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2007 Jeep Wrangler: What's It Like to Live With?

Read the latest updates in our long-term road test of the 2007 Jeep Wrangler as our editors live with this car for a year.

Jeep Wrangler 2007


One 4x4 leaves the 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.

6,000 mile service

August 31, 2007

We just took our Wrangler to Moothart Chrysler/Jeep in Cerritos, CA for its 6k mile service. In addition to the standard oil and filter change, our dealer performed a host of inspections. This included adjusting tire pressure, chassis lube, and fluid top-off.

Normally we're not fond of being charged just for inspecting stuff but given the fact that we actually take our Jeep off-road quite a bit we were happy to have steering, driveline and suspension components checked.

No jacked up price here. The total bill came to $19.66!

Our only issue outside of the regular service was that some editors reported squeaking brakes. The problem is far from chronic and our tech said he could not duplicate the problem. Still, they deglazed the pads and applied some extra anti-squeak. We've used this dealership before and would happliy return.

Brian Moody, Road Test Editor @ 5,700 miles.

Four doors and still good in the dirt

September 04, 2007

With so many posts describing our Jeep's on road performance, I decided it was time to get it a little dirty. I've already driven the Wrangler on the Rubicon trail , so I know that it can pretty much climb up anything you have the guts to attempt, but rock crawling wasn't on the agenda for the weekend. Instead, I did what most owners will probably attempt — basic fire roads with a few technical hill climbs thrown in for fun.

On the rocky fire roads, the Wrangler was much less of a pogo stick than its predecessor. The four-door's longer wheelbase helps for sure, but the feel through the steering wheel was less jittery as well. It's sturdier too, with very few rattles from the soft top. That said, the Wrangler doesn't soak up bumps nearly as well as the Toyota FJ Cruiser or Nissan Xterra. Slow speed climbs were a piece of cake, though, as the Wrangler picks its way up steep hills easily and with little tire slippage.

Tall gearing in the four-speed automatic is another area where the Jeep falls short of the Toyota and Nissan. Second is too weak, and first is too high strung. Using low range would have helped, but on such easy roads it seemed overkill.

One feature our Jeep has that its competitors don't even offer — a navigation system that keeps track of your progress when you're not on marked roads. It simple to use and makes getting lost nearly impossible — something no amount of horsepower is ever going to help. 

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor @ 5,890 miles

Wind Noise Is an Endearing Quirk

September 06, 2007

Last night when offered the 2007 Cadillac SRX or the 2007 Jeep Wrangler, I jumped at the latter naturally. Ferget luxury, I wanted my fun mobile. Besides, I was driving to downtown for the evening and figured it would be much easier to find a spot to park the Jeep.

When on the freeway driving about 70 mph, I couldn't help but notice all the wind noise in the cabin as the wind buffeted the canvas roof.

At first I thought it might be because I had my window open but when I closed it there was still a lot of noise. Of course, it was no skin off my nose because I just chalk this up to another quirk about the Jeep, which I still heart.

It also has the power window buttons in a weird place (the center dash), manually-adjustable mirrors and cloth straps for door joints. What might scream "inconvenient" to others reads "charming" to me. But that's just me.

I also love driving it on the freeway. With a 3.8-liter V6, it has enough power to pass slow and not-so-slow vehicles. The steering feels light and since I'm riding high, I can see what traffic jams to avoid and easily switch lanes before the backup starts. Ha! The only thing is that I noticed that the plastic windows in the rear are starting to yellow up a bit and that makes me wonder how much that will affect rear vision in the future.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

Scaling Mt. Wrangler

September 10, 2007

Before Vehicle Testing Assistant Mike Magrath handed me the keys to our 2007 Jeep Wrangler for the weekend, he mentioned how his girlfriend hated it because with its 10-inch ground clearance she had a hard time getting into it without being obscene. As a girl who likes to wear dresses, I got what he meant but then I replied, "Why doesn't she just step up on the running board and hold onto the roof to pull herself in?" But apparently she's shorter than me — I'm 5'5" — so she can't reach the roof to do that.

The next day, a friend of mine who is 6'1" complained how the step to get in is as high as the cabin and therefore not that helpful at all. In his words, "It's dumb." He also noted that the running board just gets in the way when exiting the Jeep since it's too high to be of any use in climbing down.

True, I, too, just end up stepping over it to jump down to the ground. But that's fun to me. In any case, although I haven't taken this car off-roading yet, I'm sure that the high ground clearance comes in handy in the wild.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 6,208 miles

the Disappearing Window Switch

September 24, 2007

I like the long-term Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. It's reasonably comfortable, adequately quick, sufficiently silent (even with that canvas top at highway speeds) and completely practical for real-world use. I can deal with the manual exterior mirrors and the somewhat bouncy ride on expansion joints, but there's one feature I can not abide — the window switches.

I'm probably supposed to feel "lucky" just to have electric windows on a Jeep Wrangler, but I'd prefer manual windows with door-mounted handles to these tiny, ill-placed switches that I can't find.

Chrysler first used this location on the PT Cruiser, and I hated those, too.

When you get into the Jeep in our dark parking garage there's basically no way to see these tiny plastic controls. The switches for the front windows have teensy lights in them that do little to help.

I still like the new Jeep Wrangler overall, but I prefer the old Jeep's manual windows rollers.

Karl Brauer, Editor in Chief, @ 6620 miles

Fun With the Nav

October 03, 2007

The navigation system in the Jeep Wrangler has some interesting features.

This weekend, I needed to make a trip to Sears, sadly enough. It wasn't where I remembered it to be but I knew it was located nearby. So I asked the Wrangler's nav to save my sorry butt before I got too lost.

It has a button (well, it's actually touch screen, but you know what I mean) that reads "Where Am I Now?" then you can choose "Nearby POI" to find things like shopping centers, businesses, etc.

So I located my lost self, then searched for the nearest Sears. The enthusiastic Wrangler promptly directed me to what it thought was the closest Sears thousands of miles away in Massachusetts. "Turn left," it said.

At least it has a sense of humor.

The following day I asked it to direct me to Willow Springs racetrack and it gave me a very logical route with a groovy 3 dimensional map. Maybe it didn't want to do time at Sears either.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 7,190 miles

Jeep Wrangler Sahara Unlimited

October 04, 2007

I've been spending a lot of time in the Jeep Wrangler and I've noticed that the headrests are really hard. I don't mean firm, I mean almost as hard as plastic.

No matter how I adjust them, they are uncomfortable. They look normal but they are shaped strangely with a rigid line that goes across the back of your head.

I would not want to whack my noggin on one of them.

How do you feel about headrests? What are the best and worst ones you've encountered?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 7,230 miles

Limited in the Backseat

October 05, 2007

Before I make my comment about our long-term Jeep Wrangler Unlimited's backseat, let me lay out my credentials. A family member of mine has owned 3 previous-gen Wranglers (first a Sahara w/ roll-down windows, then an X with zip-down windows, then a standard-wheelbase Rubicon). Whenever I've gone to visit him, I've invariably done some time in the backseat.

Suffice it to say that it's never been a comfortable experience.

But here's what I find curious. My relative's Rubicon had a 93.4-inch wheelbase. Our Sahara Unlimited has a 116-inch wheelbase. Yet aside from a little extra legroom and improved access via its rear doors, our long-termer's backseat is no more comfortable. It still has an unnaturally upright seat back and a short bench with minimal thigh support. And every time the driver goes around a corner, I'm grasping at the roof frame for stability.

Clearly, this Jeep isn't a backseat kind of vehicle any way you size it. I don't think the Unlimited is worth the extra money (about $2,500) over the regular version (which now has a 95.4-inch WB, by the way).

Erin Riches, Senior Content Editor

Electrical Gremlin

October 22, 2007

While driving our Jeep Wrangler on the highway at about 70 mph last Friday night, there was a sudden drop in power. A red warning light lit up — I didn't recognize the symbol at the time — and the stability control system light began flashing. The engine didn't die, but there was obviously something wrong. Throttle response was sluggish and the engine was running rough...

I thought about pulling over immediately but decided to continue on about 8 miles. (Just to be safe, I keyed in the nearest Jeep dealership via the navigation system's "emergency" function.) After exiting the highway, I cracked the owner's manual to read about the mysterious red light. I learned that it was the Electronic Throttle Control (ETC) warning light. The manual reads: "If a problem is detected while the engine is running, the light will either stay on or flash depending on the nature of the problem."

The manual's recommended solution? "Cycle the ignition key when the vehicle is safely and completely stopped."

It worked. After "rebooting" the Jeep, the ETC and stability control lights didn't come back on, and the Wrangler's engine was back to normal.

So far, the problem hasn't reoccurred. (I took the above photo this morning for illustrative purposes.)

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 7818 miles

Not So Unlimited

October 29, 2007

The redesigned Jeep Wrangler has been a big sales success for Jeep. Chrysler is reporting that it sold 92,549 Wranglers through September of this year. That's up by about 70 percent compared to last year and more than double what Toyota's sold for the FJ Cruiser.

Chrysler doesn't break down the Wrangler's sales by model, but the four-door Unlimited has no doubt been a large part of the new Wrangler's success. It's more livable and functional than any Wrangler to date. But having spent the past week and a half with our long-term 2007 Wrangler Unlimited, I'm left thinking that image is still the driving force behind Wrangler sales.

A four-door Wrangler really suffers when analyzed from a daily-driver standpoint. Compared to our long-term FJ Cruiser, another vehicle I spent considerable time with, I've found that the Wrangler is deficient in these areas:

Wind and Road noise: A Wrangler is noisy? That's crazy talk, Brent! Yeah, it's an obvious statement, but it needs to be mentioned. On highway drives, our Wrangler is noisier than anything I've driven since the previous-generation Wrangler. (In the Jeep's defense, it would presumably fair better if it were fitted with the optional three-piece hardtop.)

Interior design and materials: The bland interior design and cheap plastics I could live with — maybe. But not having any suitable storage space is a major hassle for daily or long-distance livability. No provisions are provided to house one's cell phone or MP3 player, for instance, and the cupholders are on the small side. Nor is there any real door-mounted armrest, as mentioned previously.

Power and transmission: Our Wrangler is slow. It weighs 4,342 pounds and takes 10.4 seconds to get to 60 mph. (The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited full-test had a slightly quicker time of 9.7 seconds.) Not helping matters is the four-speed automatic. Climbing grades, the 3.8-liter V6 is gutless until the transmission downshifts a gear. Then it's thrashy and noisy.

In my opinion, a regular two-door Wrangler can get away with a lot of this. ("It's a Jeep thing.") Just like a sports car, inherent design limitations are acceptable in return for enhanced (off-road) performance. But having a four-door implies more real-world usage. Personally, I would go with a more livable daily driver and then have a used and modified TJ on the side.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 9,990 miles

Jeep Truck?

November 05, 2007

This past weekend I used our Jeep Wrangler Sahara Unlimited to haul furniture from Ikea one day and take surfboards to the beach the next. I was impressed with the amount of space there was with the seats folded down, and it made me change my mind about Wranglers not being a useful everyday car. However when I filled the gas tank I realized that I might as well be driving a small truck, about the same cost in gas and it would have a bed to haul cargo. The problem for me is that I think Jeeps are cool, which can sometimes out weigh practicality. Maybe Jeep will solve my problem and make the Jeep Wrangler JT.

Seth Compton, Broadband Production Assistant

City Duty

November 26, 2007

I love taking the Jeep Wrangler for all-American holidays. It seems fitting to drive a domestic brand and the Wrangler is such an American icon, especially in that Jeepy Green (not the official color).

Despite the Wrangler Sahara's size and weight (over 4200 pounds), it feels light and manageable. It's always fun to drive and with the handy AUX port my iPod helped drown out the constant wind and road noise with holiday tunes.

But I feel bad that it got stuck doing city duty. It wants action. It wants to be set free to stomp boulders and slosh through mud.

Alas, this Thanksgiving weekend it had to settle for Christmas shopping and speed bumps. Oh, and the Partridge Family Christmas albumn.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ a palindromical 8778 miles

What do you think of your Wrangler?

December 03, 2007

"Hey, what do you think of your _______?"

Drive around a variety of new, occasionally interesting cars and you'll frequently be asked this question. For strangers, I've long since skipped explaining that it's not really mine (unless it's a real heap and/or the Compass), and instead found it to be a great way to find out what I really think of a car. You're first response is usually the one closest to your gut, like one of those rapid-fire question exercises when someone throws in a serious question amongst a bunch of mundane ones to see how you really feel ("Boxers or briefs?" "Chocolate or vanilla?" "Do you stay with Victoria, or go for it with Robin?")

So, using that logic, here's what I really think about the Wrangler. The first being most important, and the subsequent answers showing what happens when pesky old rationality starts to rear its ugly head:

Usually Jerk Bouncer at Hollywood Billiards: "Hey, what do you think about your Wrangler?"
(after a second to remember that yes, I apparently own a Wrangler)
Me: "It's surprisingly fun. Great steering. You wouldn't think it, but it's actually really fun to drive around the city. I like it."
Jerk Bouncer: "Cool, I've been thinking about getting one. The two-door version."
Me: "Nice. The top is a pretty big pain to put up and down, so if you're not going to use it much, I'd definitely suggest the hard top. It gets really noisy on the highway with the soft top."
Jerk Bouncer: "Oh, with the wind noise? Does that have a six or a four?"
Me: "It only comes with a six. It's OK around town, but on the highway it stinks. Only has 205 horsepower."
Jerk Bouncer: "Oh, what sort of gas mileage does it get?"
Me: "Not very good."
Jerk Bouncer: "Bummer. Like 15 or 16 around town?"
Me: "Yeah, just about." (after, the car said it was getting 15.4. EPA is 15 city, 19 highway, 17 combined)

I then went inside to watch my football game, and because I was tired of talking to a guy who up until that point had always been, well, a jerk. Funny how driving a new, interesting car can change one's demeanor towards you.

James Riswick, Associate Editor @ 8,916 miles

An Unhappy Marriage

December 05, 2007

Last week I extolled the virtue's of the Accord's nav/audio controls and voice commands. "An example of how to do it right," was my conclusion. Now, here's how to do it wrong. The following video describes the unhappy marriage between the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited and Chrysler's MyGig navigation system touchscreen.

Martin Scorcese was unavailable to direct so I rang up Michael Bay instead. It's clearly his best work yet.

UPDATE: MyGig actually has voice commands available (upper right hand button), which makes using the audio system easier. However, I'm not sure how user friendly something in a car is when you're required to talk to it and press a button two feet away.

James Riswick, Associate Editor @ 8,952 miles

To the Rescue

December 17, 2007

This weekend, our long-term 2007 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited was called upon to help jump-start my pop's early-2000s ('01 or '02, I'm not sure) Mercedes E-Class. It seemed appropriate, for former DaimlerChrysler stablemates to assist each other in a show of peace and brotherhood.

The Jeep is a breeze. As you can see from the above and below photographs, the hood doesn't need to be popped from within the car, should there be a problem.

You simply unlatch the plastic latches and pull the hood open.

While I appreciate the practicality of these plastic hooks on the Jeep, they seem as though they could break really easily, leaving the hood flapping in the breeze. Plastic plus wear plus age plus. . . Well, I wonder. Of course, they're probably pretty easy and cheap to replace. Also, the leads on the Wrangler battery say "pos" and "neg" instead of "+ and "-". I realize it's very American, but the plus and minus seem far more universal and practical, not to mention easier to read and, if necessary, feel in the dimness of an engine bay.

Oh, and jump-starting an early-21st-century Benz is a pain. Everything is electronic, so you need to remove the little slim metal key from the fob to open the doors. Despite what the manual says, it does not open the trunk. Second of all, the battery is nowhere in sight. There's only a "+" lead, and a random bolt sticking up near it that apparently stands in for the negative lead (ground). Once you attach to the negative lead, the alarm goes off for about 10 minutes and TeleAid attempts to ring the car or at least the house of the owner in order to see if they need help or the car is stolen. Good times!

Doug Lloyd, Senior Copy Editor @ 9,401 miles

No Leaks in the Rain

December 19, 2007

It isn't raining in the above photo, but I drove our 2007 Jeep Wrangler Sahara Unlimited home in a severe thunderstorm last night. And I'm here to tell you that the Jeep's soft top did not leak. Not a drop. I arrived at my residence so dry I was thirsty.

It was such a nice surprise I almost forgot how much the Jeep's four-speed automatic transmission frustrates me.

However, this morning, when I walked out to the Jeep, which had been sitting out in the rain all night, the truck's top had its revenge. I opened the driver's door and 15 hours of accumulated water dumped down onto the door panel and driver's seat. No drip rails. I drove to work sitting in a puddle.

Next time I'll climb in the passenger side and climb over the console.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 9,534 miles

A Few Words From the Passenger's Seat

January 03, 2008

My friend Sara used to own a 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo, which she had for many years and which she still loves to this day so I thought she might have an appreciation for our 2007 Jeep Wrangler. But when we were driving back from the mall last night and chatting, a propos of nothing Sara would insert a comment about the Jeep into our conversation. She has ridden in our Wrangler many times before so I found it curious that she just made these observations now.

"It sure is a noisy car."

"These headrests are hard."

"It's bouncy."

OK, these might not be ground-breaking observations but I thought it was interesting that a former Jeep owner had them and seemed surprised that a Jeep has these traits.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 10,570 miles

Backseat Crabbiness

January 17, 2008

Over the past weekend, I drove myself and my daughter to the airport in the Jeep Wrangler to catch our plane to the 2008 Detroit Auto Show. After 20 miles on the freeway, she'd had enough. The constant freeway noise, coupled with the rough ride pushed her into a serious state of seven-year-old crabbiness which lasted until she saw our local Chrysler PR rep at the airport gate. Poor guy was also heading to Detroit, and had no idea he was about to be ambushed by a pint-sized automotive journalist.

"I don't like the Jeep," she told him straightaway. "It's too loud and too bumpy." I apologized for her attitude and bought her off with some over-priced Burger King fries.

At the other end of the gate area, I tried to convince her of the Wrangler's merits. I lauded its off-road capability, and reminded her that you could remove the soft-top for some fresh air fun. I told her she shouldn't judge the Jeep so harshly until after she had a chance to enjoy it in its true element.

Apparently, it didn't take. When we returned to the Los Angeles airport several days later, she opted to ride home with my husband in his Volvo S60 instead.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 10,866 miles

Gas Mileage to Date

January 22, 2008

Eesh! I was just going to do an update on our 2007 Jeep Wrangler's fuel economy but it turns out we haven't done one for this car yet. So here it is. Much apologies to those who have been waiting for this.

Best tank: 21.6
Worst tank: 11.4
Average mpg: 15.9

FYI, EPA estimates for an automatic 2007 Jeep Wrangler is 17 mpg city / 21 mpg highway.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 11,158 miles

Friendly Audio Interface

January 24, 2008

The 2007 Jeep Wrangler Sahara Unlimited isn't known for being especially warm and friendly when it comes to the design of its comfort and convenience features. When your main mission involves dominating boulders and ripping trails a new one, friendliness isn't always near the top of the agenda. This leads to design quirks like its non-illuminated, dashboard-mounted window controls, which are so much fun to locate and use during those times when you need to roll your windows down to enter and exit your office building's semi-dark parking structure.

Still, there's one area in which the Wrangler gets it right.

I have the vaguely corny habit of occasionally listening to audiobooks on CD, so I'm one of the few people on staff who actually still uses the CD players in our vehicles. The interface in the Wrangler is one of those numbers with a hidden CD slot, in which the screen flips forward to reveal the aperture. The designers at Jeep did one thing that some other automakers didn't: They made sure that the controls for this thing are located around the screen instead of on it.

Put the controls on the screen, and you have an interface that can be tricky to navigate when the screen is extended. Put the controls around the screen, and you have a warm, friendly interface like our Jeep's. Bear hugs for all.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 11,243 miles

Trail-Rated, Not Rain-Rated

January 25, 2008

Uncharacteristically, we've been having lots of wet weather here in Los Angeles recently. "Storms of the century" and such. I had the Jeep Wrangler last night, and drove home in pouring rain. There were no problems with leaks on the drive home, but this morning — after having parked the Wrangler outdoors to face yet more of the wet stuff — I awoke to find that the Jeep's front passenger seat was pretty soaked.

There was also some rain on the steering wheel.

I could see water still dripping from one leak near the windshield, but there must've been another one, or the seats wouldn't have been as wet as they were. The Jeep's soft top was zipped and locked pretty securely, by the way, so I don't think user negligence was to blame.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 11, 272 miles

Weathering the Storm

January 28, 2008

This weekend, I had great plans to head up the mountains to lovely Lake Arrowhead for some play in the snow. So I requested the off-road-capable Wrangler Unlimited. The long wheelbase gives it a decent highway ride, and the high ground clearance and 4WD would give it sure-footedness in the snow. In theory. The CHiPs didn't buy that theory (demanding snow chains on every car) and we were turned back and sent down the mountain.

Undaunted, we made our way across to Palm Springs. No, we didn't do any off-roading, but in the short course of about 24 hours, we encountered, sleet, thick fog, and heavy, pounding rain. The Wrangler was a champ. In hard wind and powerful rain, it was very loud, the top and vertical windshield performing the inclement-weather duet. But to be honest, I was grateful for the long throw of the headlights and the high ground clearance. The car was totally airtight and the heater and defrost blew as strong as I expected from the off-road legend.

At one point, we weren't going very quickly on the highway due to the tremendous downpour and limited visibility, but when I hit the gas, the Wrangler just wouldn't budge. It doesn't have a lot of pick-up anyway, but I think the high body simply fought the wind. To its credit, it felt totally stable the whole time.

Doug Lloyd, Senior Copy Editor @ 11,636 miles

"Don't forget to bring a towel!"

February 26, 2008

I got the jeep over the weekend thinking I might take off and do a solo night of camping. The girlfriend was out of town, a bunch of friends were out of town, and I had nothing to do. Even those plans got canceled since Mother Nature decided to swing a rain storm on through Southern Cali.

I mostly stayed indoors for the weekend, but on Sunday I had to scout out a new location for an upcoming shoot... When I opened the door to the Jeep, I was appalled to see the drivers seat wet (again) and water dripping into the passenger foot well from underneath the door forming a nice little puddle there.

I did my scouting sitting on a towel.

After talking to some folk around here in the office Monday morning, I learned a leak from a soft-top Jeep is nothing new. I guess it's time for the super absorbent towels to be a new standard feature.

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer

Look Ma No Doors

March 10, 2008

This weekend I learned that removing the doors from our 2007 Jeep Wrangler is actually easier than lowering or raising its top. Each door simply pops off after the removal of two bolts (I had to go buy a T-50 Torx head socket) and the unplugging of an electrical connection. Total operation took about 10 minutes.

Trouble is, I now have four huge doors taking up my back porch and of course there's no way to lock the vehicle.

Side mirrors aren't a problem, because there aren't any. They went with the doors. We're also getting a hard lesson in aerodynamics. Anything above 60 mph now requires goggles and a tucked in shirt.

Whatever. Sometimes you've just got to go for it. Just don't expect any of us to take the Jeep on any long trips until I put her back together.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 13,481 miles

Open-Air Storage Solutions

March 14, 2008

Up to now, I haven't particularly enjoyed driving our long-term 2007 Jeep Wrangler. I think the Unlimited body style adds bulk without adding enough utility, and I don't like having an automatic transmission in a Wrangler.

However, I like our Jeep a lot more with the doors off. It makes our nav-equipped Sahara Unlimited feel much less serious — and more like the adventure vehicle it's supposed to be.

In addition, it encourages resourcefulness on the part of its driver. I carry my lunch to work in a plastic bag. So I simply tie it to the grab handle to keep it from flying away.

My laptop bag? Well, that can ride in the cargo bay, which is now basically an open pickup bed.

As I drive to work, the wind buffeting me from head to toe, and the sun on my face, I feel like I'm on vacation. I can't wait for summer.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor

The VW Thing of Our Time

March 17, 2008

This past Saturday I spent the afternoon and most of my knuckle skin reinstalling the doors and top of our 2007 Jeep Wrangler Sahara Unlimited. Good fun. Ranks right up there with root canal and the musical stylings of Chikezie.

During the process I realized three things:

1) Reinstalling the doors and top of our 2007 Jeep Wrangler Sahara Unlimited royally sucks.

2) This Jeep Wrangler Unlimited is the VW Thing of our time.

3) I'm a wimp with soft, easily torn flesh.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 15,601 miles

Tow Hook Meets Bumper

March 24, 2008

I just got the 2007 Jeep Wrangler washed and was waiting at a red light waiting to turn down the street to our offices in Santa Monica when I felt a shove from behind. You've gotta be kidding me! Rear-ended? With no thought to traffic, I immediately jumped out of the car (dumb move I know but I was in shock at this person's recklessness) and ran to the back of the Jeep.

The car that hit me was a first-gen Nissan 240SX. I had glimpsed him in my rearview mirror when I first pulled to a stop and he wasn't going that fast. It looked like he was slowing down as well he should have been. That's why I was really surprised he ended up hitting me anyway.

When I went to check out the damage and looked at the driver, he threw up his hands and apologized profusely from his seat and said that it was OK. But I looked at his front bumper that had a big gouge in it where it had met the Jeep's tow hook. "But you hurt your car," was all I could think to say. But he continued to insist that everything was all right saying that he just bumped me. So I jumped back in my car deciding that I would complete the turn and pull over to the side of the road so I could assess the damage to the Jeep and take down his information.

But when I had pulled over, he kept on driving and didn't even look back at me. I took down his license plate number and then returned to the back of the Jeep to see if there was any damage. Fortunately there didn't appear to be any. Even the hook that left the gouge on his bumper appeared untouched. No paint transfer at all, no bent metal. Oh well, at least the Jeep emerged unscathed.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 13,703 miles


Why We Bought It Durability Performance and Fuel Economy Retained Value Summing Up's long-term test of the 2007 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4x4 is complete after just over 15,000 miles. We found the off-road capability of this Jeep holds true to its heritage. But neither four doors nor an extended wheelbase goes far enough toward molding this Wrangler into a true SUV.

Our struggle to accumulate mileage on the Jeep was due to its highway mannerisms. It drives like a Wrangler off-road and on, and this ride isn't for everyone. Some embrace the rugged Jeep image and can tough it out seven days a week. Others see four doors and expect a more refined, SUV-like ride. They won't find it here. We fit somewhere between the daily-driver crowd and the park-it-until-the-weekend folks.

Why We Bought It
The Jeep Wrangler established itself in the market with off-road functionality at an attainable price. This 2007 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara leaves the comfort of its niche in an attempt to enter the realm of mainstream SUVs. In doing so, this long-wheelbase, four-door vehicle found itself in a zone that wasn't all-Wrangler, nor was it all-SUV. This made us wonder if it was all Jeep.

The 2006 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited marked a rebirth of the extended wheelbase not seen in the Wrangler model line since the Scrambler. The distance between axles grew 20.6 inches and width by 5.5 inches. For 2007 Jeep took advantage of the extended wheelbase to offer its first-ever four-door Wrangler. We anticipated the on-road handling would benefit from the stretch at the expense of off-road maneuverability.

As part of the redesign, the latest Wrangler received a new pushrod 3.8-liter V6. Its 202 horsepower and 237 pound-feet of torque proved to be a letdown during our full test of the Unlimited Sahara. Since this is the only engine offered for the vehicle, we felt it deserved a second chance. Our highest recorded tank of fuel exceeded EPA estimates at over 19 mpg, so maybe there are some redeeming qualities to this engine after all.

During the early months of our test, off-road driving was admittedly limited to speed bumps and steep driveways, so the Jeep was well rested for its first trip off the beaten path.

Video Production Specialist John Adolph (a weekend winch geek with lots of off-road experience) brought in the new year with an 850-mile road trip to Death Valley National Park. Along the 50-mile Grass Valley trail, Adolph commented, "I am surprised by how well the Jeep rides at speed. It did well over rutted and slightly rocky surfaces, even without airing down the tires. Steering felt tight when dodging Joshua trees on the sandy stuff. The last 20 miles of trail are softer and made up entirely of whoop-de-doos. In a short-wheelbase vehicle, these get old quick. But the longer wheelbase subdued the forward-to-back motion, so nobody puked."

We expect basic fire roads and simple hill climbs will be the extent of off-road driving for most owners. Lead Senior Editor Ed Hellwig had this in mind when he wrote, "On the rocky roads this Wrangler is much less of a pogo stick than its predecessor. A longer wheelbase helps, but the feel through the wheel is less jittery as well. It's sturdier, too, with fewer rattles from the soft top. That said, it doesn't soak up bumps nearly as well as the Toyota FJ Cruiser or Nissan Xterra. Low-speed climbs were a piece of cake with limited tire slippage thanks largely to the optional 4.10:1 axle ratio and limited-slip diff. One feature it has over the competition is a navigation system that keeps track of progress on unmarked roads. It makes getting lost nearly impossible."

Of course, once you pull the Jeep back onto the highway after a weekend of four-wheeling, its distinctive lineage is unavoidable. It bucks and bounces like every Wrangler before it. Four doors and a long wheelbase might mellow the ride somewhat, but not to the extent of a traditional SUV.

News Editor Kelly Toepke and her daughter drove to the airport one weekend to catch a plane for the Detroit auto show. Toepke noted on the long-term blog pages, "After 20 miles my daughter had enough. The constant freeway noise coupled with the rough ride pushed her into a serious state of 7-year-old crabbiness which lasted until she saw our local Chrysler PR rep at the airport gate. Poor guy is about to be ambushed by a pint-sized automotive journalist." Her daughter started right in, "I don't like the Jeep. It's too loud and too bumpy." Always calm under pressure, Toepke apologized and bought her daughter off with some Burger King fries. "Apparently that didn't take," Toepke added. "When we returned to the airport several days later, she opted to ride home with my husband in his Volvo S60 instead of the Jeep."

Inside the cabin our Unlimited Sahara has evolved somewhat from the basic Wrangler of previous generations. The soft top comes accessorized with plenty of clips, clamps, catches, straps, rods, zippers and Velcro. There's plenty of wind noise, of course, and it's complicated to take down and put up. Meanwhile the heater is awesome and the A/C adequate. So some things haven't changed. But the optional MyGIG Multimedia Infotainment system with navigation is a step toward redemption. For $1,500 it is the best interior feature the Wrangler has to offer.

We experienced a one-time Electronic Throttle Control (ETC) system fault. From highway speeds there was a sudden drop in power, the stability control light began flashing and the ETC light illuminated. After pulling over we read the owner's manual to learn, "If this problem is detected while the engine is running, the light will either stay on or flash depending on the nature of the problem." The manual directed us to cycle the key in the ignition and the lights completely stopped. It never happened again.

Two recalls, neither of which affected our vehicle, were announced during our test of the Wrangler. One was for an electrical issue that could cause the engine to stall. The second recall was ABS related and involved a possibility of the rear brakes locking up without warning. Reprogramming of the car's computer was recommended to solve both problems.

Dealer service was simple in the case of the Wrangler. Our first scheduled interval arrived around 6,000 miles. We took the car to Moothart Jeep in Cerritos, California. It cost us $19.66 after redeeming a $20 dealer-supplied coupon. For no charge, the dealership also handled our issue with intermittently squeaky brakes by roughing up the pads and applying some anti-squeak compound.

Total Body Repair Costs: None
Total Routine Maintenance Costs (over 12 months): $19.66
Additional Maintenance Costs: None
Warranty Repairs: None
Non-Warranty Repairs: None
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 1
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: None
Days Out of Service: None
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: None

Performance and Fuel Economy
One thing was clear following our tests of the Wrangler at 1,000 and 15,000 miles. Paved road driving is secondary in its nature. All performance tests supported this philosophy.

Our 4,300-pound Wrangler requires 17.6 seconds to complete the quarter-mile with a trap speed of 77.3 mph. It needs 10.4 seconds (with 1 foot of rollout like on a drag strip) to reach 60 mph from a stop. We've watched guys on YouTube chug a six-pack in less time than that.

Tires and a low threshold of stability-control intervention limit the Wrangler to 0.66g of lateral force around the skid pad. And at a mere 55.7 mph, the Wrangler looks uncomfortable through the slalom.

When we recorded a stopping distance from 60 mph of 137 feet during its 1,000-mile test, one editor wrote, "This is abysmal braking performance for any modern vehicle." At the 15,000-mile test, after several thousand miles of break-in, its brakes and tires redeemed themselves as the distance shrunk to 125 feet. Stops were consistent, progressive and without fade.

We didn't expect the combination of a four-speed automatic transmission and an unimpressive V6 to be remarkably fuel-efficient. But we were wrong. On multiple occasions we topped EPA estimations, recording our best single tank of nearly 22 mpg. On the whole we averaged 16 mpg.

Best Fuel Economy: 21.6 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 11.4 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 15.9 mpg

Retained Value
Our Wrangler had a starting MSRP of $30,615. According to Edmunds' TMV® calculator, it depreciated 27 percent from this price in one year of service. This is higher than what we predicted. By comparison, our long-term Toyota FJ Cruiser lost 26 percent of its value after 12 months and 28,000 miles. Of course, the market for used SUVs weakened noticeably in the interval between these two sales.

True Market Value at service end: $22,222
Depreciation: $8,393 or 27% of original MSRP
Final Odometer Reading: 15,254

Summing Up
The 2007 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara is as capable off-road as we've come to expect from its trail-rated heritage. Some low-speed maneuvers are understandably limited by the extended wheelbase. High-speed driving benefits from the extra space between axles by smoothing out the ride. The MyGIG system adds an off-road navigation element unmatched by the competition. On the whole, Jeep enthusiasts will not be disappointed by the Unlimited's performance.

But once you compare this Jeep to competitive SUVs, it falters. We see four doors and we want a more civilized experience. The Unlimited just does not offer the level of isolation and highway demeanor we would get from a Toyota FJ Cruiser or Nissan Xterra. So while it is certainly all-Jeep, the new Wrangler Unlimited is not all-SUV.

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.