Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Rocks

I'm just completing a week in the surprisingly compelling Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. You know the look--it's the classic Jeep from WWII and Beetle Bailey--but so much nicer than it ever was for our fighting men and women.

For one thing, my car came in a beautiful Flame Red Clearcoat paint instead of Army Green. The seats were leather-covered, and the interior, once again, has been upgraded to premium status. Other than the very upright, flat windshield and shallow dash, it could have been an upscale modern crossover vehicle.

I discovered that the windshield reflected my voice when I sang along with my iPod selections--and that was a hidden benefit (when I was on key).

The hardtop on my tester was air-tight and made riding down the freeway about as quiet as it gets for this Trail Rated four-wheel-drive offroader. Previous test Jeeps with the cloth soft-top provided much less protection from cold and sound. I would definitely want my Wrangler equipped like this--if it was my daily driver. The roof panels over the front seat are removable--but it takes unlatching from the windshield, turning three levers, and unscrewing the side facing the back before they come free. It's no power sliding sunroof.

My tester had a 3.6-liter V6, mated to a 5-speed automatic, that put out 285 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. I averaged just over 17 miles per gallon--the EPA tests say 18, so that's about right.

At $34,625, this is no toy, but you can pick one up starting at about $23,000. I was surprised at the comfort and utility I got, and also the quick reflexes of the short wheelbase and the feeling of sitting up high wearing big boots. It was more fun than I expected.

I gave a friendly wave to the woman in the yellow Wrangler Unlimited I saw--it was a Jeep thing. It looked like she was really enjoying her car--with its roof rack and coating of dirt--not just passing through, like me.

Jeep is one of the hot brands in the car market now--sales are way up. And, the 2012 Wrangler just won the Four Wheeler of the Year award from Four Wheeler magazine.

Photo by Chris Kidwell.

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