lot of changes for the 2011 model year, most notably a much-improved interior with actual padded door armrests(!). Unfortunately, Chrysler decided to hold off giving the Wrangler the new Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6 that has recently spread throughout most of the rest of Chrysler's corporate lineup, so Jeep's icon retains the 3.8-liter V-6 that's remarkably similar to the engine in my dad's old 1995 Dodge Grand Caravan ES. The four-speed automatic in this test Wrangler (hmm, just like my dad's old minivan, too) does this hoary engine no favors, either.
Still, I can't help but love the Jeep for its innate goodness: a convertible top, room for four friends, classic looks, legendary capability (as we proved with our Four Seasons test of a 2007 Wrangler), and simple intangible fun. I signed out the Jeep during a brief February heat wave, so I popped off the Freedom Top's front roof panels and fully enjoyed a 40-degree open-air ride home. (All the better to distract me from the truck's primitive driving dynamics.) Of course, it took several minutes to remove these panels, as the Wrangler remains true to its tradition of difficult-to-master roof management.
The Wrangler may seem outdated and tired to some observers, but it's important to note that this was the Chrysler Group's fourth-best-selling vehicle in 2010, behind only the Ram pickup and the Chrysler and Dodge minivans. Clearly I'm not the only person who loves the Wrangler.
- Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor