Full 2011 Jeep Wrangler Review
What's New for 2011
The Jeep Wrangler receives a new interior for 2011, with improved materials, increased acoustic insulation, larger rear windows and new available features like power mirrors, automatic climate control, heated seats, a USB audio port, Bluetooth and steering wheel controls. Stability control, hill start assist and trailer stability control are now standard, while the optional hardtop is now body-colored on the Sahara.
In the realm of modern wheeled conveyances, the 2011 Jeep Wrangler seemingly ranks only a few rungs higher than a Jamaican jitney bus. This is a vehicle that proudly boasts of solid axles, removable doors, exposed hinges and a fold-down windshield. Yet these symbols of antiquated automotive engineering remain strangely appealing because the Wrangler is still the world's most iconic off-road adventure vehicle.
See, those doors have straps because they can be completely removed from the hinges. Ditto the folding windshield, which also comes in handy for hunting the occasional water buffalo. And with 10.2 inches of available ground clearance, solid axles and a steep approach angle, you'll be able to track down that water buffalo on just about whatever terrain it may choose to hide.
The big news for the 2011 Wrangler is its revised interior; it's part of Jeep's attempt to become more appealing to mainstream drivers. There's certainly a cognitive dissonance associated with adding new luxury features like heated leather seats, automatic climate control and a steering wheel with audio controls to a cabin that you can clean out with a hose, but then not everyone uses a Wrangler to its most rugged, dirty potential.
The 2011 Jeep Wrangler is a unique experience to be sure. This isn't to say it's the only game in town; if you'd like something more civilized that retains much of the Wrangler's off-road talent and visual machismo, the Nissan Xterra and Toyota FJ Cruiser are worthy alternatives. Yet for better or for worse, nothing matches the Wrangler's array of unique talents, foibles and quirks.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Jeep Wrangler can be had in two-door regular and four-door Unlimited body styles with Sport, Rubicon and Sahara trim levels available with both.
The Wrangler Sport comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, manual folding soft top, foglamps, cruise control, height-adjustable driver seat, tilt-only steering wheel, a one-piece flip-and-fold removable rear seat and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and steering wheel controls. The Unlimited Sport gets air-conditioning, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat and a bigger fuel tank.
The Rubicon (regular or Unlimited) adds 17-inch alloy wheels, special tires, off-road suspension, an electrically controlled antiroll bar that can be disconnected for more wheel articulation while off-road, electronically locking front and rear differentials, a stronger front axle, a special low-range transfer case and rock rails. The Rubicon also features equipment unrelated to its hard-core off-road abilities, including acoustic insulation under the hood, automatic headlamps, air-conditioning, leather-wrapped steering wheel and satellite radio (optional on Sport). The Power Convenience Group (standard on Rubicon Unlimited, optional on both Sport models and the two-door Rubicon) adds keyless entry, power locks and windows, and heated mirrors.
The Sahara adds to the Sport equipment 18-inch alloy wheels, the Rubicon's non-off-road items and the Power Convenience Group, plus special exterior and interior trim, side steps and a six-speaker Infinity sound system.
The Connectivity Group adds an iPod/USB audio interface, Bluetooth and on the Sport, a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Optional on all trims is the so-called "Freedom Top" three-piece modular hardtop that includes a rear defroster, rear window washer/wiper and tinted glass windows. The Freedom Top is body-colored on the Sahara and unpainted black plastic on Sport and Rubicon models. The two-door Sport can be equipped with special half doors that feature plastic windows, although this eliminates the option of power accessories. The Rubicon and Sahara can be optioned with a fully integrated touchscreen navigation system and a two-tone leather-upholstery package that includes heated front seats.
Powertrains and Performance
Every 2011 Jeep Wrangler is powered by a 3.8-liter V6 that produces 202 horsepower and 237 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual (with hill-start assist) is standard and a four-speed automatic is optional. Most Wranglers come standard with four-wheel drive (includes high- and low-range transfer-case 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 Edmunds 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 2011 Jeep Wranglers feature antilock brakes, stability control and hill start assist. Front-seat side airbags are optional.
The Jeep Wrangler has not been rated using the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash-testing procedure. Its 2009 rating (which isn't comparable to 2011 ratings) was 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).
In Edmunds brake testing, the Wrangler Unlimited came to a stop in a long 137 feet.
Interior Design and Special Features
Despite the increase in available niceties, this is still a vehicle meant to drive through dust, dirt and muck and then be easily cleaned afterward. Interior materials and switchgear are improved this year, and the design now has a rounder, more organic look.
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 since only the glovebox and center console can be locked. The optional hardtop is a smart solution, but you'll need somewhere to store it should you wish to drive al fresco.
The 2011 Jeep Wrangler is pretty much unstoppable in off-road situations, especially in Rubicon guise, thanks to its specialized hardware. The Wrangler Unlimited four-door isn't as maneuverable on tight trails as the two-door model, but its roomier interior means you can carry more gear.
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 wheel. The Wrangler's biggest dynamic downfall is its thirsty 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.