By KBB.com Editors
In addition to being one of the parents of the Mustang and righting the financial shipwreck that was Chrysler in the 1970s, Lee Iacocca's most significant contribution to American motoring may have been the purchase - under his watch, as chairman of Chrysler - of American Motors Corporation. Not only did its purchase get AMC out of the hands of the French(!), but it secured a path to market for those Jeep products on the cusp of introduction, including the trendsetting Cherokee and its stablemate, the Grand Cherokee. The success of those launches has only enhanced the viability of the iconic Wrangler, now in its biggest, boldest and - in the guise of the Unlimited - most accommodating iteration. For 2011 the model news and marketing push may be with the all-new Grand Cherokee, but that shouldn't reduce the importance of some very credible enhancements to the established Wrangler recipe.
If you have a real need for all-season capability, or simply a strong desire to depart the beaten path, the 2011 Jeep Wrangler is a tough recipe to beat. And with city streets and freeways providing an increasingly unfriendly atmosphere to standard, car-based suspensions, large tires and real ground clearance are increasingly handy for the committed urbanite.
In its most recent evolution the Wrangler has grown significantly and is currently some five inches wider than its predecessor. In combination with a heavy, overbuilt - yet strong and rugged - platform is an old-design 3.8-liter V6 engine that offers less power yet greater thirst than that provided by the Grand Cherokee's standard 3.6-liter V6. The new powertrain is coming to the Wrangler - projected for the 2012 model year - and for those wanting to maximize their automotive efficiency it may be worth the wait.
If you believe beauty is on the inside, you'll love the modifications made to the Wrangler's interior for model year 2011. New seat fabric, available leather, an all-new instrument panel with revised air ducts, a redesigned center stack and revised radio lineup are just a few of the many changes wrought by Jeep's product team. Although "soft-touch" may seem like a less-than-dirty word to a committed off-roader, it perfectly describes these interior updates, in combination with improved ergonomics and a quieter ride.
Driving Impressions Truck-based, solid-axle platforms are perfect for boulder hopping, but less perfect for negotiating Boulder, Colorado. With that as the obvious, the engineering team at Jeep has done an amazing job...enhancing the Wrangler's off-road credibility while improving its on-road prowess. You won't confuse the 2011 Jeep Wrangler - despite its open top - with any of the current crop of sport roadsters, but neither does it generate the on-road angst of Jeeps of early generations, where the steering sometimes seemed connected to the front wheels by a loose rope and applying the brakes did not necessarily bring things to a quick stop. As noted earlier, we're fans of the Rubicon for its aggressive off-road capability, and wish a Wrangler Sport had more in the way of standard rubber, but you can't argue with the success in crafting this oh-so-careful balance, and doing it for under $25,000. Credit a vastly improved structure for the improvements to its handling and the contributions those handling improvements have made to active safety - the all-important ability to avoid an accident before it happens.
Sunrider Soft Top
Lets the sun shine in when you want it, while keeping the elements out when you need it. And it's accomplished with the convenience of opening a sunroof.
The four-door Wrangler allows you to share the goodness of "Jeeping" with more than one friend. And, if you just have one friend, the Unlimited allows you to pick the friend with a lot of stuff.
As noted in "What's New," the news for model year 2011 is an inside story. The Wrangler has been through evolutionary improvements throughout its seven decades of development, but rarely has the interior displayed so much reinvention. Recognizing that, all of the cloth, leather and soft-touch upgrades in the world won't disguise the very real need to climb into the passenger compartment of a Wrangler and become engaged, whether - at the end of a long day in the office - you really want to be or not. In short, despite a concerted effort to broaden the Wrangler's appeal through a host of 21st-Century niceties (new cloth, leather, instrumentation, center stack and audio offerings), its furnishings remain much more closely aligned with the Greatest Generation than Generation Y.Exterior
Few in the industry better understand their brand than those assigned to Jeep. (And we'll excuse - for the moment - the aberration that is Jeep's Compass). The functionality - in the guise of removable doors and foldable windshield - still remains in the 2011 Jeep Wrangler, as do those traditional cues that are sometimes found elsewhere (for example, the Hummer showroom) but will always refer to Jeep. However, today's Jeep is fully invested in the modern world, with proportions and capability that make it far more viable in current automotive environs. The bigger dimensions may marginalize it slightly on a tight trail, but work far better in the cut-and-thrust that is urban driving and, for that matter, dealing with the larger proportions of adjacent cars and trucks.
The beauty of the 2011 Jeep's Wrangler is, in large part, its utter simplicity. To be sure, standard Command-Trac shift-on-the-fly part-time 4WD is notable at a $22,000 base price but, then, who'd want a 2WD Jeep? And the continued availability of a standard six-speed manual for the U.S. is both notable and encouraging, suggesting that for the present time a small percentage of Americans can shift gears and talk on their hands-free cell phones at the same time. A Media Center may sound too sophisticated for Wrangler intenders, but it's included as standard equipment and located right next to the steering wheel.
Given the Wrangler's all-season drivetrain, the availability of a "Freedom Top" three-piece hardtop is not only notable, but viable. And, in the Sun Belt, A/C can be a lifesaver. We're most impressed, however, by not one option but a collection of them - all under the guise of the 2011 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. No carmaker offers such credible off-road capability for under $30,000, and it's unlikely that anyone ever will again. If your hope is to go beyond the Barnes & Noble adventure section the Rubicon is the best buy in or near the showroom.
The 2011 Jeep Wrangler is still powered by a 3.8-liter V6; this despite the majority of Chrysler Corporation products now enjoying a much more modern 3.6-liter engine. Not only is this incumbent powerplant less powerful than the 3.6 - it's substantially thirstier, as well. With that, we'll admit that its torque - 237 pound-feet - is perfectly adequate for both off-roading and accelerating up to traffic speed. The power is distributed through one of two part-time four-wheel-drive systems, either of which offers a two-speed transfer case. In terms of drivetrain and suspension, the best Jeep of the bunch is the aforementioned Rubicon, where everything is beefier - and its overall capability is beastier. If you're opting for a Jeep, get as much "Jeep" as you can afford.
202 horsepower @ 5200 rpm
237 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 15/19 (4WD, manual), 15/19 (4WD, automatic)
By YellowRubi on Saturday, July 19, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 2,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Pentastar engine. FUN convertible & off-road"
Cons: "Mileage. Back seat access."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This is the fifth Wrangler I have owned and the best for the family. The 2012 and newer with Pentastar engine gets 25% better MPG than my previous Wranglers. I average 20+ on 12 mile commute and the same on highway. The family made the decision to go with the 2014 4-door. Hardtop is better than previous models and the fold back soft top makes this a true all season vehicle. No problems with any of the 5 Jeeps. Most maintenance is change of fluids and tires. Highly recommend Jeep for the FUN factor too. The family liked previous Sport, Rubicon, Unlimited models but this is their favorite because of the space and smoother ride quality. We selected a Limited Edition and it gets noticed everywhere we go. Mileage could and should be better however, this is not a car and with the larger tires is not intended to go 80 mph or take cloverleaf turns like a sport car. Test drive on highway and city. Jeeps are not for everyone. We obviously like them or we wouldn't be in number five."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By CT on Tuesday, July 15, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 63,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Very reliable and easy to work on yourself. Don't purchase this vehicle if you are looking for comfort."
3 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By ktmk36 on Sunday, June 29, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 770overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "LOOKS, LOOKS & LOOKS...style, comfort, horsepower"
Cons: "Mercenary gets poor gas mileage because of lift"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I purchased a 2013 Jeep Wrangler after trading UP from my 2012 Jeep Wrangler! Trade up you ask? Here in Kansas City there is a Jeep dealer that upgrades the Wrangler's with the "permission" of Jeep and calls them MERCENARY...with the dealer doing it, it keeps the factory warranty in place! I have uploaded a pic for you to see all the stuff it has on it. 4" lift, 35" tires, power running boards, roof rack and basket, H.I.D each lichts and front lights, LED headlights, tail lights and blinkers...new aggressive from bumper and rear bumper with 10,000lbs winch, new tailgate tire carrier that also holds 2 gas cans and other numerous items added to this bad boy! My 2012 was also a Mercenary and I rode her hard and put her up wet, 66 miles in 2 years...I saw this one on the lot and traded in my OLD Mercenary and got a GREAT trade in price with all the stuff I had on it! My wife has a 2010 Wrangler Mountain edition, which is nice, but lacks the power and finness that the 2012 & 2013 have. The extra 85 horsepower is a Godsend...if you can afford it, check out the Jeep Mercenary...they are real head turners!"
18 people out of 37 found this review helpful
By German on Wednesday, June 25, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 5,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun! High resale value. Simple. Excellent 4x4."
Cons: "Poor safety ratings. Fuel economy. Sound system."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This is my 2nd Wrangler, my first JK and I love it. It's a Jeep thing - it's similar to buying a Harley Davidson. Jeep is more a way of life than a practical, economical vehicle. Topless, doorless, folding windshield and all of this FUN with a proven go-anywhere 4x4 capability. They hold their value better than any car I've owned. Easy to sell at a premium price - especially if you take care of it. Spring time brings out the Jeep in everybody and you're guaranteed to have buyers coming out of the woods. All Wranglers currently have the same 285 hp motor, and transmission/transfer case. The only difference is the gearing ratios in the axle and transfer case. Mine has the 3.21 gears and I wish I'd spent a little more for the 3.73 gears. Rubicons (which are way over-priced) have the 4.10 gears and locking differentials which are nice, but definitely not necessary. Shop around for the newest and cheapest Sport model. You'll save thou$and$. Remember, Jeep stands for Just Empty Every Pocket...you'll enjoy customizing your American legend. Keep the rubber side down."
9 people out of 15 found this review helpful
By Cindy on Tuesday, June 17, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 138,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I would recommend this vehicle for anyone that lives in areas of lots of snow fall, also great on the highway as well. I would rate this as the top vehicle to drive with 4 wheel drive, sits up high, very easy to maneuver! I have owned SUV's and cars and really this is the best in weather conditions of all types. Night driving is also good, except with heavy rains which most vehicles are hard to drive in those conditions."
10 people out of 12 found this review helpful
By Josie on Saturday, June 14, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 169,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "expensive parts, uncomfortable & transmission prob"
Cons: "Great AC, awesome in snow and mud, looks pretty."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 6
"My transmission went out at 119,000 miles. I had the dealership put a rebuilt transmission in and it had selenoid problems less than 30,000 miles later and again 25,000 miles later. I had a lot of issues with the steering wheel and after paying to get it fixed 3 times, a recall came out for the clock-spring to be replaced in the steering wheel. i asked for a refund and got it. Also the inner fender liners were recalled. The seats are not very comfortable.The door harness which has wires in it, broke on both front doors, when the wind caught them. I love my Jeep, but don't know if I want to deal with all these issues again."
3 people out of 6 found this review helpful