What's New for 2001
The 2001 Jeep Wrangler gets a number of improvements. All models benefit from a new four-ply soft top that reduces wind and road noise at speed. Deep tint windows are now standard on the Sahara hardtop and optional on Sport and SE models with the solid-shell roof. Two new center console designs are available on all models, as is a premium subwoofer. The add-a-trunk feature and removable side steps have been redesigned to improve functionality, and a new instrument cluster, low-pivot steering column, rearview mirror, airbag cutoff switch, child seat-tether anchors, and multifunction headlight/wiper stalk are standard across the entire model line. The ABS system is upgraded; intermittent windshield wipers are now standard, and the 4.0-liter inline six now meets LEV requirements in all 50 states. Sienna Pearl Coat, Amber Fire and Steel Blue exterior colors have been added, while Medium Fern Green and Desert Sand have been dropped.
The Wrangler continues to be the quintessential off-road icon. This Jeep began as a vehicle for military use and has retained its Spartan utility while slowly evolving into a practical and popular means of transportation. The Wrangler has never lost its drive-me-hard-through-the-slop origins, despite improvements for enjoyable daily commuting. And it's one of the cheapest convertibles around.
Available in SE, Sport and Sahara trim levels, the Wrangler fits into several budgets. Our favorite model is the Sport, with a gutsy 4.0-liter inline-six engine that makes 190 horsepower and 235 maximum foot-pounds of torque. It can be hooked to either the standard five-speed manual or a three-speed automatic transmission and comes equipped with an AM/FM/cassette stereo and a carpeted cargo area.
The SE is for people who don't mind a lack of power (a 2.5-liter inline four with only 120 horsepower is all she wrote at this level) and no ABS. The Sahara is the priciest of the bunch, and while it gets you the same 4.0-liter engine as the Sport, the Sahara?s air conditioning, leather-wrapped steering wheel, front and rear tow hooks, fog lamps, AM/FM/CD stereo, Convenience Group (with lockable storage, and dual cupholders), and Heavy-Duty Electrical Group are among its official features.
Nobody, however, will mistake the Wrangler for a smooth-running family sedan; it's very much a truck, thanks to its high step-in height, slow steering ratio and abundant wind and road noise (though the new-for-2001 four-ply soft top helps reduce aural irritants). On the street, its petite size and tight turning radius make it a blast to maneuver, but it can get a little scary to drive and control at freeway speeds in severely high winds. Its performance off-road is unparalleled. The Wrangler's Quadra-Coil suspension allows for incredible amounts of wheel articulation, resulting in steep approach and departure angles. And the abundance of aftermarket parts to modify the Wrangler makes it enormously popular with the rock-crawling crowd.
The Wrangler does have its quirks -- rear visibility can be a challenge, and taking off and putting on the soft top requires superhuman levels of patience. Once the top is on, be prepared for obtrusive flapping. Ordering the Sahara with the Dual Top Group option gets you a hardtop with tinted glass and a folding/removable soft top for a multitude of configurations -- though transitioning from one to another can be a daunting task.
Despite the top's packaging flaws and Wrangler's raw-edged nature, this Jeep is fun to drive, cheap, and a terrific multipurpose tool.