One 4x4 leaves the Edmunds.com long-term test fleet and another arrives in its place. Welcome the 2007 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara. Let the one-year road test begin.
What We Bought
There was a time when Jeeps were only offered in one trim level. A radio, roof and doors were about the only options available. The long list of options for our new Jeep reminds us that those days were long ago.
We're driving the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4x4, the longest name you can get in a Jeep. Jeep Green Metallic was our exterior color of choice (we paid a premium for it), and once you open the doors you'll find seats upholstered in unpretentious two-tone slate-gray cloth. From the original the civilian-Jeep (CJ) design up to the current Wrangler (FJ) style, Jeeps have not been known for road manners, yet the long-wheelbase Wrangler Unlimited promises both real-world civility and improved off-road capability. So we had no reservations about a street-friendly options list, which means the Sahara trim.
Past experience has shown us that the majority of our Jeep's life will be spent on asphalt, so we added even more safety and comfort options. Front-seat side airbags cost extra as part of option package 24G but complemented standard safety elements such as front airbags, electronic stability control, ABS brakes and traction control. We also have opted for the MyGIG Multimedia Infotainment system in an effort to overcome wind noise from the optional soft top. MyGIG includes a navigation system and Sirius Satellite Radio with a one-year subscription.
Since this is a Jeep, off-road performance is also on our mind, so we loaded it up. A Dana 44 heavy-duty rear axle is standard equipment for the Wrangler Unlimited, but we substituted a shorter-ratio 4.10:1 setup for the standard 3.21:1 to improve the Jeep's off-road performance, and then added the limited-slip differential. We figured these items were must-haves since we decided on an automatic transmission to make the Unlimited practical around town but still wanted some trail-rated potential when we drove off the beaten path.
Balancing our Jeep for life both on and off the road added $3,350 in optional equipment to our Sahara's $26,605 price. A destination charge of $660 took the total MSRP of our Wrangler to $30,615.
Why We Bought It
Off-road capability and affordability have been the key ingredients to developing a successful niche for Jeep in the market. The long-wheelbase Wrangler Unlimited seems to be leading Jeep away from its established niche and into a kind of Hummer H3-style SUV segment. Every new Jeep generation has been the subject of controversy about its authenticity, and a vehicle that is neither all-Wrangler nor all-SUV makes us wonder if it's all-Jeep.
The 2006 Wrangler Unlimited stretched the Wrangler's wheelbase by 20.6 inches, and now the 2007 model lets you take advantage of the extra length between axles with a four-door configuration. This is a first for any Wrangler. Once you factor in the Unlimited's additional 5.5 inches of width, it's clear this vehicle is the size of a midsize SUV. We'll see if we discover improved on-road utility and compromised off-road maneuverability as we expect.
A new 3.8-liter overhead-valve V6 also goes under the hood of the Wrangler Unlimited this year as part of the redesign. Our full test of the Wrangler Unlimited Sahara several months back left us disappointed with this pushrod V6's output of 202 horsepower and 237 pound-feet of torque. Since this is the only engine offered for the 4,342-pound Unlimited Sahara, maybe Jeep sees something we couldn't in such a short period of time. And in fact we've been surprised that our most efficient mileage over a single tank of fuel (19.3 mpg) already exceeds EPA estimates for this vehicle.
The one-year test of our long-term Toyota FJ Cruiser is the final piece of the puzzle. It comes to a close this month and its departure creates a void in the four-wheel-drive portion of our long-term fleet. We haven't had a four-wheel drive Jeep in the fleet since the long-term 2006 Jeep Commander bowed out early, so we're glad to have another Jeep with us.
We will test the livability of the Wrangler both on the pavement and in the dirt. Our 12-month test on the first four-door Wrangler begins now. Our long-term blog pages will record the results of our preliminary track tests and provide regular updates from the driver seat.
Current Odometer: 1,121
Best Fuel Economy: 19.3 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 14.6 mpg
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 16.3 mpg
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.