2011 Jeep Wrangler: Introduction
When it comes to convertibles, there are drop-tops and then there are drop-tops, -doors and -windshield. The latter, of course, is referring to the one and only Jeep Wrangler which has become an American icon since it was created during World War II. Marking the milestone of the United States’ involvement in this war which led to the creation of the original Jeep and eventually the entire brand, Jeep is offering all of its 2011 line-up with a commemorative 70th Anniversary Edition. For the Wrangler, this package is only available on the mid-level Sahara trim level, and we recently had the opportunity to drive the 2011 Jeep Wrangler 70th Anniversary Edition for this weeklong road test and review.
Assembled in Toledo, Ohio, the 2011 Jeep Wrangler is on sale now at your local Jeep dealership with a starting MSRP of $22,045. Stepping up to the Sahara 70th Anniversary Edition will start at $29,055 with the particular model for this review having an as-tested price of $31,820. While the idea of a $30,000+ Wrangler (that isn’t a new Rubicon or a mint, unmolested Scrambler) might be surprising at first, this special-edition package comes with plenty of standard and optional features making that price more than acceptable. As Jeep turns 70, this new Anniversary Edition not only celebrates the historic past of Jeep, but it also helps usher in what the future has in store as all of Jeep’s 2011 model year vehicles receive some sort of updates be it major (Grand Cherokee and Compass) or minor (Patriot and Wrangler).
2011 Jeep Wrangler: Exterior
The current Jeep Wrangler has been on the market since 2007, and no major changes were made to its unmistakable styling for 2011. Available only on the Wrangler Sahara, the addition of this 70th Anniversary Edition package does add a more exclusive look for Jeep drivers wanting to be noticed. The majority of changes on this package are noticeable on the inside, but Jeep made sure to spruce up the exterior a little with minimal enhancements like the 18-inch, seven-spoke polished aluminum wheels and large “70th Anniversary” badges on the front fenders (appropriately positioned between the “Trail Rated” and “Wrangler” logos). Jeep offers plenty of exterior colors that accentuate the Wrangler’s heritage including Natural Green and Sahara Tan, but the 70th Anniversary Edition is only offered in Black, Bright Silver and the exclusive Bronze Star Pearl. All Sahara models are distinguishable by the body-colored fender flares, silver front and rear bumper inserts and the standard tubular side steps.
Staying true to the classic design of the Wrangler and the CJ, the latest Wrangler continues to offer features such as removable doors, exposed hood latches and door hinges, a foldable windshield and a removable top. One of the few exterior changes made to the 2011 Jeep Wrangler is the addition of a color-matching hard top, but this test vehicle had the standard soft top. Unlike the three-piece removable hardtop offered on the Wrangler, this soft top makes it much easier to enjoy the open-air driving experience whether in full top-down mode or in a unique sunroof mode that folds back just the front portion of the roof. Dropping the top is easy, but removal of the doors is even easier – just remove the two T45 torx screws that secure each door, lift out of the hinges and you’ll be screaming “look ma, no doors!” in a matter of minutes.
Another minor change made to the 2011 Jeep Wrangler is almost unnoticeable but adds plenty of character with small images designed into the windshield. Jeep took advantage of the black space around the edges of the windshield and added in a pair of graphics: one that depicts the Wrangler’s recognizable headlights and grille at the top center behind the rearview mirror and a silhouette of a vehicle off-roading on the passenger-side lower corner.
While the 70th Anniversary Edition package includes the polished wheels, all Sahara models come standard with (and are the only to offer) the 18-inch wheels which, along with the Bridgestone Dueler A/T tires, give this model the best angles and clearance for off-roading. Important for clearing terrain or obstacles, the Wrangler Sahara offers best-in-class approach, breakover and departure angles of 44.6 degrees, 25.5 degrees and 40.6 degrees, respectively, not to mention minimum ground clearance of more than 10 inches to the axles.
2011 Jeep Wrangler: Interior and Safety
If ever there was a vehicle that should receive a pass for its interior design and materials, it is definitely the go-anywhere, do-anything Jeep Wrangler, but Chrysler has made a strong push to improving its interiors for the 2011 model year and the Wrangler is one of many Chrysler vehicles to get an updated cabin. Everything from the instrument panel to the center console cover was redesigned to make the interior look and feel much better than the previous model year. The new instrument panel now has a much less blocky look softer edges and a center stack that blends in with the rest of the dash. Jeep also included the leather-wrapped, three-spoke steering wheel on the Wrangler and finished off the new cabin with updated door panels, more comfortable seats with new headrests and new shift levers for the transmission and transfer case.
The Sahara trim level already adds luxurious features to the Wrangler including leather seats, silver painted cabin accents and power windows and door locks, but the 70th Anniversary Edition package takes these changes one step further by offering a unique pattern in the seat backs, contrasting stitching on leather surfaces and plush carpeted floor mats. All 2011 Wrangler models commemorate Jeep’s 70th Anniversary in some way with “Jeep” and “Since 1941” carved into the passenger “oh s#*!” grab handle. Of course, there are plenty of add-ons still available on the Wrangler Sahara as evident by the option list of this test vehicle which added a ($1,035) hard-drive based navigation system, $(825) Connectivity Group (which included a USB port, Chrysler’s Uconnect hands-free connectivity and an electronic vehicle information center). Air conditioning is standard on all non-Sport Wranglers for 2011, but this vehicle added automatic temperature control for an extra $155.
Safety has improved dramatically in Wranglers throughout the years, but test results are still what most should expect from a vehicle with removable body parts and a high center of gravity. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has yet to test the Wrangler with its new standards, but it did give the Wrangler a three-star rollover rating. Similarly, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the 2011 Wrangler a “Good” rating for frontal-impact protection, a “Marginal” rating for rear-impact protection and a “Poor” rating for side-impact protection; no roof strength test was performed. Standard safety features for all 2011 Jeep Wrangler models include four airbags, electronic brake-force distribution with brake assist, four-wheel anti-lock disc brake system, tire pressure monitoring system, electronic roll mitigation, traction control and Electronic Stability Control.
2011 Jeep Wrangler: Performance
Ever since Jeep dropped the 4.0-liter inline-six from the Wrangler in 2007, the 3.8-liter V-6 has been the only engine offered in the Wrangler. This engine only produces 202 horsepower and 237 lb-ft of torque, but both are sufficient to motivate Wrangler in both on- and off-road conditions. With recent reports that Jeep will be using the new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 in the Wrangler soon, more power and better fuel economy are surely in the cards down the road. Until this change happens, Wrangler models equipped with an automatic transmission will only offer the antiquated four-speed version giving the Wrangler EPA fuel economy estimates of 15 miles per gallon in the city and 19 mpg on the highway. A six-speed manual is also available, but these numbers remain the same.
Although the Wrangler is designed to take on the worst terrain imaginable, few drivers will ever be able to push it beyond its abilities. With the Sahara’s Command-Trac part-time four-wheel drive system, we couldn’t find any situations where getting stuck was a concern; this included everything from fine, loose sand to thick, heavy mud. While the Wrangler has always come standard with four-wheel drive, one of the best changes to the Unlimited model for 2011 is the deletion of the two-wheel drive option that was previously the base model for the four-door Wrangler. Still, the Wrangler is likely to spend most of its time driving on paved roads, and while Jeep has worked hard to make it a dual-purpose vehicle, it has a rough ride on flat pavement. When it comes to road manners, passenger space and cargo capacity, compromise is the name of the game, but the Jeep Wrangler does not compromise anything when it comes to excelling off road with its solid frame and axles, coil suspension and short wheelbase.
2011 Jeep Wrangler: Summary
After 70 years of going pretty much where ever it wants, Jeep is commemorating one of the world’s most iconic off-road vehicles with the 2011 Jeep Wrangler 70th Anniversary Edition. As automakers continue to focus more of there efforts on maximizing fuel economy in new models, it is refreshing to see that Jeep has kept the focus of the Wrangler on its off-road performance delivering raw, unadulterated fun. There may be few driving pleasures better than cruising with the top down and the doors off, and for that, few cars in the world are able to compete with the Jeep Wrangler. It’s true that the 2011 Jeep Wrangler isn’t for everyone, but for those looking for better fuel economy or a plusher ride, Jeep will gladly show you one of its other four models.
The Jeep Wrangler is still largely a niche vehicle in a class by itself, but buyers looking at rugged mid-size off-road vehicles should also check out the Toyota FJ Cruiser and Nissan Xterra. While it is unclear what the future has in store for off-road vehicles with rising fuel costs and increased attention to preserving land, but the Jeep Wrangler has proven that Americans love the ability to drive just about anywhere in a vehicle that has changed little – in terms of design or purpose – over the last 70 years.
• Improved interior design and materials
• Still one of the most iconic American vehicles
• Rugged go-anywhere, do-anything abilities
• No more 2WD Wrangler models for 2011
• Hard to access rear seats
• Antiquated engine and automatic transmission
• Radio doesn’t shut off right away with doors removed
Jeep provided a vehicle for this road test review. Photos by Jeffrey N. Ross