Of all the new vehicles on sale for 2017 you'd be hard-pressed to find one that's more of a throwback than the 2017 Jeep Wrangler. It adheres to its original design more than probably anything else on the road, and for Jeep purists, that's just the way they like it. The Wrangler is a two- or four-door off-road-friendly SUV that makes very few compromises for comfort. Sure, it can connect your iPhone via Bluetooth or tune you into satellite radio if you please, but the Wrangler's main mission in life is to get you places that standard crossovers or SUVs just can't go.
Though the Wrangler's old-school approach might be appealing, there are some significant drawbacks to note. It has a rough ride, middling fuel economy and some of the lowest safety ratings on the road today. What's more, the seats aren't very comfortable, the infotainment system isn't as appealing as more updated versions from Jeep, and it's just plain loud on the highway, making it tough to take on long road trips.
With all that said, somehow, we'd still recommend the Wrangler. It has undeniable charm and is one of the few vehicles left that won't nickel and dime you with creature comforts you might not want. It also holds its value surprisingly well, even many years later. If you're looking for other options, though, you could check out the Toyota 4Runner. It also has a high resale value and is a much more versatile and livable SUV, though it's not as capable off-road. Jeep also offers the off-road-ready Trailhawk trim level for its Renegade, Cherokee and Grand Cherokee crossover SUVs. But for a throwback vehicle that stays true to its past, there's still only one Jeep Wrangler.
Every 2017 Wrangler comes standard with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, and front airbags. Front side airbags are optional for all but the Sport trim. A rearview camera and other parking or safety aids aren't available.
The Wrangler has some of the worst crash scores of any vehicle currently on sale. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded the two-door Wrangler its highest possible rating of Good in the moderate-overlap front-impact test but a Marginal (second-worst) score in the small-overlap front-impact test. Without the optional side airbags, the tested vehicle was judged Poor (worst) in the side-impact test. Its seat and head restraint design was rated Marginal for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
The IIHS also tested a Wrangler Unlimited, rating it Good in the front-impact tests and Marginal for both side-impact and whiplash protection. Interestingly, the tested vehicle also lacked side airbags despite its slightly better side-impact rating, so there's no data available on Wrangler crashworthiness with side airbags installed. There are no government crash tests of the Wrangler.
During Edmunds simulated panic-stop testing, a Wrangler Willys Wheeler came to a stop from 60 mph in 132 feet, which is longer than average for the typical SUV.
trim levels & features
The 2017 Jeep Wrangler is available in a pair of body styles: the two-door, four-passenger Wrangler and the four-door, five-passenger Wrangler Unlimited. Each is available in three core trim levels — Sport, Sahara and Rubicon — with additional special models that are based on those trims. A vinyl convertible roof is standard on both, but a hardtop with easily removable panels above the front seats is available.
Don't expect many creature comforts in the base Sport trim level. It includes 16-inch steel wheels, on/off-road tires, a full-size spare tire, skid plates, tow hooks, foglights, removable doors, a fold-down windshield, manual mirrors and locks, full metal doors with crank windows, cruise control, a height-adjustable driver seat, cloth upholstery, a tilt-only steering wheel, a one-piece folding, tumble-forward backseat, and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack. The Unlimited version gets a bigger gas tank, air-conditioning and a 60/40-split folding, tumble-forward seat.
The Power Convenience Group adds power windows and locks, keyless entry, heated power mirrors, a security alarm and an auto-dimming mirror. The Cold Weather package adds the Power Convenience Group's equipment plus remote start and heated seats. Also available for the Sport are 17-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning (for the two-door) and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The Sahara adds the Power Convenience Group items, 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic LED headlights, LED foglights, additional painted exterior body panels and trim, hood insulation for reduced noise, air-conditioning, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and satellite radio. The Unlimited differs only with tubular side steps and grab handles for rear passengers.
Instead of adding a bunch of luxurious items, the Rubicon Wrangler gets a host of off-road goodies. It starts with the basic Sport equipment and adds 17-inch alloy wheels, special tires, a heavy-duty Dana 44 front axle (matching the standard-spec Dana 44 rear axle), shorter 4.10 axle gearing (standard with the manual transmission; optional with the automatic), an upgraded transfer case with a lower crawl ratio, electronic front and rear locking differentials, an electronically disconnecting front sway bar, rock rails, automatic LED headlamps and the under-hood insulation. Inside, you get standard air-conditioning plus the leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a 115-volt outlet and satellite radio. The above-mentioned Power Convenience Group is an optional extra on the two-door Rubicon, but it's standard on the Rubicon Unlimited.
Even though you can only get the 4.10 gearing with a Rubicon, the Sport and Sahara are eligible for an upgrade to a 3.73 ratio, which gets you much of the way there. The standard ratio is a modest 3.21.
Also optional on Sport and Sahara is a limited-slip rear differential, and the Sport and Rubicon can be equipped with half doors that include plastic side windows and manual locks. The Sahara and Rubicon are available with automatic climate control and leather upholstery bundled with heated front seats.
Optional on every Wrangler is a nine-speaker Alpine sound system and the Connectivity Group, which adds a tire-pressure monitor display, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth phone connectivity, a trip computer, and an upgraded version of the Uconnect 430 touchscreen (available separately) that includes a USB port, media player interface, 28 gigabytes of digital music storage and navigation. All trims are also available with a higher-quality soft top as well as a black or body-colored hardtop.
On top of all the optional equipment to sort through, there are also special-edition packages. The Willys Wheeler is based on the Sport and includes a limited-slip rear differential, gloss-black 17-inch alloy wheels and exterior trim, special badging, privacy glass, mud terrain tires, rock rails, the 3.73 ratio, the Connectivity Group and satellite radio.
There's also the Sahara-based 75th Anniversary Wrangler. The 75th Anniversary has special exterior paint and trim, 17-inch wheels, winch-ready steel bumpers and a Power Dome hood. Finally, the Rubicon Hard Rock is based on the Rubicon and has black 17-inch wheels and exterior trim, winch-ready steel bumpers, a Power Dome hood, red tow hooks, upgraded rock rails, black leather upholstery, heated seats, the Alpine sound system and special badging.
Every 2017 Jeep Wrangler is powered by a 3.6-liter V6 engine that produces 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Four-wheel drive is standard and includes high- and low-range gearing. The Rubicon features uniquely short gearing and an upgraded transfer case with an extra-low crawl ratio. A six-speed manual transmission with hill start assist is standard, while a five-speed automatic with both hill start assist and hill descent control is optional. Towing is rather meager at a maximum of 2,000 pounds for the Wrangler and 3,500 pounds for the Unlimited.
In Edmunds performance testing, a two-door Wrangler with a manual went from zero to 60 mph in a quick 6.9 seconds, which is pretty astonishing given the languid acceleration of past Wranglers. The heavier Wrangler Unlimited with the automatic needed 8.1 seconds. The last Toyota 4Runner Trail we tested made the same sprint in 7.8 seconds.
EPA-estimated fuel economy for the 2017 Wrangler wasn't available at publishing time, but last year's Wrangler posted 18 mpg combined (17 city/21 highway) for either transmission. The Unlimited also had a 18 mpg combined estimate last year.
By modern standards, the Wrangler is not pleasant to drive, no matter how you slice it. Sure, it's livable in the city, and it can get you from one place to another pretty effortlessly. But it has a rough ride, lots of body roll and a loud interior, and it isn't nimble in traffic.
Off-road, though, the Wrangler's vague steering makes sense when you're navigating through rough terrain and you don't want a car that's as sensitive to tiny inputs. The rough ride takes a backseat to the flexibility you have to navigate over large bumps, and that loud cabin seems to matter much less when you're crawling over rock walls at 10 miles per hour.
If you're looking to get the ultimate version of a Wrangler, it's clearly the Rubicon with its 4.10 gearing and off-road equipment. Stick with the two-door, though — the Unlimited four-door might not be as nimble in tight spots. In general, we recommend avoiding the standard 3.21 gearing if you can, especially if you plan to put on bigger tires; you're going to want the extra tire-spinning torque multiplication (and better crawl ratio) that the available 3.73 or Rubicon-only 4.10 gearing provides.
For power, the Wrangler's 3.6-liter V6 is definitely adequate, providing swift acceleration in two-door models with the six-speed manual. The five-speed automatic transmission is less exciting, but revs are a bit high at freeway speeds. If you are OK shifting your own gears, the manual's long-throw, long-stick shifter and easily modulated clutch add to the fun and novelty of what is already a fun and novel vehicle.
Much like the overall design of the 2017 Jeep Wrangler, the interior is simple and functional. Sure, you can specify the highest trim levels for "bright interior accents," but the Wrangler is still a purpose-built vehicle. Controls are clear and well laid-out, but most of the interior feels as if the bare minimum attention has been paid to aesthetics. Touchscreen navigation is available if you want it — albeit in the form of Chrysler's old, frustrating 6.5-inch unit — but otherwise the Wrangler's interior is about as basic as it gets. Honestly, anything more would seem a bit out of place. If you want the latest luxuries, a higher-end Jeep is probably the way to go.
Squeezing four adults in a two-door Wrangler can be tough. The rear low bench seat means limited knee- and footroom, which makes longer trips unpleasant. Access to the backseat is also awkward unless the top's off, in which case nimble riders can just clamber over the sides. The Unlimited's backseat offers room for three and conventional access via its extra set of doors, though it's still not particularly comfortable or spacious.
Cargo space isn't exactly a strong suit for the Wrangler either, although the four-door Unlimited does have a respectable amount of space. The two-door Wrangler has to make do with just 12.8 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats and 55.8 cubes when you fold down the backseat. The Unlimited gives you 31.5 cubic feet of space behind the backseat and 70.6 cubes with the rear seats folded. Of course, with a soft top, you can always just have your surfboard hanging out of the back like a pickup truck.
Having a soft top on the Wrangler can be nice, but it's not a push-a-button experience. It takes patience, which makes the separate foldable sunroof panel an appealing option when the top's up and you're short on time. Security can also be an issue with the soft top. The optional hardtop, which features removable T-top-style panels over the front seats, is a smart solution for those who don't intend to go completely roofless on a routine basis. Bear in mind, though, that the hardtop is heavy, so you'll need a friend to help whenever you want to remove it.
edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.