Jeep is fixin’ to launch a redesigned Wrangler as early as next calendar year, meaning this generation of the venerable off-road brute is slowly marching towards its best-before date. When we last looked at the base Wrangler ten months ago, we found it to be an agreeable steed whose Mohawk Vodka price point more than made up for any deficiencies compared to its snazzier cousins.
Has anything changed for 2017? Let’s find out.
There’s been plenty of digital ink spilled over the forthcoming Wrangler and pressure is on FCA to design a vehicle that appeals to the public and placates the hordes of rabid Jeep fans. These are, after all, the same people who have been known to rival those diagnosed with Metathesiophobia in their staunch dislike of change.
For this model year, though, Wrangler changes are limited to a few minor changes and a $100 price hike to new starting price of $23,995. The base model is still cleverly called the Sport. The now-ubiquitous 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 remains under that flat hood. It makes 285 horsepower in the Jeep, seven fewer than the same mill in my Charger due to packaging.
A manual transmission is standard equipment in the base Wrangler and should be the sole transmission considered unless you only have a right leg. Having sampled many Wranglers, Rubicons, and Renegades (think ‘80s), I severely enjoy a manual transmission Jeep, even if its shifter does feel like a Louisville Slugger with only the barest hint of being attached to an actual gearbox.
The Wrangler has more color choices than a Sherwin-Williams production line, offering everything from staid greys to eye-arresting reds and blues, all for $0. The example above is shown in the superbly named Hypergreen. Purists will want to spring for the similarly priced half-metal doors, offered gratis from the good folks at FCA. Nothing wakes you up on a cold winter’s night like a bracing drive in a Wrangler with plastic side windows. Air conditioning is optional on the Sport. You don’t need it.
Jeep owners have long carped about their headlights not actually being headlights but being some fireflies in a couple of jam jars. Remedying this is a new-for-2017 $595 LED lighting option that swaps out those two candles up in the front grille for a couple of snazzy LED units.
Roughly $10,000 cheaper than the more capable Rubicon, the Sport still represents a great value. Not all of that $10,000 premium goes into stouter off-road equipment, so a thrifty Wrangler buyer could take their savings, blow it all on tires, rims, and suspension upgrades, and proceed to embarrass any stock Rubicon on the trail.
That misses the Ace of Base point, though. For under $24,000, any buyer can stroll into a Jeep showroom and drive away with one of the most capable factory off-roaders on the planet. A gravel driveway will probably be the sole non-pavement adventure for most, but they’ll be living the lifestyle. As long as economies of scale mean I can get into a Wrangler with cruise control, eight speakers, a Dana 44 rear, and half-doors for only $925 more than a base Camry, I don’t care what other people do with theirs.
And just to stoke the fires, you should know: I’d take this thing over last week’s 4Runner.
Not every base model has aced it. The ones which have? They help make the automotive landscape a lot better. Any others you can think of, B&B? Let us know in the comments. Naturally, feel free to eviscerate our selection.
The model above is shown in American dollars with American options and trim, absent of destination charges and available rebates. As always, your dealer may sell for less.