Slipping behind the wheel of a 2014 Jeep Wrangler is like sitting down to a home-cooked meal after a year away at college. The basic recipe is the same as it has always been, but there are changes here and there that stick out to the trained eye. Even though Jeep updates and domesticates the Wrangler a little bit more each year, making it more like a normal car and less like a crude off-roader, it's still the same old Jeep we've loved for (literally) decades.
What is it about the Jeep Wrangler that appeals to nearly 15,000 shoppers each month? It's knowing that even if the wildest driving you ever do is cutting across an empty field in your subdivision -- not that we'd ever try that -- the Jeep could help you venture nearly anywhere. It reminds you of the quintessentially American idea of self-determination and independence: Where sports cars wince at the thought of speed bumps, Wrangler drivers look at every berm and boulder thinking, “Hey, I bet I could drive over that.”
This particular Wrangler, with the $5,700 Willys Wheeler pack, even has graphics, rock rails, and black trim to recall the original, hardy Willys-Overland that helped liberate Normandy. It's a bit excessive for driving to Trader Joe's, but we smile as we spy the Amp'd yellow paint and gloss-black wheels among a sea of silver crossovers.
There are reminders the Jeep Wrangler is a decades-old vehicle, and we're not just talking about the exposed fasteners and zip-off rear windows. Chrysler's usually excellent Pentastar V-6 strains when saddled with 4,100 pounds and an ancient five-speed automatic, and the BFGoodrich Mud Terrain tires roar and wander on the highway. So what? Those are the sacrifices you make when you choose such a rough-and-tumble vehicle. If you want on-road sophistication, look to the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee in the Jeep showroom.
Yes, it has evolved with the times -- our tester had Bluetooth, navigation, and keyless entry -- but the Jeep Wrangler is still at heart an old-school SUV that laughs at crossovers unable to ford the tiniest of streams. The Jeep Wrangler is a rolling anachronism, and that's just how we like it.
2014 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Willys Wheeler Specifications
Price as tested:$34,880
Engine:3.6-liter DOHC 24-valve V-6/285 hp @ 6,400 rpm, 260 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm
Layout:4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, 4WD SUV
EPA Mileage:16/20/18 mpg (city/highway/combined)
L x W x H:173.4 x 73.7 x 70.9 in
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