By Scott Oldham -- Contributing Editor
The Jeep Wrangler is an authentic American original. For its loyalists it’s nothing short of Old Glory with 4-wheel drive. Still true to its original concept after 75 years, the 2017 Jeep Wrangler continues to deliver exceptional off-road capability with ever-increasing amounts of on-road civility in an affordable package. Jeep continues to refine and develop the Wrangler lineup, which now includes the original 2-door Wrangler and the family-friendly 4-door Wrangler Unlimited, both in soft-top and hardtop versions. The result is a vehicle that can be used in the city during the week and abused in the country on the weekends. Four trim levels are available, Sport, Sport S, Sahara and the hard-core Rubicon. All have Chrysler’s smooth and strong 3.6-liter, 285-horsepower V6 engine.
You’re ready for a little adventure with every drive. That’s the secret to the Wrangler’s timeless appeal. Whether you’re headed for the hills for a weekend of dirty play or just dropping the kids off at volleyball practice, the new Wrangler doesn’t just get you there, it makes it fun.
For 2017 the Wrangler changes little. New LED headlights and fog lights are optional on Sport and Sport S models and standard on Sahara and Rubicon. Also a new Cold Weather package is available on Sport S and Rubicon models. It includes special tires and an engine-block heater.
With front and rear solid axles, a body-on-frame layout, generous ground clearance, minimal overhangs, capable 4-wheel drive, compliant suspension and rugged construction, the 2017 Jeep Wrangler is built to perform...
... off-road. However, there’s no free lunch. All that makes the new Jeep Wrangler nearly unstoppable off-road, keeps it from being supremely car-like in town. This is either part of its charm or a reason to shop other vehicles. Curb your expectations a bit and the Wrangler isn’t awful in the city. The suspension deals with road irregularities pretty well, and the precise steering is as welcome off-pavement as on. Still, the ride is not that of even a mid-range sedan, and it's ridiculously loud at highway speeds thanks to its barnlike aerodynamics, which also sabotages highway fuel economy. Instead, get away from pavement, take advantage of the excellent Pentastar V6 engine and the Wrangler's marvelous off-road capabilities, and enjoy yourself.
3.6-LITER PENTASTAR V6
Chrysler's Pentastar V6 is the best thing to happen to the Jeep Wrangler since the first Jeep helped the allies win World War II. It’s smooth, powerful and delivers decent fuel economy. It’s perfectly suited to the Wrangler. In addition to the 6-speed manual transmission, there’s an available 5-speed automatic.
COMMANDING OFF-ROAD CAPABILITY
Any Wrangler can get it done off-road thanks to solid axles, generous ground clearance, short overhangs, and terrific 4-wheel-drive systems. For more, step up to the Rubicon with heavy-duty axles and transfer case, lower gearing, locking differentials, a disconnecting front sway bar and larger tires. It’ll climb the Hillary Step.
Even with the available leather, the 2017 Jeep Wrangler’s interior does not qualify as plush. The main requirement is durability, which describes the Sport model’s cloth seats and the hard plastic surfaces. But there’s plenty of versatility: The rear seat will fold flat for carrying gear and which in the 4-door Unlimited models will accommodate three people. The instrument panel is not necessarily stylish but does have the control functions within easy reach. And, as it has been for years, if the interior gets really dirty you can pull the handy drain plugs and clean it out with a garden hose.
After 75 years, the Jeep Wrangler's function-over-form design remains among the most enduring, and endearing, on the planet. It’s unmistakable and recognized around the world. From time to time there are minor changes, but Jeep wouldn’t dare alter its iconic 7-slot grille, classic round headlights and trapezoid fenders any more than you’d change the shape of a Coke bottle or the Porsche 911. The upright windshield allows great outward visibility and folds down for those times off-road when you need to lean over the hood. Tires pushed out to the corners give the Wrangler unmatched approach and departure angles.
Three major items are standard on every 2017 Jeep Wrangler: a 285-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 engine, a 6-speed manual transmission and 4-wheel drive with a low-range transfer case. Every Wrangler also gets skidplates to protect the fuel tank and transfer case, stability control with roll mitigation, hill-start assist, trailer-sway control, a USB port and an 8-speaker audio system. The doors are removable, and there’s a tool kit for doing just that, and a folding soft-top is standard, even on the 4-door Wrangler Unlimited. What is not standard on the base Sport model are power windows, door locks and even air conditioning.
The 2017 Jeep Wrangler options list is comprehensive and, primarily, aimed at additional capabilities off-road. Although there is also a Power Convenience Group that adds desirable amenities and makes the Wrangler far more livable on a daily basis, things like power locks, power mirrors, power windows and keyless entry. There’s also a new Cold Weather package available on Sport S and Rubicon models. It includes heated front seats, an engine-block heater and a remote-start system. With the packages and options, which even include a navigation system, buyers can easily order the Wrangler of his or her dreams.
The only engine for the 2017 Wrangler is Chrysler’s terrific 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, with 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. It’s one of our favorites. Its smooth power delivery makes easy work of highways or rock crawls, and it's by far the best engine ever in a Wrangler and it runs on regular gasoline. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard and a 5-speed automatic is available as an option. In the 2-door Wrangler, there's no difference in fuel economy between the two. There are so many variations of axles and gear ratios that both the manual and automatic gearboxes work well on or off highways, and we’re enamored enough of 3-pedal driving that we’d probably choose the manual.
285 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm
260 lb-ft of torque @ 4,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/21 mpg (Wrangler), 17/20 mpg (Wrangler Unlimited, automatic), 17/21 mpg (Wrangler Unlimited, manual)
Note: Due to changes in EPA testing to more effectively reflect real-world conditions, some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel-economy scores than their 2016 versions.
For all its capabilities, the 2017 Jeep Wrangler is surprisingly affordable. The basic Wrangler Sport has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) right around $25,000, including destination. That makes it one of the least expensive convertibles on the market. The 4-door Wrangler Unlimited Sport is about $3,000 more. Various packages and options can run the price up, and a fully loaded Sahara or Rubicon can easily exceed $40,000. Wranglers enjoy historically high resale values, with 3-year residuals around the 60-percent level. If you’re considering aggressive off-roading, choosing a loaded Rubicon with appropriate options and packages can be a bargain compared to the cost of upgrading a more basic Wrangler Sport through the 4WD aftermarket -- and it will all have a factory warranty. To make your best deal, be sure to check KBB.com's Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area typically pay for a 2017 Jeep Wrangler.