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It has a stiff ride, offers about the same noise isolation as a motorcycle and has a soft top that's a nail-buster to operate, but if you're dying for a cheap convertible or an off-road SUV that can go just about anywhere, it's hard to beat the 2006 Jeep Wrangler.
Cheap, fun to drive, classic styling, go-anywhere capability.
Soft top a handful to manipulate, poor ergonomics, difficult ingress-egress, slow steering, bouncy suspension on the street, can't get ABS on the Unlimited.
Available Wrangler SUV Models
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Jeep dusts off the '70s and '80s-era Golden Eagle name for 2006. The new Golden Eagle edition package features a Dana 44 heavy-duty rear axle, gold-colored 15-inch Ravine alloy wheels, 30-inch tires, two-tone premium seats and exterior decals.
The quintessential off-road icon, the Jeep Wrangler began as a vehicle for military use and has retained its no-nonsense utility while slowly evolving into a practical and popular means of transportation. This Jeep SUV has never lost its drive-me-hard-through-the-slop attitude, despite refinements for more enjoyable daily commuting. And don't forget, it's one of the least expensive convertibles around.
Jeep introduced a long-wheelbase Unlimited version in 2004. The Unlimited has a number of benefits, such as a slightly better ride quality, added cargo capacity and a bit more rear legroom. Like the regular-wheelbase Jeep Wrangler, the Unlimited also has the option of a hard- or soft top, and the soft top picks up an unusual Sunrider feature that makes it possible to fold back part of the roof to mimic a sunroof. Jeep also offers a specialized Rubicon style for both the regular Wrangler and the Unlimited. Named after the famed off-road trail in Northern California, the Wrangler Rubicon comes with hard-core equipment such as air-actuated locking differentials and heavy-duty axles.
As a Point-A-to-Point-B vehicle, the 2006 Jeep Wrangler is a pretty poor choice. Rear visibility can be a challenge and its highway manners can be described as primitive at best. Removal and installation of the soft top requires superhuman levels of patience, and once in its place, be prepared for obtrusive flapping at speed. Then again, that's what most people expect the Wrangler to be all about -- a tough, no-frills off-road machine that delivers cheap thrills and little refinement but plenty of style.
The regular-length 2006 Jeep Wrangler comes as a two-door sport-ute in four trims: SE, X, Sport and Rubicon. An extended-wheelbase Unlimited also has two doors and comes in standard and Rubicon trims. The SE is a real stripper with a four-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo, carpeting and high-back vinyl bucket seats as its most notable standard features. The X trim adds cloth upholstery, a full console and footwell courtesy lights. The Sport trim's features list includes air conditioning, seven-speaker audio, tow hooks, foglamps and full doors with roll-up windows. The Wrangler Unlimited is equipped similarly to the Sport. Rubicon models forgo some of the nicer amenities in favor of hard-core off-road features like heavy-duty axles, front and rear differential lockers, a 4-to-1 low-speed transfer case and 16-inch wheels with 31-inch off-road tires. Wrangler options include a hardtop (included are full doors with roll-up windows and a rear window wiper and defroster) and a Golden Eagle edition package, featuring a Dana 44 heavy-duty rear axle, gold 15-inch Ravine alloy wheels, 30-inch tires, two-tone premium seats and exterior decals.
The SE model is powered by a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine that kicks out 147 horsepower and 165 pound-feet of torque. All other trim levels are powered by a more vigorous 4.0-liter inline six-cylinder that cranks out 190 horses and 235 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard and a four-speed automatic transmission is optional.
Four-wheel disc brakes are standard on Rubicon models, optional for all others. ABS is optional on X and Sport (but not the Unlimited). In government frontal-impact crash tests, the 2006 Jeep Wrangler earned four stars for both driver and front-passenger protection. In frontal-offset frontal-impact testing, the Wrangler received an "Acceptable" rating, the second highest of four.
The interior blends nicely with its exterior in terms of functionality and ruggedness; you're not going to find any soft-touch plastic or supple leather. Maximum cargo capacity with the rear seats folded is 46 cubic feet for the hardtop, 47 for soft-top models. The Unlimited is 15 inches longer than the standard-issue Jeep Wrangler, and the result is additional passenger and cargo space out back.
Nobody will mistake the 2006 Jeep 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. On the street, its small size and tight turning radius make it fun to maneuver, but it can get a little scary at freeway speeds in high crosswinds. However, there's no denying the off-road performance of this Jeep SUV. The suspension allows for an incredible amount of wheel articulation that's further aided by steep approach and departure angles. The added hardware on the Rubicon model makes it one of the most capable off-road vehicles you can buy.
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