Jeep Wrangler JK (2007-present): Review, Problems, Specs
The third-generation Jeep Wrangler may be nearing the end of its lifecycle, but it remains the brand's most iconic vehicle. Launched in 2007, the Wrangler JK has brought for the first time a four-door version (Wrangler Unlimited), as well as a diesel engine in Europe – VM Motori's 2.8-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel. While opinions are divided on the Wrangler's qualities, no one doubts its off-road performance and rugged charm. There are a few things you should be aware of, though: on-road handling is poor, ride quality is rough, and its brakes are disappointing.
- Iconic image
- Highly-competent off-road
- Economical diesel engine (Europe)
- Plenty of model variations
- Many customizing possibilities
- Wrangler Sport
- Wrangler 2.8 CRD (Europe)
- Poor brakes
- Modest on-road handling
- Rough ride quality
- Noisy cabin
- Mediocre crash test results
Stay Away From
- Wrangler 3.6 V6 (Europe)
Known Problems & Recalls
- Certain 2014 Jeep Wrangler were recalled in October 2014 to reprogram the Tire Pressure Monitoring System
- Jeep recalled some 2011-2013 Wrangler vehicles in October 2014 to move the exterior mirror power feed to a separate connector to avoid an electrical short
- Certain 2012-2013 Wranglers equipped with the 3.6L engine and automatic transmission were recalled in June 2013 to replace the power steering return tube assembly to prevent a loss of transmission fluid
- The automaker recalled some 2008-2012 Wrangler right-hand drive vehicles in November 2011 to replace airbag clockspring assemblies and add a steering wheel dust shield to prevent non-deployment of the driver-side frontal airbag
- Some 2011 Jeep Wrangler vehicles were recalled in June 2011 to inspect for rivet presence and alignment and repair the steering column pivot
- Jeep recalled some 2010-2011 Wranglers in March 2011 to re-torque all 19 fasteners for front and rear axle attachments to the chassis module
- Certain 2010 Wrangler vehicles equipped with automatic transmission were recalled in May 2012 to replace the transmission skid plate with a skid bar to avoid collecting debris from the catalytic converter
- Jeep recalled some 2010 Wranglers in July 2010 to replace the brake tubes
- Certain 2007-2010 Jeep Wrangler vehicles were recalled in June 2010 to solve a brake fluid leak problem
- The automaker recalled some 2007-2008 Wrangler vehicles in November 2009 to inspect and install a "Hot oil" message in the instrument cluster and a chime indicating an elevated transmission fluid condition
There's only one engine offered on the Wrangler in the United States: a 3.6-liter V6 rated at 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. As one would expect, all Wranglers come with four-wheel drive plus high- and low-range gearing for those inevitable off-road excursions – after all, unpaved trails are why you buy a Wrangler in the first place. The engine is mated to a six-speed manual transmission with hill start assist while a five-speed automatic with both hill start assist and hill descent control is optional. The V6 engine makes for a quick Wrangler (0-60 mph takes 6.9 seconds), but combined fuel economy is disappointing (18 mpg). In Europe, the default engine choice is a torquey and more economical 200 PS (197 hp) 2.8-liter four-cylinder unit.
No one expects the Wrangler to offer thrills on the road, but the off-roader will disappoint even those with low expectations when it comes to handling. Negotiating turns at reasonable speeds results in plenty of body roll and highlights the fact that the steering is very vague and slow. Higher-speed maneuvers are outright scary. When the pavement disappears, the Jeep Wrangler rules, though. The high ground clearance, short overhangs, competent 4WD system, and rugged suspension make it almost invincible on off-road trails – particularly the shorter-wheelbase, two-door model.
Contrary to its rugged appearance, the Wrangler is not the vehicle you want to be in when a crash occurs. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) tested both the 2016 Wrangler and 2016 Wrangler Unlimited and issued some painful conclusions. The Wrangler offers "marginal" protection in small overlap front impact, "good" protection in moderate overlap front test, "poor" protection during side impacts, with the head restraints and seats being rated as offering "marginal" protection. The Unlimited does better, achieving "Good" ratings for both overlap front impacts and "Marginal" ratings for side impact and head restraint & seats. Neither the NHTSA nor Euro NCAP crash tested the Wrangler.
It's easy to see that the Wrangler was not designed for the asphalt. The ride quality is rough, but the off-roader deals with road irregularities in a decent manner – for a body-on-frame SUV, at least. It's not a car for long trips, though. The amount of road, wind, and engine noise perceived in the cabin is ridiculous for modern car standards. Because of the high ground clearance, getting inside is difficult, although access is easier on models fitted with side steps. To sum it up, the Wrangler is not at all a comfortable vehicle.
The Wrangler's cabin looks and feels rugged, but Jeep is trying to instill a minimum of style into it with optional metal-look accents. Function prevails over form, with the old-school vertical dashboard featuring clear gauges and intuitive controls. The Jeep Wrangler is as basic as it gets – sure, you can spec it with a 6.5-inch touchscreen-operated infotainment system, but what's the point? If you want more technologies and luxury, you're clearly looking at the wrong Jeep – a well-equipped Cherokee or Grand Cherokee may be the one for you.
Although it's a reasonably-sized vehicle, the Wrangler does offer surprisingly little room for its occupants. The driver and front passenger lack legroom and shoulder room while in the back things are even worse. Rear seat passengers have little legroom and foot room because the floor is sloped and not completely flat. There's more space in the back in the Wrangler Unlimited (the bench can seat three people), but not by a significant amount. Access is better as well, due to the extra set of doors. As for the trunk, the Wrangler offers a disappointing cargo volume of 12.8 cubic feet with all seats in place. Once again, the Unlimited saves the day with 31.5 cu-ft.
The Wrangler comes as standard with a modest Radio 130 audio system that features a dated LCD, an AM/FM radio with CD player, MP3 format capability, and an audio jack for music playback. If you want something more modern, the optional Radio 430N infotainment system comes with a 6.5-inch touchscreen, Garmin navigation, an AM/FM radio with CD player, MP3 format capability, an audio jack for music playback, a USB port+ for uploading files, and a hard drive for media file storage. Our advice is to stay away from it because it's dated and frustrating to use.
Predictably, a 3.6-liter V6 gasoline engine fitted to a car shaped like a brick does not return an ideal fuel economy. Both the Wrangler and the Wrangler Unlimited are EPA-rated at 18 mpg combined (17 mpg city/21 mpg highway), regardless of transmission. In Europe, the Wrangler equipped with the 2.8-liter diesel and a six-speed manual transmission averages 7.1 l/100 km, which would be equivalent to 33.1 mpg. The longer Wrangler Unlimited with an identical powertrain averages 7.4 l/100 km.
The 2016 Jeep Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited are available in three trim levels (Sport, Sahara, and Rubicon), with additional models based on those grades. Both the four-door Wrangler and the five-door Rubicon come with a standard vinyl convertible roof, but Jeep also offers an optional hardtop with removable panels above the front seats. Standard equipment for the base Wrangler Sport includes 16-inch steel wheels shod with on/off-road tires, skid plates, tow hooks, removable doors, fold-down windshield, cruise control, cloth upholstery, a height-adjustable driver seat, and a tilt-only steering wheel, among other things. The Unlimited adds a bigger fuel tank, air-conditioning, and a 60/40-split rear seat.
Prices for the 2016 Jeep Wrangler start from $23,895 for the base Sport model, excluding destination. The Wrangler is in a class of its own, really, as the competition has been reduced to a single model, the much more expensive Toyota 4Runner. The Toyota FJ Cruiser and the Nissan Xterra are no longer in production while the Land Rover Defender is not sold in the United States. Our advice is to go for the base Sport trim level and spend some additional dollars on custom modifications from Mopar or independent tuners.