Thumbs Up: You’ll run out of nerve before the 2010 Jeep Wrangler runs out of capability.
Thumbs Down: Optioned out, they can get expensive quickly.
Buy This Car If: You want to go off-roading top down, you appreciate a ride with personality and you want an SUV that can be uniquely your own.
At first, I just didn’t understand the 2010 Jeep Wrangler Sahara’s appeal. It had too many compromises for my practical sensibility: it’s got four seats, but getting into or out of the back with the hard top on requires some agility. Rear seat in place, you won’t be carrying much luggage in the rear hatch. The venerable 3.8 liter V6 motor is hardly state of the art, and fuel mileage isn’t great partially because it’s mated to a four speed automatic transmission. Supremely capable off-road, it’s on-road ride comfort isn’t what most drivers are used to. The icing on the cake for me was the window sticker; as equipped, this 2010 Sahara Edition Jeep Wrangler had a $31,190.00 price tag. Sure it’s got a good nav system and a decent stereo, but that’s a big check to be writing for a daily driver with more than a few quirks.
After a few days behind the wheel, I began to get it: very few people buy a Jeep Wrangler for its practicality, and most Wrangler buyers could care less about ride comfort. Like Harley Davidson motorcycles (another iconic brand), Jeep Wranglers are generally bought for entertainment, or in recognition of their astonishing heritage. If you need passenger and cargo room with go-anywhere capability, you buy a Jeep Grand Cherokee. If you want top down, off-road fun, you buy a Wrangler. In fact, the Jeep Wrangler is the last of the convertible SUVs, which should make your new car shopping list that much shorter.
It didn’t take long for the Wrangler to win me over, once I figured out the secret. Is it crude? Sure it is, but that’s part of the Wrangler’s personality, part of its appeal. You get the sense that, should something break on the Jeep, it could be fixed trail-side with a bit of JB Weld, some Gorilla Tape and a multitool. If you don’t like any one thing about the Wrangler, there’s an aftermarket company that sells just what you’re looking for to address it. In reality, the Jeep is a blank canvas, just waiting for an owner to personalize it. Besides, the Wrangler has more history behind the marque than any other vehicle still in production.
So what about the motor? Jeep Wranglers now use a 3.8 liter V6 that’s been in the Chrysler parts bin for a while. In stock form, it makes 205 horsepower and 240 ft-lbs of torque, which is fine for most owners and good enough to get you from zero to sixty in under ten seconds. If you want more grunt from your Jeep, the Wrangler responds really well to intake and exhaust system upgrades, which won’t break the bank. Personally, I’d really like a diesel or turbo diesel motor option, such as the new 2.5 liter Delta motor from Fiat. Hint, hint, Chrysler.
I put around two hundred miles on the Wrangler, and it was plenty comfortable for multi-hour driving. The hardtop sealed well and made highway driving more enjoyable; if you live in a cold climate, or regularly park your Jeep outside overnight, the $1,625.00 hard top is a must-have option. Driver and passenger seats are supportive, but would benefit from additional lumbar support and a little more side bolstering. I much prefer cloth seats over leather, especially in a truck that’s going to get dirty, and the Jeep’s were nicely finished in a two tone, stain resistant fabric. The in-dash nav system was fairly intuitive, and the seven speaker Infinity sound system was far better than I expected.
What impressed me the most was the overall improvement in build quality. I’ve driven pre-JK series Jeeps, and was always less than impressed with how well they were put together. Even new ones squeaked and rattled off a dealer’s lot like a chorus of chipmunks on speed. Not so with the new Wranglers; their build quality is rock solid, and the Sahara never had a squeak or rattle, even over rough pavement. The dash and surround is multi-textured hard plastic, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s easy to clean and visually more appealing than acres of solid plastic or cheesy faux woodgrain. Instruments are clear and well laid out, with the space between the speedometer and tach reserved for warning lights. The trip computer in this Sahara version gave me a readout on miles traveled, time elapsed, MPG since reset, direction traveled and outside temperature.
I averaged 20.6 miles per gallon in a mix of city, highway, 2wd and 4wd driving, far better than the EPA estimate of 17 mpg combined. As you would expect from a vehicle with a short wheelbase and a high center of gravity, it can feel twitchy over uneven pavement (or in crosswinds) until you get used to the handling. The ride certainly isn’t car-like, but it’s not unpleasant, either.
On sunny days when you want to drop the top and head for the beach or the trails, there is no substitute for a Jeep Wrangler. The Wrangler will get you anywhere you need to go, limited only by your off-road driving skills and sense of self-preservation. It’s easy to drive in the loose stuff, and even the stock tires give a decent amount of grip in sand. Surprisingly, they weren’t noisy on the highway, either.
The 2010 Sahara is as luxurious as you can order a Wrangler, and features color matched fenders, two toned seats, height adjustable driver’s seat, power windows, power locks, remote keyless entry, an alarm system, a seven speaker sound system with subwoofer, Sirius satellite radio, traction control and 18” wheels. All Wranglers now get four wheel disc brakes with ABS, stability control with rollover sensor and hill start assist. They’ve earned a five star rating for frontal impact protection.
So in the end, I came to terms with the 2010 Jeep Wrangler Sahara. I’m not ready to go out and buy one just yet (although my wife is damn close), but I have to say I was more impressed with it than I expected to be. Personally, I’d opt for a less equipped model with the six speed transmission and the hard top, and I’d be ordering parts from the aftermarket as soon as I got back from the dealer (because I can’t stand a blank canvas). If Chrysler drops in a diesel motor, I’d be hard pressed to ignore the Wrangler much longer.