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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2002 Jeep Wrangler Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2002 Jeep Wrangler Overview

Like Nothing Else On (or Off) the Road

If you are looking into buying a Jeep Wrangler, you know that no amount of criticism about the rough ride and noisy interior will make even the slightest dent in your resolve; we know it too. We understand that the Wrangler still has the power to make you feel young again and that the thought of driving top-down, wind-in-your-hair and heading for the beach, is overpowering to the left side of your brain. That's OK too, because the Wrangler really does provide affordable off-road fun that can double as a semi-comfortable daily driver, and for most Wrangler owners, that's exactly how they use their Jeep.

If you buy a Wrangler, the first thing you should know is that you automatically become part of a secret unofficial club comprised of fellow CJ and Wrangler owners. You'll know you've become a member when you receive your first initiation wave, usually delivered on a lightly-traveled two-lane road when passing another Jeep. Waves, smiles, thumbs-up; its like being the modern day equivalent of Peter Fonda in Easy Rider. Jeep owners are a loyal bunch and they stick together, especially when it comes to off-roading.

The Wrangler is a simple vehicle. It is basically a body-on-frame truck, heavy on the frame and light on the body; in other words, there is not much sheet metal used in making a Wrangler. The passenger compartment is covered by a canvas soft top that overlays a series of tubular roll bars. The bars are completely padded to avoid knocking yourself silly when off-roading. On X and SE models, the doors are little more than half-doors with attachable panels that feature zippered plastic windows. This set-up works fine in the summer months when you can just leave the panels off, but for year-round driving, the zippered plastic windows get old fast. We strongly recommended you look into the hard top option. If you have a place to store the top, this really is a worthwhile expenditure. The hard top comes with a full-size set of steel doors complete with roll-down glass windows. When the weather is warm outside, the hardtop can be replaced by the canvas soft top, which fits snuggly around the full-sized doors. We think this is the best configuration for the Jeep Wrangler, giving it the open-air benefits of the convertible with the car-like convenience of a standard operating door. If you don't have a place to store the hard top shell, you can still get the full steel doors with the convertible top; they are standard on the Sport and Sahara editions and optional on the SE model.

Underneath the Wrangler hosts a rugged suspension and a proven 4-wheel drive system that is the model of simplicity. Off-roaders love Wranglers because they are easy to work on and modify, as evidenced by the mass of heavily reworked Wranglers that partake in the annual Jeep Rubicon Trail ride—another advantage of being in the Jeep club. The Wrangler uses Jeep's CommandTrac 4-wheel drive system that employs a high/low range transfer case and shift-on-the-fly engagement. Unlike all-wheel-drive, this system cannot be used during ordinary driving and is intended only for off-road use or when road conditions become extremely slippery and the vehicle's speed remains below 50 mph. Since most people don't need all-wheel-drive during their everyday commutes, you probably won't mind and you'll save a bit on fuel by not having the engine drive an extra set of wheels. When you do take your Wrangler off road, you will experience a tenacious off-road vehicle with the ability to climb over just about anything it encounters.

Two engine options exist for the Wrangler; a 2.5-liter four-cylinder and 4.0-liter inline- six. Both engines have their advantages and disadvantages. At 120 horsepower, the 2.5-liter is obviously not as powerful as the 190-horsepower 4.0. The smaller 4-cylinder does have to struggle to move the Wrangler's brick-like body through the air and up steep grades, a fact that becomes especially noticeable when climbing elevations over 3000 feet. On the other hand, the 2.5-liter has lots of low-end torque, which is perfect for off-roading; it is also much lighter and sits further back in the engine bay than the long inline six. This means that the 4-cylinder Wrangler is less front-end heavy and therefore exhibits better front/rear balance when off-road. For everyday urban use as well as for towing, the more powerful 4.0-liter is the engine of choice for most drivers. It provides excellent low-end torque and elevates the Wrangler's lane status from the far right to the far left.

Inside, you'll find Jeep's recent makeover of the Wrangler's interior to be a welcome sight. Old CJs and early Wranglers were notoriously spartan, with exposed metal panels, no insulation and uncomfortable seats. The new Wrangler is much more sophisticated and features soft-foam adjustable bucket seats, more plastic interior panels, dual front airbags and a full gauge package including tachometer. Options include air conditioning, premium audio with CD player, roll-bar-mounted speakers, cruise control and tilt wheel. Jeep also offers a cool lockbox that bolts in behind the rear seat, so you can secure your valuables when the top is down.

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