It is no coincidence that Chrysler Exec Bob Nardelli pulled into Washington for economic bailout testimony today in a hybrid version of the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. Of any American brand, Jeep is probably the most valuable. This was further confirmed last week when it was announced that the Wrangler X is the 2009 recipient of the “Best Resale Value” award in the SUV segment by Kelley Blue Book. This is based on the proportion of the retail value that is retained in a vehicle after 5 years, and highlights the Jeeps ability to endure even in the toughest of economic times.
For $21,210 there really is nothing quite like the Wrangler, which is why it continues to be hugely popular despite the fact that it makes few attempts at refinement. The interior is on the small side, and the ride is harsh and noisy. With a short wheelbase, solid front axle and body-on-frame construction, there is no question about what type of driving the Wrangler is best suited. But it makes up for its lack of manners by being legitimately capable off-road, durable, inexpensive and just plain fun. The latter is especially true because of the multiple open-air options available. Although new Wranglers can be upgraded with a range of exterior options like fog-lamps, roof racks and beefed up wheels and tires, even as a base model, the Wrangler X retains all of the slotted-grille goodness that Jeep has built its reputation on. The Wrangler X is powered by a 3.8 litre V6 which produces 202 horsepower via a four-speed automatic or six-speed manual gearbox. Maximum towing capacity is 2000 lbs. For 2009, Wrangler also adds Jeep’s Trailer-Sway Control, which activates the antiskid system if it detects a towed trailer is not following its intended path Available safety features include ABS, traction control, antiskid system, and front side airbags. Those with a desire to upgrade their Wrangler for more serious off-road use, can get an electronic-disconnecting front stabilizer bar, locking differentials, and different tires. Stability control can be disengaged when wheelspin is required like when you get stuck in deep mud. Or in a worst-case scenario that’s what tow-hooks and winches are for.
Inside a modest amount of amenities are included, though space is not one of them. On base models; manual locks, windows and climate controls are enhanced only by a CD player and cruise control. If you need rear seating, opt for the Unlimited, otherwise the back is reserved for the smallest of passengers. But none of that matters when the top is off or the Wrangler on dirt.