Starting from an average score of 5, the Wrangler earns points for its exceptional ability off road, but takes one back for its choppy ride. Two-door versions, which have a shorter wheelbase and still-bumpier ride, are a shade better than shopping carts. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Most Wranglers will leave the factory with a corporate 3.6-liter V-6 and 8-speed automatic transmission. The 285-horsepower V-6 is enough to power the Jeep Wrangler around town, but lacks some of the low-end grunt we’d like to see during rock-crawling adventures. Sticking with the standard 6-speed manual only exacerbates that condition; it’s not our pick for most off-roaders. (Even-numbered shifts are a little hampered by the bulky center console, too.)
The optional engine for now is a 2.0-liter turbo-4 mated to a mild-hybrid system that adds the low-end twist we’d like in our off-roaders and better fuel economy to boot. It’s rated at 270 hp so the overall power is a wash, but it’s only mated to the 8-speed automatic.
The 48-volt mild-hybrid system can keep accessories running at stoplights or coax the Wrangler’s turbo-4 to take a nap during long highway drives to save gas, but it’s not enough power to get the Wrangler moving. Notwithstanding, purists who’d scoff at the idea of a hardcore turbo-4 off-roader: you’re wrong.
Both engines are rated to tow up to 2,000 pounds in two-door configurations, or up to 3,500 pounds in four-door versions.
The Wrangler’s basic formula hasn’t changed since we liked Ike. The Wrangler rides atop a separate ladder frame, with solid front and rear axles.
Coil springs absorb undulations in the road, and Wrangler Rubicons add a little more height and 33-inch tires to soak up more road—or hopefully, more rocks.
Two-door Wranglers have 22 fewer inches between the wheels and feel predictably more nervous on the road. No Wrangler is quiet on highway drives, but the 2019 Wrangler features more insulation to keep the road and wind noise outside.
The 2019 Wrangler’s steering system gives us enough feedback to feel connected to the wheels and has enough slack at highway speeds to track straight.
The 2019 Wrangler Sport and Sahara versions are equipped with a two-speed, part-time four-wheel drive system. Skid plates are standard, but a limited-slip differential is optional. The simple system, combined with the Wrangler’s tall ride height should be enough to conquer any small mountain.
Jeep says the Sport is ripe for customization and the Sahara is for weekend warriors who prioritize a smoother ride around town, thus the simpler setup.
The Sahara offers an upgradeable automatic four-wheel-drive system that operates more like all-wheel drive and could be a boon to buyers looking for “rugged and rough,” but whose daily drive is more like “shaggy and soaked.” It’s a good mix of capable in all weather and easy to use.
The Wrangler Rubicon is for the unfazed set, looking for the toughest Jeep that (a lot of) money can buy. It’s equipped with 33-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A tires, beefy Dana 44 axles with locking differentials and sway bars, a part-time transfer case, and tall flares that can accommodate 35-inch rubber without a lift.
Short of a Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen (too much money) or a side by side (too not allowed on highways), the 2019 Wrangler Rubicon is the most capable off-roader available.
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