DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: OK, so the Freedom Edition isn’t my cup of tea -- I didn’t even know what Oscar Mike meant until a younger colleague explained it to me. But I have complete faith that Jeep knows its audience, and if some of them want stars and military badging, then Jeep should rightfully sell it to ’em. God knows it makes more sense than the 83 different BMW 3/4-series models that brand is peddling.
Take away the stickers, though, and you’ve got a JK Wrangler here, a vehicle which never fails to impress me in almost every way. While ours wasn’t a rock-ready Rubicon model I have no doubt it could tackle hairier terrain that I would be comfortable driving over, yet it was a perfectly enjoyable companion running errands and even commuting in rush-hour traffic. The Freedom Top’s front panels are incredibly easy to remove and install (less so to stow), and in place they make for a tight, rattle-free drive. Yank ’em off and there’s a targa-esque open-air experience that was just right for our mid-spring/on-and-off showery weekend. The entire Freedom Top comes off with just a handful of Torx bolts and the front doors don’t take much more than that to remove, so your Wrangler can be turned into a summer cruiser with just a half hour and a friend.
The automatic transmission garnered a chorus of groans around here, but again Jeep knows its market and the five-speed slushbox did a perfectly fine job in city and freeway driving. Gas mileage sucks with either transmission, so if you want an automatic Jeep, get one and don’t apologize for it. The Pentastar V6 is plenty powerful to get things moving as long as you remember you’re driving a Jeep, and not one with an SRT badge, either.
One thing I rediscovered during a weekend in the Wrangler was the reason Jeep is selling so many Wrangler Unlimited four-door models. The two-door is small, and the position of the doors makes getting into the back seat difficult even for small kids. The trick double-action passenger seat helps (it slides forward then “leaps” up and forward to provide just a bit more clearance), but the Unlimited is really the one to get if you plan to carry more than one passenger on anything like a regular basis.
The Wrangler makes no sense for 99 percent of buyers, but like them, I’ll keep trying to figure out how to justify buying one. It’s just a ton of fun. Isn’t that enough?
The Oscar Mike badge on the 2014 Jeep Wrangler Freedom Edition is video game military lingo for "on the move."
ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: Since the AMC days, Jeep has always had a thing for special editions. So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by this 2014 Jeep Wrangler Freedom Edition, even if it was one of the more embarrassing things I’ve driven around lately.
Let me be perfectly clear here: I have nothing against the Wrangler itself. I think you should choose your own gears in a Wrangler almost as a matter of principle, but the five-speed (five-speed!) automatic in this vehicle gets along nicely with the Pentastar V6.
We often sing the praises of the ride quality of modern trucks, but I have a feeling the Wrangler retains an old-school feel by design. You do get a bit of bounce when speeding over rough roads, and there’s lean in corners. I didn’t manage to trigger any death wobble, but I speak from experience when I say that JK Wranglers (at least the early ones) aren’t entirely immune.
The shorter wheelbase may contribute, and a Wrangler Unlimited might be more composed, but it’s still a Jeep we’re talking about here. A WWII Army mechanic wouldn’t have any trouble identifying anything on the underside of this brand-new vehicle, and the Jeep fanatics that have built the brand into the centerpiece of the Fiat/Chrysler empire wouldn’t have it any other way.
That’s not to say that the hard plastics in earlier Jeeps couldn’t have used an upgrade. The interior of this Wrangler manages to feel rugged and hard-wearing without coming off as cheap. For better or for worse, the vehicle’s consoles, armrests, panels, etc. look designed rather than bolted together to serve a purpose. Off-roaders may not care either way; they’re probably going to just take the doors off. Everyone else will appreciate the refinement.
But, man, something about that Freedom Edition package got under my skin. With its Air Force roundel decals and Oscar Mike badges (in case you don’t play a lot of Xbox, that’s military lingo, or at least video game military lingo, for “on the move”), it’s worse than the Dragon Edition -- which is so over-the-top tacky that it’s almost cool -- but not quite as bad as the utterly unbelievable Call of Duty: MW3 Edition.
I think it’s pretty clear that someone in the styling department has a huge crush on Captain America, but couldn’t get the licensing rights hammered out. Jeep, have your people get in touch with Marvel’s people. Shameless as a hypothetical full-fledged Star-Spangled Avenger Edition Wrangler might be, there’s nothing worse than a knock-off.
I’m sure a heat gun would do wonders for those decals and “Oscar Mike” badges, though.
The special edition 2014 Jeep Wrangler Freedom Edition includes some love-it or leave-it badges.
EXECUTIVE EDITOR RORY CARROLL: I was a little surprised how much the automatic detracted from my enjoyment of this Jeep. I’d never driven an automatic JK on the street, and it’s probably 50 percent less fun than the manual. Other than that, you have a pretty typical JK driving experience. A little bounce, some jostle and a whole bunch of wallow.
I am, however, pretty uncomfortable with all the G.I. Joe stuff on the Oscar Mike/Freedom Edition. Whenever I drive my Willys, people salute it, thinking it’s a military Jeep. I almost always correct them and explain that it’s a CJ -- civilian Jeep. The Freedom Edition makes me twice as uncomfortable. It’s like being dressed as a soldier for Halloween and running into a WWII vet.
Now, the Dragon Edition Wrangler, that’s something I’d be more than happy to be seen in.
The interior of the 2014 Jeep Wrangler Freedom Edition feels rugged and hard-wearing.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: I’ve decided that the Jeep Wrangler two-door looks better with the top down, and the Wrangler Unlimited four-door model looks better with the top up. There’s something about the proportions, I think.
I was never really a fan of Jeeps, but I understand why loads of people like them, and I’m glad they’re still being built. I did a few days of off-roading a few years ago, and it was way more fun than I expected. Unfortunately, I found no opportunities for dirt in my two days with this 2014 Jeep Wrangler Freedom Edition.
On the road, the Jeep feels very trucky. I noticed my head wobbling back and forth every time I drove over a bump. It kind of jumps around a little, too, when hitting bumps at speed. Steering is super light on center. I felt like there was about three inches of play in the middle, before it started to turn.
Acceleration is great from the V6. I really feel bad for all those Jeep guys who dealt with the Iron Duke four banger for so long because this one jumps off the line. It does get a little noisy, especially on the expressway when you stomp on it. I’m sure Jeepsters are used to that. The five-speed automatic is fine, but I’d love to test out a manual, in the dust, on the mountains.
So, there are a few things that annoy me. The doors are superlight, which I like, but they never close with one swing, you have to slam those suckers. I also despise the window controls in the middle. Some Saturn vehicles had that, it took me two years to get used to and then another two to unlearn it. The car also has no dead pedal. I know that’s less of a big deal with an automatic, but I feel like my left foot has no where to go.
The Oscar Mike badge doesn’t bother me; I don’t really think people would confuse this new blue Jeep with anything from the military.
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