Same as it ever was. The 2021 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited looks and feels just like it always does. That’s not a bad thing. A few nifty tech updates help keep the model competitive, but this is very much an old-fashioned Jeep.
The Unlimited badge refers to the four-door Wrangler. This generation is only a few years old, but it would be hard for all but the most devoted fans to tell the difference. The Wrangler has become a timeless piece of Americana, and it looks as classic as ever.
Compared to its two-door Wrangler sibling, the Wrangler Unlimited gets larger and more accessible rear seats. Leg room expands to a reasonable 38.3 inches in the back, but shoulder room remains limited. Ingress and egress are hampered by the tall ride height, but that’s nothing new.
The Wrangler’s best party trick is still its ability to remove its roof and doors. Who can say no to endless head room?
Capable, but not comfortable. The Wrangler Unlimited isn’t all about looks – it remains a highly capable trail machine, especially in Rubicon trim. We'll leave it to the Jeep fandom to explain the intricacies of sway bars and approach angles, but suffice to say that the Wrangler conquers challenging terrain as well as you’ll find in a mass-market vehicle.
All that capability comes at a cost. The Wrangler’s ladder-frame chassis is less sophisticated than most modern SUVs, and it handles like a truck. The steering has lost the infamous “death wobble” of years past, but it’s twitchy on the highway and uninspiring elsewhere.
As much as we love cruising with the doors off, the cabin does little to spoil passengers. Front seats are comfortable enough, but not as good as Jeep’s other utility vehicles. Fit and finish is so-so, with materials that don’t feel worthy of a $33,290 starting price.
An extra engine. Most Wrangler Unlimited models get the base V6 engine, which is perfectly competent. Especially for off-road use, the turbocharged four-cylinder is a worthwhile upgrade for its readily available torque.
The Wrangler Unlimited gets a third engine option, a 3.0-liter turbodiesel making a hefty 442 pound-feet of torque. It’s excellent – smooth, powerful, and more efficient than either gas engine. Like so many Wrangler options, however, it’s expensive at $4,500.
If you stick with the V6, skip the manual transmission. It gets points for nostalgia, but the throws are long, it’s less efficient, and the eight-speed automatic is a good one.
The much-anticipated Wrangler 4xe will add a plug-in hybrid powertrain with even more torque than the turbodiesel. The debut is scheduled for December, but Jeep hasn’t confirmed many details other than powertrain specs and an electric range of 25 miles. Prices have yet to be announced, but expect them to be high.
Customizable, but costly. From the humble Sport to the lofty Altitude trims, the Wrangler Unlimited covers a huge range of features and prices. The base Sport is almost laughably basic, with hand-crank windows and no air conditioning.
Less laughable is the price, which starts over $33,000 before adding any options. Most buyers will want to bump up to at least the Sport S, which gains a larger standard infotainment system for 2021. The Rubicon’s fearsome off-road ability makes it our favorite rendition, but it costs as much as a BMW X3.
Don’t expect the latest safety tech, either. Automatic emergency braking is optional on all trims except the Sport, where it isn’t available. Crash test and rollover scores are poor for a modern vehicle, which further dings the Wrangler’s viability as an everyday vehicle.
Combined with subpar tech and an expensive options list, all of the above caveats make the Wrangler Unlimited a dubious value. Then again, that’s not what most Wrangler fans come looking for.
Final thoughts. In many practical ways, the 2021 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited doesn’t make sense. It’s less comfortable, less safe, and less of a bargain than many modern SUVs.
For buyers who don’t plan on wandering away from pavement, it may be best to look elsewhere. But the Wrangler keeps its classic looks and removable panels, which will earn it plenty of fans.
The Wrangler has had no direct competitors for many years, but that’s about to change. The Ford Bronco has removable panels of its own, plus better tech and a lower starting price. We suggest that Jeep watch their back.
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