1997 Jeep Wrangler Review

Pros & Cons

  • Unmatched off-road capability, overflowing with character, dual airbags, optional ABS, fun to drive, speedy with manual transmission
  • Soft top is improved, but still a pain in the $%!@#
List Price Estimate
$1,351 - $2,871

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Edmunds' Expert Review

Vehicle overview

We were a little concerned when we heard that Jeep was giving its bad-boy mud-machine an overhaul. Luckily, the Wrangler hasn't received the leather interior, cellular phone makeover that has recently emasculated so much of the sport-utility segment. No, the Wrangler remains the drive-me-hard-through-the-slop beast of yesterday; with a few appreciated improvements.

Jeep Wranglers have long been the standard for those valiant explorers who truly wish to go where no one has gone before. If anything, the go-anywhere ability of the Wrangler has been improved by the Quadra-coil suspension which allows an additional seven inches of articulation over the old leaf spring set-up; thus resulting in increased approach and departure angles. Jeep boasts that the Quadra-coil suspension, as well as improved shocks and tires, also greatly improves the Wrangler's on-road manners.

The Wrangler receives minor adjustments to the engine. Reduced engine noise and vibration, as well as improved responsiveness, were the goals of the minor driveline makeover. Nobody, however, will mistake this vehicle for a smooth-running family sedan; the Wrangler is very much a truck. A five-speed manual transmission remains standard and a three-speed automatic is available for those who find it too tedious to depress a clutch pedal.

The interior of the Wrangler is where most people will notice changes. Gone is the flat, no-frills dashboard and instrument panel. An ergonomically superior command center with integrated HVAC and stereo controls will ease driver anxiety when trying to adjust the temperature or volume while driving. A lockable glovebox replaces what was once an open hole in the dash. If all this sounds a little too citified, don't be alarmed. There is a bounce-bar tacked onto the dash that reminds you of this Jeep's intended purpose.

We feel that Jeep has done a great job improving the Wrangler. Gone are some of the nagging complaints we had about safety, wind noise and engine roar; what remains is a solid truck with hard-core capabilities and rugged good looks. This is obviously not the truck for everybody; but those willing to put up with a cloth interior and a little road noise will be rewarded with an amazingly fun vehicle. Hey, they even brought back those snazzy round headlights...what's not to like?

1997 Highlights

Jeep has totally redesigned this American icon. A Quadra-coil suspension improves on- and off-road manners; while dual airbags and optional antilock brakes increase the Wrangler's ability to keep occupants safe. Round, retro-style headlights add a nostalgic touch to this venerable ground-pounder. Fortunately, none of these refinements soften the Wrangler's tough exterior. A restyled interior includes integrated air vents, a glovebox and carlike stereo controls and accessory switches.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 1997 Jeep Wrangler.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

Great little tank
I have only had her about a month, and this is my first car. I always wanted a jeep and waited until I found a good deal, and I can honestly say it was well worth the money even though she's 15 years old. My boyfriend calls her "the tank" and makes fun of me for driving it, but he just doesn't get it! It's not the smoothest ride, it doesn't accelerate fast, and she has her quirks, but we'll see what he says when I'm pulling his brand new chevy cruze out of snowbanks all winter, offroading by myself all summer and mowing down zombies during the apocolypse. It runs like a top and so far, I am very pleased. I'm officially a Jeep Girl!
Highly Reliable, Highly Fun!
I picked up a stock 97 TJ SE (2.5L, 5-speed, No A/C) with 140k for $4k. I then spent $8k and two years of hobby time on full lockers, gears, suspension, winch, rack, bumpers, etc, etc. It is highly reliable; starts fast and never hicups. The engine is easy to work on, and striping out the interior bits is also quite easy for upgrades and fixes. A Reman motor will only cost you $1500 and a weekend to swap it, or half that for a transmission, so long term cost to run it is dirt cheap, vs. the 6cyl w/auto at twice that price, or my 1/2 ton truck, which costs three times that to rebuild. It's not plush or fast, but it crawls up anything, gets lots of admiration and ride requests! FUN!
Overall worth every penny
SE 2dr SUV 4WD
Bought my 97 wrangler SE a couple weeks ago with 115k miles on it. it had a 4" lift and 33x 12.5 tires on it. over all it is a fun ride and even better when i drop the soft top. the only issue i have is a common one with jeeps. the infamous death wobble. every now and then i the jeep will go into a violent shake that is only stopped by slowing down. after plenty of research i have found that is a moderatly easy and cheap fix. about $375. kevinsoffroad has kits for this specific problem that are supposed to fix it completely. i will be installing mine tomorrow and im sure ill see an improvement. even with this problem i still can rely on it for a everyday driver.
There truely is only one Jeep
Stephen "Slacker",06/02/2009
I bought my '97 TJ Jeep (her name is Jessie) with 86,000 miles in 2004. My ex-wife used to say I loved my Jeep more than her. Well, apparently she was right...I still have the Jeep! It now has 162,000 miles on it and runs stronger than ever. The 4.0 may not be fast, but it will pull trees out of the ground and get you out of the stickiest situations. There are very few vehicles out there that generate such a since of pride, excitement, and comradery as a Jeep. Hands down the best vehicle I've ever owned. For those who have a Jeep (wrangler) it is customary to waive at other wrangler's you pass on the road. I know you're checking out my Jeep so don't forget to waive, you are family now.

Features & Specs

15 city / 18 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
181 hp @ 4600 rpm
17 city / 19 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
120 hp @ 5400 rpm
15 city / 18 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
181 hp @ 4600 rpm
See all Used 1997 Jeep Wrangler features & specs


NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver4 / 5
    Passenger5 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    DriverNot Rated
    PassengerNot Rated
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    RolloverNot Rated
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Not Tested
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Not Tested
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test

More about the 1997 Jeep Wrangler

Used 1997 Jeep Wrangler Overview

The Used 1997 Jeep Wrangler is offered in the following submodels: Wrangler SUV. Available styles include Sport 2dr SUV 4WD, SE 2dr SUV 4WD, and Sahara 2dr SUV 4WD.

What's a good price on a Used 1997 Jeep Wrangler?

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Which used 1997 Jeep Wranglers are available in my area?

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Find a used Jeep Wrangler for sale - 11 great deals out of 22 listings starting at $17,277.

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Should I lease or buy a 1997 Jeep Wrangler?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

Check out Jeep lease specials
Check out Jeep Wrangler lease specials