Test Drive: 2013 Jeep Wrangler Sahara Unlimited car test drives reviews jeep
2013 Jeep Wrangler Sahara Unlimited. Click image to enlarge

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Jeep Canada

Review and photos by Peter Bleakney

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2013 Jeep Wrangler Sahara Unlimited

On the face of it, a Jeep Wrangler doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. At least when used for the daily motoring grind, which is where the majority of these cubist four-wheelers spend most of their time.

But don’t get me wrong. I respect this legend and completely get the appeal. The Wrangler is the anti-car. Its knobby tires gleefully flick mud in the face of automotive convention.

The exposed-hinged doors clack shut like a vintage fridge, yet swing wild and free when open – no detents here. Why? Because this is a Lego car. The doors come off. The roof comes off. There’s a folded fabric top ready to go under all this that blocks me from putting anything of size in through the back door. Even my dog is confounded. Completely nuts. Yet how can you not love a vehicle that’s meant to come to pieces?

The Wrangler bobs and pitches down the road – you’re well aware of those live axles and the all-wheel-drive hardware beneath. It’s charmingly clumsy yet highly maneuverable. If I dare mention the “H” word (handling), I’d be missing the point completely. Off-road prowess is priority number-one, and with that purity of purpose comes compromise.

As such, the Wrangler has little concern for most things every other car sweats out in great detail like wind cheating aerodynamics, cabin ergonomics, NVH… all that boring stuff. It is literally a square peg in a round hole – form follows function.

To be fair, the modern Wrangler is hardly the penalty box of yore. It has undergone some under-skin transformations of late that have markedly improved its day-to-day drivability and fuel economy.

Test Drive: 2013 Jeep Wrangler Sahara Unlimited car test drives reviews jeep Test Drive: 2013 Jeep Wrangler Sahara Unlimited car test drives reviews jeep Test Drive: 2013 Jeep Wrangler Sahara Unlimited car test drives reviews jeep Test Drive: 2013 Jeep Wrangler Sahara Unlimited car test drives reviews jeep
2013 Jeep Wrangler Sahara Unlimited. Click image to enlarge

For 2011 the Wrangler got a new interior and an accompanying whack of sound insulation. Last year the ancient 202-hp 3.8L V6 was hoofed for Chrysler’s award-winning 3.6L DOHC Pentastar V6, here making 285 hp and 260 lb-ft. A five-speed auto replaced the four-speed. A six-speed manual is standard.

Noise levels are such that conversations within the cabin no longer require megaphones.

Is the Wrangler a hot-rod with this mill? Not really. It’s gone from dead slow to moderately quick, yet the overriding feel is more ponderous than perky. In this application the V6 is reluctant to rev… maybe because of the long throttle travel calibrated to mete out power in small increments for off-road crawling. It’s all in keeping with the Wrangler ethos.

Most modern vehicles do a marvelous job of disguising their speed. The Wrangler amplifies it. A steady 100 km/h feels like 120. I was definitely in the slow lane for most of the week.

The interior may be new, but it is still a blocky and functional affair. The controls are glove friendly and a big grab bar in front of the passenger portents potential pitching. Don’t know if you’d want to train a hose on this interior, but there are drain plugs in the foot wells nonetheless.

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