Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book
KBB.com 2001 Jeep Wrangler Overview
Conceptually, the open air Jeep has remained unchanged since its introduction as the legendary CJ. The CJ-and its direct descendent the Wrangler-offered the public a versatile, tough, hard-riding vehicle that made no apologies for its lack of refinement or passenger comfort. It succeeded because it personified everything Americans loved about being American: it was individual, free to roam, rough around the edges, but ultimately loveable just the same.
Today's Wrangler has seen some softening in both its ride characteristics and utilitarian interior. From the outside, the Wrangler is unmistakably Jeep. Its boxy body, tubular roll cage, vertical-slat grille and round headlamps continue to attract buyers-especially the young at heart who love the open-air cab and knowledge they can go off-road at any time. Whether they ever actually go off-road is irrelevant. The Wrangler announces to all that its owner is a pioneer, an adventurer and a rebel. Available as a two-door model only, the Wrangler is unique in its ability to convert from hardtop to convertible. This process requires the removal of 8 bolts, two pretty muscular individuals to lift the top off-and store it-and the patience of a saint. Still, for those that use the Wrangler as their primary vehicle, the optional hardtop is well worth the extra effort, especially in the winter months.
The Wrangler is offered in three trim levels. The base SE comes standard with a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine producing 120-horsepower and 5-speed-manual transmission. It can be upgraded to include the hardtop/soft-top option, automatic transmission and air conditioning. If you desire more power, you will have to step up to the Sport model. The Sport comes standard with Jeep's 4.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine, producing 190-horsepower, a 5-speed manual, a lower axle ratio, a larger clutch and upgraded tires and wheels. The top-of-the line Sahara includes all the SE features plus fog lights, special cloth seats, upgraded stereo, custom wheels and air conditioning. All models come with dual-front-passenger airbags and three-point belts for all four seating positions.
On the road, the ride and handling of the Wrangler still lags far behind that of its car-based counterparts. But since the introduction of the coil-spring front suspension in 1997, long trips in the Wrangler are now at least tolerable. Soft-top models have new cloth tops that cut outside wind and road noise by 2 decibels over previous versions and the upgraded seats and stereo systems go a long way toward civilizing the cabin. Storage space behind the folding rear seat is sparse and unsecured in the soft-top versions. Jeep does offer an optional add-a-trunk metal box that bolts in behind the rear seat and can be locked. But again, the space is limited to little more than a pair of roller blades and a few daypacks. Removing the rear seat does provide more cargo area, but with the top down, drivers will want to either secure their gear with rope or buy the optional tonneau cover. If you think all this sounds like a lot of work, you're right. If you have a place to store the top, we think the hardtop/soft-top option provides the best of both worlds and is worth the extra cash.
The standard 4-cylinder engine provides plenty of torque for 4-wheel drive adventures, but on the highway, it struggles to keep the aerodynamically unfriendly Jeep at speeds over 70 mph. Throw in a high-altitude-freeway climb and the base Wrangler is immediately relegated to the far right lane. If you can afford to step up, the 4.0-liter is the better choice for every day driving. It has more than enough power and the difference in fuel mileage between it and the 4-cylinder is nominal (19/20 mpg for the four vs. 16/19 for the six). One advantage to retaining the 4-cylinder is the better front-to-rear weight ratio it provides the Wrangler. The little 2.5-liter engine takes up only half of the engine bay, and is tucked up close to the rear firewall. In sharp contrast, the longer and heavier 4.0-liter runs right up to the front grille and definitely places the bulk of the Wranglers weight squarely over the front end. Having a well-balanced vehicle is particularly important when traversing narrow ledges and straddling boulders. You don't want the front end to be so heavy that it pulls you down nose-first like a lead sinker. On the highway, drivers will need to remember that the Wrangler's high center of gravity and relatively short wheelbase means that sharp turn-ins, even at moderate speeds, can easily unsettle the Wranglers composure, as well as its occupants'.
While there are safer, cheaper, more comfortable and more fuel-efficient vehicles on the market, none of them can equal the mystique of the Wrangler. When you buy a Jeep, especially a Wrangler, you unknowingly become part of a very big family filled with off-road enthusiasts and open-air lovers. Wrangler owners are infamous for waving to each other as they pass, stopping to help fellow Wranglers in need of assistance and, of course, fawning over their vehicles at the local car wash. Few vehicles today can claim such a loyal following, which speaks volumes about the Wrangler and the people who buy it.