What's New for 2010
For 2010, the Jeep Wrangler receives a more easily removable soft top. Standard features now include foglamps, tow hooks and a compass. Cloth seats replace vinyl ones in the base Wrangler Sport, while leather upholstery is now available on the Sahara and Rubicon. Finally, there are two new limited-edition models: the Islander and Mountain.
On any reasonable hierarchy of wheeled conveyances, the 2010 Jeep Wrangler would rate only slightly higher than a vehicle towed by a donkey through the streets of Kabul. The engine is anemic and thirsty, and it sounds about as good as said donkey. The interior is louder than a dinner with Chris Matthews. The doors aren't intended to protect you in a crash, and they smack into your leg when they open because they're attached by a strap. The manual passenger-side mirror is adjusted by the passenger or your nine iron. The trunk can be broken into by opening the zipper. The plastic rear windows are defogged by opening the zipper.
Yet the Wrangler remains strangely appealing, not as a vehicle so much as an experience. While all those negatives count against it compared to conventional SUVs, the Wrangler scores points by being unconventional. The 10.2 inches of available ground clearance, the steep approach and departure angles and the two-door's short wheelbase make the Wrangler a go-to vehicle for off-roading.
The doors have that aforementioned strap because they can be removed, which improves off-road visibility (or makes you look carefree and cool on-road). The windshield, meanwhile, can fold forward onto the hood, which is good for catching bugs in your teeth and hunting the occasional water buffalo. Quite simply, if the Wrangler can't get you there, hire a helicopter, or maybe that donkey from Kabul.
The Wrangler Unlimited is also the only four-door convertible on the market. Of course, lowering that top can be an awkward, time-consuming process, but at least it's been made a little easier for 2010 thanks to a simplified removal system that eliminates the need to untuck and tuck the side rails. Aside from its roof, the Unlimited is noteworthy for being the first Wrangler model to offer a modicum of practicality, with four doors and a usable backseat and trunk. Not only can you venture to the Rubicon Trail, you can venture to Rubio's Mexican Grill with four friends as well. Just don't expect the quiet and comfort of some of Jeep's other models.
So despite its obvious, glaring drawbacks, the 2010 Jeep Wrangler remains appealing -- you just need to know what you're getting into. Among specialty off-road SUVs, though, there are certainly more well-rounded alternatives. The Toyota FJ Cruiser is perhaps the best as it, too, is tremendously capable and uniquely styled while adding decent on-road manners. The Nissan Xterra has less style, but its traditional four-door body is a more sensible choice for highway and urban use. However, neither offers a convertible roof, removable doors or a drop-down windshield. For better or worse, there's only one Jeep Wrangler.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Jeep Wrangler is a convertible SUV available in two- and four-door body styles. The latter is known as the Unlimited. Both are available in Sport, Rubicon and Sahara trims. Standard equipment on the Sport includes 16-inch steel wheels, foglamps, a folding soft top, cloth upholstery, a tilt steering wheel, a one-piece flip-and-fold removable rear seat and a six-speaker stereo with CD player and auxiliary audio jack. The Sport 4x4 can be had with the Mountain package, which adds 17-inch alloy wheels, off-road tires, special badging, different bumpers, taillamp guards and tubular side steps. The Islander package (which was produced for a very short time on two-door Wranglers only) has different 17-inch wheels, a "performance suspension," unique badging and a leather-wrapped wheel.
The off-road-oriented Rubicon offers four-wheel drive and adds to the Sport equipment 17-inch alloy wheels, special tires, an electronic stabilizer bar disconnect feature, electronically locking front and rear differentials, a stronger front axle, a special low-range transfer case, rock rails and an upgraded Infinity stereo with subwoofer and satellite radio. Cruise control and a leather-wrapped steering wheel are standard on the Rubicon and optional on the Sport.
The Unlimited Sport adds rear doors, a bigger fuel tank, air-conditioning and a 60/40-split-folding rear seat. The Power Convenience Group adds to the Sport and Rubicon power locks and windows, keyless entry and a security alarm. The Sahara adds to the Sport equipment the Power Convenience Group, 18-inch wheels, upgraded exterior trim, tubular side steps, air-conditioning, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control and the Infinity stereo.
The "Freedom Top" is optional on all Wranglers and includes a three-piece modular hardtop, a rear window defroster and wiper, tinted windows and a storage bag. All trims can be equipped with an upgraded stereo with a six-CD/DVD changer and iPod interface. The Sahara and Rubicon can be equipped with a navigation system that includes a hard drive, real-time traffic, digital music storage, iPod interface and Bluetooth. The Sport and Rubicon can be equipped with half-metal doors that include plastic windows and without the Power Convenience Group equipment. Finally, a towing package is available on all Wranglers.
Powertrains and Performance
Every 2010 Jeep Wrangler is powered by a 3.8-liter V6 that produces 202 horsepower and 237 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual is standard (includes hill-start assist) and a four-speed automatic is optional. Most Wranglers come standard with four-wheel drive (includes high and low gears), though the Unlimited can be had with rear-wheel drive. Rubicon models have a specialized transfer case that provides extra-low gearing for enhanced off-road ability.
In performance testing, a Wrangler Unlimited with the automatic took a leisurely 9.7 seconds to reach 60 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 15 mpg city/19 mpg highway and 17 mpg combined. Opting for the rear-drive Unlimited nets you 1 additional mpg on the highway.
All Wranglers feature antilock brakes, stability control with a rollover sensor and hill start assist. Front-seat side airbags are optional. In government crash testing, the 2009 Jeep Wrangler earned a perfect five stars in frontal-impact protection. Similarly, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Wrangler its highest rating of "Good" for frontal-offset impacts.
However, without the optional side airbags, the Wrangler's side-impact crashworthiness was deemed "Poor" for the two-door (the IIHS's worst rating possible) and only "Marginal" for the four-door Unlimited (the second-lowest rating). One reason for this is that the removable side doors are not designed to provide crash protection. In our brake testing, the Wrangler Unlimited came to a stop in a long 137 feet.
Interior Design and Special Features
Although niceties like power windows and a navigation system can be added to the Wrangler, this is still a vehicle meant to drive through dust, dirt and muck and then be easily cleaned afterward. Consequently, the interior plastics are hard and unwelcoming -- particularly those that make up the armrests. It's best to throw out any normal interior expectations when buying a Wrangler.
While the two-door's backseat can host only two passengers, the Unlimited has room for three. The four-door also offers 86 cubic feet of cargo space when the second-row seats are folded. With its soft top, however, storing cargo inside the Wrangler can be a risky situation. With exterior-mounted zippers keeping the plastic rear windows in place, car thieves can access the trunk area with ease. The only lockable areas in the Wrangler are the glovebox and decently sized center console. The optional hardtop is a smart solution, but you'll need somewhere to store it should you wish to drive al fresco.
The 2010 Jeep Wrangler is pretty much unstoppable in off-road situations, especially in Rubicon guise thanks to its specialized hardware. The larger Unlimited isn't as maneuverable on tight trails as the two-door model, but its roomier interior means you can carry more gear to your favored recreational destination.
The Wrangler is also surprisingly fun to drive around the city. Although certainly tippy through turns and short on grip, the Wrangler provides a commendable amount of feedback through its thin-rimmed wheel. You can even take the doors off to show your macho side if you really want to. The Wrangler's biggest dynamic downfall is its V6, which is gutless both on the highway and when trying to accelerate quickly. Excessive wind and road noise are two additional drawbacks for highway use.