In a world that’s becoming increasingly populated with so called SUVs that are actually tall hatchbacks with low ground clearance and two-wheel drive, the Jeep Wrangler is a fair dinkum 4WD.
Wrangler can take you off-road to places that would damage and/or strand just about anything else. But Jeep anticipated the rise of the on-road appeal to those wanting a competent station wagon. So in JK format, sold from February 2007 the Jeep Wrangler is more aerodynamic, quieter and more stable than its predecessors. These are the models we are surveying in this used-car feature.
It still retained the ability to fold the windscreen flat despite the fact that it’s slightly flat. The doors can be removed to make it even more enjoyable when you want to enjoy the feeling that you’re surrounded by nature. Love it!
Prior to the JK Series all Wranglers had two doors, then a somewhat awkward-looking four-door, titled the Wrangler Unlimited was introduced. However, the longer body and stretched wheelbase of the Unlimited means it’s not quite so handy in rugged off-road driving.
Ride comfort could be better, which appeals to many buyers, but it’s smart to have all prospective passengers feel it for themselves as part of your pre-purchase test drive.
Handling is OK, though the steering is pretty vague in a straight line. This isn’t the sort of vehicle you toss at bends so keep a Wrangler within its limits or it could bite you. Later models have some electronic aids to help you stay out of trouble.
Both powerplants utilise a six-speed manual gearbox, while the diesel’s five-speed automatic goes two better than the petrol’s four-speed auto transmission by offering an extra gear as well as an alternate second gear ratio according to whether the vehicle is changing up or down, for smoother and more efficient progress.
For many years Jeep power came from an old-style 4.0-litre straight-six. It was finally replaced by a modern 3.8-litre V6 with the introduction of the JK series. A four-cylinder 2.8-litre turbo-diesel was introduced at the same time.
The 3.8-litre was superseded by a 3.6-litre V6 as part of an overall makeover of the JK at the start of 2012. It has considerably more power and torque than the older unit and the torque comes in nice and low.
The turbo-diesel was revised at the same time to trim consumption and increase torque. Note that torque is lower on the automatic transmission than the manual.
Quite a few Wranglers have manual gearboxes as vehicles like this appeal to ‘real’ drivers. However, automatics became more popular in recent times.
In November 2016 Jeep celebrated the 75th anniversary of the what they called the “car that won a war” with several special editions, including one for the Wrangler. These are worth keeping an eye out for as they really do look the part and are an important part of automotive history.
Spare parts prices are generally reasonable and we haven’t heard too many complaints about availability.
Working on the Wrangler is a dream as there is plenty of underbonnet space but don’t tackle anything other than minor items without a workshop manual. And leave all safety work to the professionals.
Insuring a Jeep doesn’t normally a problem unless you have a poor claims history, when you might find that some companies are reluctant to take you on. Prices don’t vary a great deal, but it’s always worth shopping around.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Be cautious of a Wrangler that’s belonged to a would-be cowboy. Jacked up suspension, huge tyres, lots of driving lights and other macho stuff. These modifications are may have been poorly engineered.
Another problem with these jacked up Jeeps is that they may have been thrashed to impress peers.
Dings and dents probably mean the Jeep has been used the way its maker intended – which may not be what you are looking for.
Check the bumper corners, the doors, the sill panels under the doors and the underside bash plates for signs of conflict with the landscape.
An automatic transmission that’s slow to go into gear could be nearing overhaul time, but most are rugged enough and should still have plenty of life left in them. Still one to refer to a professional inspector though.
Listen for crunches on fast downchanges in manuals, and for a reluctance to change into fifth gear on older units.
Check the high/low transfer box isn’t too hard when engaging low range.
Look at the seats, carpets, door trim and luggage area for signs of mistreatment.
Set your budget from $6000 to $10,000 for a 2007 Jeep Wrangler Sport; $11,000 to $16,000 for a 2009 Rubicon or a 2011 Renegade; $15,000 to $22,000 for a 2010 Unlimited Renegade; $17,000 to $24,000 for a 2013 Sport; $20,000 to $27,000 for a 2015 Blackhawk; $27,000 to $37,000 for a 2016 Overland; $31,000 to $42,000 for a 2017 Unlimited Rubicon; and $42,000 to $54,000 for a 2019 Unlimited Overland.
RECALLS: To browse recalls on all vehicles go to the ACCC at: www.productsafety.gov.au/products/transport/cars/