The Jeep Wrangler is a throwback to simpler times. It’s strictly old-school in looks, and more than any other Jeep modelâ€”or any competitorâ€”the 2019 Wrangler qualifies as the real thing.
New for the 2019 model year, a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine makes 270 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. An Advanced Safety Group package, optional for selected models, now includes adaptive cruise control and forward-collision warnings. Automatic emergency braking is a $795 option for the Wrangler Sahara and Rubicon.
Iconic styling over body-on-frame construction makes the rugged-looking Wrangler appear ready to unleash an unforeseen adventure. Not only does Wrangler look the part of a stalwart, fearless explorer of forest, desert, and mountain peak, its elemental underpinnings make each task readily surmountable.
Wranglers come in five trim levels. Sport, Sport S, and Rubicon versions come in two- or four-door configuration. Sahara and Moab (named for a challenging Utah off-road environment) are four-door only. Four-doors are the sensible choice for families. Rubicons rival some luxury SUVs in price â€“ but are far more capable off-road.
The standard engine for all Wranglers is a 3.6-liter V-6 that develops 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. A 6-speed manual transmission and four-wheel drive are standard, but the 8-speed automatic is a popular alternative. For greater efficiency, the new turbo-4 is worth considering.
Wrangler Sport and Sahara are equipped with a two-speed, part-time four-wheel drive system. Skid plates are standard, and a limited-slip differential is optional. Wranglers offer a variety of off-roading choices for axle ratios, differentials, and transfer cases.
Crash-testing of the 2019 Wrangler is far from complete. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the early 2018 four-door Wrangler a three-star frontal-impact rating. Other tests were not performed. Wranglers also got a three-star score for rollover prevention (a calculated figure, not based upon testing).
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety hasn’t crash-tested the Wrangler since 2017.
In addition to available blind-spot monitors and parking sensors, forward-collision warnings and adaptive cruise control became optional for 2019.
Prices do not include $1,495 destination charge.
All Wranglers have four-wheel drive and the 3.6-liter V-6. A 6-speed manual gearbox is standard. The 8-speed automatic and a turbo-4 engine are optional.
Sport (two-door $28,045, four-door $31,545) comes with plenty of off-road promise including skid plates, tow hooks. 17-inch steel wheels, and Command-Trac two-speed transfer case. But it lacks such amenities as power windows and air conditioning. Cloth seats, a soft top, and pushbutton start are standard.
Sport S (two-door $28,045, four-door $34,745) is equipped with air conditioning, power door locks/windows, remote entry, alloy wheels, and heated power mirrors.
Rubicon (two-door, $38,045, four-door $41,545) gets heavy-duty off-road gear including wide-track front/rear axles, knobby 33-inch tires, high-clearance two-piece fender flares, front/rear locking differentials, front sway-bar disconnect, off-road rock rails, and a Rock-Trac 4×4 system.
Moab four-door ($51,300) includes 17-inch black alloy wheels, Multi-Terrain T/A tires, rock rails, leather-trimmed seats, and body-color fender flares.
Sahara four-door ($38,395) gets 18-inch wheels, tubular side steps, 7.0-inch touchscreen, and dual-zone automatic climate control.
Only a handful of vehicles are as iconic as the ever-popular Wrangler. Few bodies are so refreshingly honest and authentic, shunning frills that identify most contemporary vehicles.
Unabashedly boxy in both two- and four-door form, the Wrangler still retains its most familiar visual features: a seven-slot grille, round headlights, and wide fender flares. Each element has been improved over the years. Headlights that push into the grille, for instance, recall the Wrangler CJ period.
The side-hinged tailgate still looks good â€“ though not everyone praises its practicality.
Jeep has concentrated on modifications that matter, creating a smooth and well-groomed cabin. The dashboard is lower than it used to be. Controls sit higher. Additional sound deadening makes the Wrangler experience a bit less raucous.
In Sport and Sport S trim, hard plastics and rugged surfaces don’t feel quite appropriate for a $30,000-plus SUV. Soft-touch surfaces and leather trim in Sahara and Rubicon versions move the Wrangler upmarket, without marring its visceral appeal.
Front seats are supportive as well as comfortable, helped by standard lumbar support. Adjustments aren’t so easy, because the adjusting strap is beyond the driver’s reach.
The rear seats in two-door Wrangler aren’t easy to access. Once settled in place, space is ample, with 35.7 inches of legroom. Leg clearance rises to 38.3 inches in four-door models.
The low dashboard improves outward vision, while helping the cabin feel more open and bright. Removing the doors enhances the effect. Controls are easy to reach, but tougher to read.
Interior storage is limited, but Wranglers promise good cargo space, more so in four-door models. With all seatbacks upright, the 2019 Wrangler boasts nearly 32 cubic feet of volume. Folding down the rear seatbacks expands cargo room to 72.4 cubic feet.
Today’s Wrangler is even more capable off-road than its ancestors â€“ but also more refined. Many SUVs promise genuine off-road ability, but no competitor handles wilderness duties with the ease and assurance of a Wrangler.
Most Wranglers come with a 3.6-liter V-6 and automatic transmission, though manual shift remains standard. The V-6 easily provides sufficient power for around-town duties. Still, it lacks the surge of low-end grunt that enables exceptional rock-crawling adventures.
The newly optional 2.0-liter turbo-4 is coupled to a mild-hybrid system. Rated at 270 horsepower, it provides exactly the sort of low-end twist that off-roaders savor.
Some ardent off-roaders continue to insist that a Wrangler needs the 6-speed manual gearbox, but it doesn’t work as well with the mild-hybrid system. Some shifts are hampered by the bulky center console, too.
Ride quality is the Wrangler’s biggest throwback a strong point. Coil springs absorb road undulations, but it’s choppy over big bumps, all the more so with shorter two-door models.
The Wrangler’s steering system provides sufficient feedback from the wheels.
In Sport and Sahara models, the simple off-road system should satisfy most trekkers; Saharas can substitute an automatic four-wheel-drive setup. Rubicons are packed with heavy-duty gearâ€”they’re arguably the toughest Jeeps of them all.
No Wrangler is quiet on the highway, but additional insulation for 2019 keeps most road and wind sounds at bay.
The most popular configurationâ€”V-6 automaticâ€”is EPA-rated at 18/23 mpg City/Highway, or 20 mpg Combined. The two-door Wrangler with turbo-4 is EPA-rated at 23/25 mpg City/Highway, or 24 mpg Combined, while that four-door is EPA-rated at 22/24/22 mpg.
A 6-speed manual is available only with the V-6. It’s EPA-rated at 17/25 mpg City/Highway, or 20 mpg Combined, in the two-doorâ€”or 17/23/19 mpg for the four-door.
In any form, the 2019 Jeep Wrangler possesses impeccable off-road talents. Style is a moot point, since the Wrangler’s essential shape hasn’t changed since the 1940s, except for adding a four-door version. The best value is the Sport S, for buyers who don’t demand the most intense off-roading possibilities.
Driving impressions by Aaron Cole, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.