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Redesigning the Jeep Wrangler is a delicate job. Designers have to honor its history and respect its loyal owner base, while addressing significant shortcomings in a marketplace that has seen dramatic evolution since the last version was introduced back in 2006.
The template is clear: Make improvements throughout, but don’t change the silhouette.
Judging by the four-door Wrangler Unlimited Sahara we recently purchased, Jeep seems to have successfully performed this tricky feat. As our testers drive the Wrangler during its 2,000 mile break-in period, they all agree that this version is better than the last one and still retains its rustic charm.
The Wrangler is such a unique animal that it is hard to resist drawing endless comparisons to the previous generation. Nothing else is like it because nothing else has the character, heritage, romance, and mystique of a classic Jeep.
All of the Wrangler’s defining elements carry over: seven-slot grille, removable doors, removable top, fold-down windshield, exposed roll cage, tricky access, rear swing gate and hatch, and abundant ground clearance. There’s no real hardware revolution here, either, as the new Wrangler retains its body-on-frame construction and front and rear solid axles. The Wrangler is once again available in numerous trims, with a lengthy list of options, from powertrains and equipment to dealer-installed modifications.
We bought the popular four-door configuration, with the uplevel Sahara trim. But to get common comfort features, such as the cold-weather package, tow package, and upgraded infotainment system, we had to pile on the options. Throw in an automatic transmission and blind-spot detection system, and this adventure-ready machine brushes $50,000.
That feels like a lot of money for a vehicle that at its core is bred to get dirty and scratched, and lead a treacherous, adventurous life. Then again, most…