Offroading Freedom: The 2017 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

The 2017 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited is the latest four-door version of the best selling off-roader. As the rest of the Jeep line has embraced modern styling, new technology and plush upholstery, the Wrangler remains true to the traditional Jeep values: it is rugged, simple and most comfortable when there is no pavement in sight.

The 2017 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited is a four-door compact SUV that seats five, but that is pretty much all that it has in common with the other vehicles in the SUV class.

Jeep knows that, as a Jeep owner, you aren’t looking for fancy features or the latest and greatest in technology. You’re looking for a vehicle that can get things done, on or off road, and that you can depend on when the terrain gets a little rough. It sets itself apart from its peers with a large and powerful V-6 engine, incredible ground clearance and a selection of removable soft and hard top roof coverings, making it one of the few convertible SUVs available.

This unique focus on the traditional is likewise reflected in the Wrangler Unlimited’s styling, which is clearly designed to evoke the old World-War II Jeeps on which it is based. Even its front styling is 100% classic Jeep: the large seven-slot grille flanked by large round headlights.

In short, the Wrangler Unlimited is a journey back in time to when SUVs were made for crawling over rocks rather than driving to the supermarket. If that is what you are after, then you will love the 2017 Wrangler.

Price

The 2017 Wrangler Unlimited is noticeably more expensive than other vehicles in its class, starting at $27,895 for the base Sport model. This increases to $34,245 for the mid-level Sahara and $37,445 for the high-end Rubicon Unlimited. This makes the Wrangler Unlimited more expensive than its competitors, but you will be paying for a reliable off-road vehicle that is made to stand up to different conditions.

A fully-equipped Wrangler Unlimited Hard Rock Edition with all the available options can easily cross the $50,000 mark. This is more expensive than most other vehicles in the class and opens the Wrangler Unlimited to competition from entry-level luxury compact crossovers as well.

Performance Specs

Performance is one of the categories in which the Wrangler Unlimited stands out from the competition.

First is its large 3.6-liter V-6 engine, which gives it more power than pretty much any other car in the class at 285 horsepower and 260-pound-feet of torque. This results in excellent straight-line acceleration, doing the zero-to-60 in 8.4 seconds and completing a quarter-mile in 16.6 seconds with the five-speed automatic transmission. A six-speed manual transmission is also available.

In terms of on-road behavior, the Wrangler Unlimited lags a bit behind other vehicles in the class. The suspension is very stiff and has an independent front axle, which translates to a lot of road shake and shudder, especially on bumpy roads. The steering feels slow and unresponsive at highway speeds and the tall ride height generates a precarious feeling from what would, in any other car, be a relatively gentle turn.

All of the qualities that might detract from the road experience with a Wrangler Unlimited pay off when you take the Wrangler onto wild trails and dirt tracks. The car’s tall height means an incredible ground clearance of 10.6 inches and up to a 44.3-degree approach angle, 25.4 degree breakover angle, and a 40.4-degree departure angle.

And while the steering may not provide much highway feedback, it is very precise at low speeds and the Wrangler’s turn radius is very tight. Together, this makes the Wrangler Unlimited a top-tier off-road vehicle.

Safety Features and Entertainment Features

The 2017 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited is one of the few cars in which safety and entertainment features do not form an important part of its selling points. Although you do get some basics, Jeep is right in assuming you’ll be more focused on the terrain outside of the vehicle than the entertainment features inside the vehicle.

The Wrangler Unlimited provides a fairly standard set of entertainment options including a touch-screen radio, a satellite navigation system, an Alpine sound system, satellite radio and even a wi-fi hotspot. However, most of these features are add-on options even on higher trim levels.

Key convenience and comfort features that regular people would look for in a vehicle, such as power locks, don’t exist on the lower end models. However, it is easy to equip the Wrangler Unlimited with all of the common entertainment features you want, though it will noticeably add to the car’s price tag.

The base model of the 2017 Wrangler Unlimited only comes with two airbags – the minimum legally allowed – and traction and stability control as standard safety features. Two more airbags are available as optional safety features, but other modern safety luxuries, such as a rearview camera or pre-collision braking, are absent.

The Wrangler has only been subjected to a few conventional crash tests and the results from those are mixed. It gets three stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for frontal impact on one hand, but a top rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety on both of their front crash tests. However, the IIHS only gave the Wrangler Unlimited a score of ‘marginal’ on the side crash test.

How It Stacks up Against the Competition

It is very difficult to compare the 2017 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited to other vehicles within the compact SUV class, since you aren’t looking at the same criteria when buying a Jeep. If your prospective list includes the Wrangler Unlimited, it is unlikely that the Honda CR-V or the Mazda CX-5 are also present there. A better comparison would be other compact SUVs oriented towards off-road performance, as well as other Jeep models.

A worthy competitor to the Wrangler Unlimited is the Toyota 4Runner and its pickup sibling – the Toyota Tacoma. The 4Runner has more advanced off-road drive control features and half an inch more ground clearance. The Tacoma offers better cargo capacity and towing ability. Both are better equipped at a similar price point to the Wrangler Unlimited.

However, their engines are weaker and their steering not as precise as the Wrangler in off-road conditions. Both may be good options if you plan on using them for everyday driving or hauling as well as off-roading, but if you are looking for a pure off-roader, the Wrangler Unlimited has the edge.

Another alternative to the Wrangler are some of the mainline Jeep SUVs, like the Cherokee or the Grand Cherokee. Both have better amenities and are more comfortable to drive than the Wrangler. The Cherokee is priced comparably, though it is not as effective of an off-road vehicle. The Grand Cherokee can be outfitted to be a better off-road vehicle than the Wrangler Unlimited, as well as having a lot more safety, entertainment and comfort features, but at a much higher cost than a Wrangler.

Fuel Efficiency

Fuel economy was not the biggest priority when designing the 2017 Jeep Wrangler, but that doesn’t mean it does too poorly. The Wrangler Unlimited, with a manual transmission, gets 16 mpg city, 21 mpg highway, and 18 mpg combined. The automatic transmission gets one mile per gallon less on the highway.

Pros

  • Incredible off-road ability
  • Distinctive and traditional styling
  • Powerful V-6 and all-wheel drive standard

Cons

  • Not very comfortable, even in the high-end models
  • Lacks modern safety and entertainment features
  • Poor on-road handling