Photos: 2010 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
Off-road enthusiasts love their Wranglers. Cars.com reviewer Kyle Mays tests the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited with both on- and off-roaders in mind.
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On the road
Automakers are getting better at finding middle ground between the extremes -- nimble handling with reasonably good ride comfort, for example. The Wrangler is old-school; it swings unapologetically toward the extreme. The non-independent, solid-axle suspension delivers ride quality reminiscent of trucks in the 1990s. Encounter anything short of glass-smooth interstates, and the Wrangler bounces up and down erratically.
The Wrangler's 3.8-liter pushrod V-6 has seen duty in some form through two decades of Chrysler products. Here it's good for 202 horsepower and 237 pounds-feet of torque -- enough power for stop-and-go driving and torque-needy off-road maneuvers. But the Wrangler and its truck-based peers are heavy. My four-wheel-drive Rubicon weighed in at 4,340 pounds. Highway acceleration is weak, and the engine sounds coarse when pushed.
A six-speed manual is standard. Our 2010 Wrangler had the optional four-speed automatic. It upshifts smoothly but begs for more gears on the open road. Non-Rubicon grades have a lower rear axle ratio -- 3.21 or 3.73, to the Rubicon's 4.1. That could make off-the-line acceleration even worse.
Given all that, it's hard to reconcile the Wrangler's gas mileage at 15/19 mpg city/highway with either transmission. Towing capacity, at 2,000 pounds for the Wrangler and 3,500 pounds for the Wrangler Unlimited, trails the competition.