Wranglers can crawl, lumber, clamber, climb, scramble, or shimmy to the top of just about anything other than our performance scale. What it gives us in exceptional off-roadability, standard four-wheel drive, and good power, it takes away in a poor ride and worse steering. It’s a 5 for performance, not that anyone should care.
We don’t, even if our rating indicates relative indifference. Our opinion is anything but.
More Wranglers will leave the Toledo, Ohio factory floor with a 3.6-liter V-6 that makes 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. It’s an improvement in every respect over yesteryear powertrains in older Wranglers—the 4.0-liter inline-6 and 3.8-liter V-6, especially. The 3.6-liter is more refined, more fuel-efficient, more capable. Our only knock is a lack of low-end grunt, which can be solved in one of two ways.
A 2.0-liter turbo-4 with 270 hp and 295 lb-ft is available in all Wranglers. Its grunt comes on lower in the rev range, compared to the V-6: 3,000 rpm vs. 4,800 rpm. That pays on the trail where low-speed twist is king (or queen). The turbo-4 is just as confident as the V-6 and we wouldn’t blink at putting one in our driveways, especially in a two-door Wrangler.
A 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 is the torque champ, but a pricey upgrade at about $4,000 more than a V-6. It’s modestly more efficient on the highway, but not enough to pay for itself with savings at the pump in a single presidential term. It spins out 442 lb-ft at just 1,400 rpm, and it’s mighty on any trail. It’s only available in four-door Wranglers, and it’s exceptional: smooth, refined, unobtrusive, and expensive.
A 6-speed manual transmission is available on Wranglers with a 3.6-liter V-6 only. Its most significant contribution to the lineup is nostalgia. The throws are pretty long, it’s not especially efficient, and it’s limited to just one engine. It’s cheaper than the automatics—we’ll concede that point—but time and a great 8-speed have passed it by.
Jeep’s 8-speed automatic knows only seamless shifts and the right cog for off-roading. It’s impressive in every application, and our pick for overall driveability and comfort.
The Wrangler’s ladder frame construction is what you’re here for and it’s a blessing and a curse. Every Wrangler is supremely capable off road; Rubicon models venture to the edges of our imagination with a tough suspension, locking differentials, disconnecting sway bars, and approach and departure angles of nearly right angles. A two-door Rubicon could run to the ends of the world on its 33-inch tires, so long as it’s not on pavement.
That’s because the Wrangler’s steering—while improved over outgoing models, and without a “death wobble” anymore—is still worse than most anything else on the road. Two-door Wranglers still require constant attention at highway speeds, and four-door Wranglers are better, but still not great.