What's New for 1997
Jeep has totally redesigned this American icon. A Quadra-coil suspension improves on- and off-road manners; while dual airbags and optional antilock brakes increase the Wrangler's ability to keep occupants safe. Round, retro-style headlights add a nostalgic touch to this venerable ground-pounder. Fortunately, none of these refinements soften the Wrangler's tough exterior. A restyled interior includes integrated air vents, a glovebox and carlike stereo controls and accessory switches.
We were a little concerned when we heard that Jeep was giving its bad-boy mud-machine an overhaul. Luckily, the Wrangler hasn't received the leather interior, cellular phone makeover that has recently emasculated so much of the sport-utility segment. No, the Wrangler remains the drive-me-hard-through-the-slop beast of yesterday; with a few appreciated improvements.
Jeep Wranglers have long been the standard for those valiant explorers who truly wish to go where no one has gone before. If anything, the go-anywhere ability of the Wrangler has been improved by the Quadra-coil suspension which allows an additional seven inches of articulation over the old leaf spring set-up; thus resulting in increased approach and departure angles. Jeep boasts that the Quadra-coil suspension, as well as improved shocks and tires, also greatly improves the Wrangler's on-road manners.
The Wrangler receives minor adjustments to the engine. Reduced engine noise and vibration, as well as improved responsiveness, were the goals of the minor driveline makeover. Nobody, however, will mistake this vehicle for a smooth-running family sedan; the Wrangler is very much a truck. A five-speed manual transmission remains standard and a three-speed automatic is available for those who find it too tedious to depress a clutch pedal.
The interior of the Wrangler is where most people will notice changes. Gone is the flat, no-frills dashboard and instrument panel. An ergonomically superior command center with integrated HVAC and stereo controls will ease driver anxiety when trying to adjust the temperature or volume while driving. A lockable glovebox replaces what was once an open hole in the dash. If all this sounds a little too citified, don't be alarmed. There is a bounce-bar tacked onto the dash that reminds you of this Jeep's intended purpose.
We feel that Jeep has done a great job improving the Wrangler. Gone are some of the nagging complaints we had about safety, wind noise and engine roar; what remains is a solid truck with hard-core capabilities and rugged good looks. This is obviously not the truck for everybody; but those willing to put up with a cloth interior and a little road noise will be rewarded with an amazingly fun vehicle. Hey, they even brought back those snazzy round headlights...what's not to like?