KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors
The 65-year history of what has become America's definitive off-roader – and an icon on the level of national treasures such as the Corvette and Mustang – began with a run of nearly 650,000 units built for use during the last world war. Distributed strictly for civilian enjoyment today, Jeep claims the percentage of Wrangler owners who take their vehicles off road is higher than that of any other brand. A short wheelbase, solid front and rear axles and renowned all-wheel-drive systems combine in a perennial favorite of rock crawlers, mudders and light off-roaders alike. The longest, widest and most livable design to date, the 2009 Jeep Wrangler continues to enjoy a wide and deeply loyal audience.
You'll Like This Car If...
Whether you're an off-road enthusiast, an occasional camper or just a city slicker with a back-country mindset, the rugged yet refined 2009 Jeep Wrangler is sure to please.
You May Not Like This Car If...
For off-roading Wrangler enthusiasts, the 2009 model's extra five inches in width over the previous generation may take some getting used to. Back in town, the more livable Wrangler still isn't as buttoned down as SUVs like the Nissan Xterra or Toyota FJ Cruiser.
What's New for 2009
Hill Start Assist (HSA) is made standard.
That the 2009 Jeep Wrangler so effortlessly delivered us from our starting point in the middle of the notorious, boulder-strewn Rubicon Trail back to the striped pavement of civilization did not surprise us. The Wrangler is rich with new and improved hardware – and software – that renders it even more capable than its predecessors; and that's saying something, considering the previous generation was already one of the most accomplished off-roaders in the world. Still, we were impressed by the uncanny ease with which the Wrangler traversed massive rocks and by the sheer solidity of its three skid plates. One feature we appreciated most is the electronic throttle, which allows for smooth throttle application in low range. Owners of previous Wrangler models will notice a markedly smoother and quieter ride which, once off trail, transforms the Wrangler from a weekend plaything into a viable everyday vehicle.
Electronic-Disconnecting Sway Bar
When rocks on the trail turn into boulders, the Wrangler's front stabilizer bar disconnects at the push of a button for increased wheel travel.
The Wrangler's hardtop now features panels above the driver and front passenger that can be removed independently and stored in the vehicle, allowing for more spontaneous exposure
If the addition of niceties like power windows, power locks and a navigation system has you worried that the Wrangler has gotten soft, you'll be happy to know that the changes inside are as evolutionary as the changes outside. They're big improvements to be sure – with higher quality materials and more contemporary styling than previous Wranglers – but the rugged, purpose-built feel remains. Unlimited (four-door) models offer seating for five, which is a first for any Wrangler. Interior color options include gray or khaki and the exterior color carries into the cabin via the door panels. The additional five inches of width make for a noticeably roomier passenger cabin.
In proper Jeep fashion, the 2009 Wrangler's doors (full-framed or half) are still removable, its windshield is still foldable and the hinges and latches are still exposed. The familiar signature seven-slot grille and round headlamps present a face as distinctive and recognizable as any on the road. Still, while the newest Wrangler's styling is instantly familiar and every bit as rugged as its decade-old predecessor's, it's also decidedly more contemporary. Wrangler veterans will appreciate the bigger tires and additional ground clearance, but may decry the extra five inches in width while negotiating tight trails – and the absence of easily replaceable bumper caps at the ends of those trails. Roof options include two soft tops and a nifty three-piece hardtop. The first-ever four-door Wrangler rides on a wheelbase that's 20.6 inches longer than that of the traditional two-door.
Notable Standard Equipment
The least expensive Jeep Wrangler comes with Command-Trac shift-on-the-fly part-time four-wheel drive, a six-speed manual transmission, soft top, six-speaker AM/FM/CD/ audio system with MP3 capability, auxiliary audio input, vinyl seats, three skid plates, 16-inch steel wheels, full metal doors with roll up windows, front airbags and electronic stability and traction control systems including rollover mitigation. In addition to four doors, the base Wrangler Unlimited gets cloth seats with height-adjustable driver's seat and air conditioning.
Notable Optional Equipment
Some of the Wrangler's more significant optional equipment includes a three-piece hardtop, air conditioning, power windows and door locks, remote keyless entry, uconnect gps hard drive-based navigation and digital audio system, remote start, six-disc CD changer, front side-impact airbags and a variety of off-road hardware, the toughest of which come standard on Rubicon models.
Under the Hood
All 2009 Jeep Wranglers are powered by a 3.8-liter V6 engine mated with either a six-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. From there, power is distributed through a two-wheel-drive system (available on four-door models only) or one of two part-time four-wheel-drive systems, both of which include a two-speed transfer case. The beefier Rock-Trac system features a 4.00:1 low-range gear ratio (versus 2.72:1 for Command-Trac) and is standard on Rubicon models, which also feature beefier axle sets and locking differentials front and rear. Electronic brake-lock differentials help get power to the loaded wheels by braking spinning wheels. A limited-slip rear differential is upgradeable to a locking rear differential. Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited models can tow up to 2,000 and 3,500 pounds, respectively.
202 horsepower @ 5200 rpm
237 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 15/20 (2WD), 15/19 (4WD, manual), 15/19 (4WD, automatic)
The 2009 Jeep Wrangler's Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts just over $21,000 and can approach $36,000 when fully equipped. To make your best deal, be sure to check our Fair Purchase Prices, which reflect real-world selling prices in your area. Competitors include the Nissan Xterra and Toyota's FJ Cruiser, both of which offer more creature comforts but less overall off-road capability than the Wrangler, not to mention a removable top. In terms of resale value, we expect the 2009 Jeep Wrangler lineup to perform comparably to the FJ Cruiser and better than the Xterra.