2013 Jeep Wrangler Sahara

…Which, unless your drive into work takes you across the equivalent of the Rubicon Trail, is insane.  As my buddy Alton Brown would say, the Wrangler is a uni-tasker.  It was built with one purpose in mind and that isn’t going to the grocery store.  Sure, the folks at Jeep have consistently added more creature comforts over the Wrangler’s history, a nameplate that dates back to 1987 with fundamentals derived from the 1940’s, but still in all, if you’re looking for a do it all, modern, utilitarian SUV this isn’t it. 

            I’ve driven a number of these Jeeps over the years and I was reminded once again this week why the 4-door Wrangler Unlimited model has become so popular.  This 2-door Sahara ranks third in the 4 model Wrangler lineup just below the Rubicon and adds some cosmetic and convenience features over the lesser Sport trims.  It has the optional, new Premium Sunrider Soft Top designed to be easier to clean, easier to fasten and reduce interior noise. Consisting of three layers of upscale materials, it’s sort of like having a sunroof for the soft top.  So there’s a removable top, removable doors and a windshield that folds down offering the best open-air driving experience this side of a motorcycle.  Jeep says it lets you get even closer to nature.  And of course, it’s that setting where the Wrangler is most at peace.  If they call the 4-door Wrangler ‘Unlimited’ they might want to call this model extremely limited. The back seats are nearly impossible to access, ditto for the tiny cargo area that’s partially obscured by the soft top and though the rear seat folds down it’s still very much in the way.  Putting anything or anybody inside is a royal pain. 

            But ergonomics and flexibility are not how the Wrangler built its reputation.  It’s short wheelbase, excellent ground clearance and 40+ degree approach and departure angles are the foundation for its legendary capability.  My tester matches the Wrangler’s only engine, Chrysler’s 3.6-liter 285-horsepower V6 to the optional 5-speed automatic working thorough Jeep’s  Command-Trac Shift-on-the-Fly part-time 4-wheel drive system.  Bridgestone’s excellent all-terrain 18” Dueler tires are standard and are mounted on Sahara-specific sparkle silver painted wheels with the Wrangler image.

            The powerful new engine is a great addition and gives the Wrangler that added shot of adrenaline making it feel downright quick.  Its 260 pound feet of torque is distributed to the 3.21 rear axle with the optional anti-spin differential.  And when it’s time to lock the front and rear wheels together you pull this lever down for 4 high and a notch further for 4 low.  Hill decent control is bundled with the automatic transmission for easier crawling on a steep downgrade.  Though the Rubicon model adds the hardcore off-road gear the ardent enthusiast will want, the Sahara is no slouch and loved driving through the ice and snow during my test week.  Everything about the Wrangler, including the otherwise brutal ride quality and the sloppiest steering you’ll find, just feels better when you’re off-roading. This is its element and it’s most happy here.

             Base price is $28,790 and with addition of the connectivity group, remote start, the very good UConnect navi unit and the aforementioned mechanical upgrades MSRP is $32,790.  The Wrangler is as single-minded as any vehicle there is and its passionate owners likely wouldn’t want it any other way. 

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