The Jeep Wrangler was first introduced in 1987 and since that time has been a staple of the American automotive landscape. The Wrangler drew its inspiration from WWII-era Jeep (which hit the street under the name “Willy’s Jeep”) and hasn’t changed its styling much in the past 22 years. In 2007, Chrysler introduced the Jeep Unlimited, a four-door option, and the Wrangler experienced a resurgence of popularity.
A lot has changed since 1987. Whereas the original Wrangler was one of the few bona-fide off-road 4x4s that could be found on the road, there is now a wide variety of SUVs available in the market in a range of trim options, all competing for the same drivers. The introduction of the four-door Unlimited certainly helped Jeep along, with the model proving so popular that they actually had to create a waiting list so that the factory could catch up with demand. But, with Chrysler recently emerging from bankruptcy, they need the popular Jeep models more than ever. Does the 2009 Jeep Unlimited stack up? Yes, it does.
The Rubicon package, available on both the two-door and four-door Wranglers, denotes a tougher off-road treatment. Most of the standard Wranglers on the road are more tuned towards ride comfort for the streets, but the Rubicon models retain the original outdoors spirit. The new Unlimited Rubicon retains the iconic styling and adds in some practicality to the mix.
The stretched body of the Wrangler Unlimited models allows you to have the style of a Wrangler with the practicality of the company’s Cherokee SUVs. The back seats aren’t incredibly spacious, and a large adult would be start to complain loudly if stuck back there for over 45 minutes, but this is fine for carting around the kids.
The Unlimited Rubicon can handle any sort of terrain you throw at it, as well. Snow? No problem. Mud? Piece of cake. Road? Well, that’s where it gets a little tricky. The type of suspension you need to handle off-roading doesn’t translate that well to a comfortable street experience, and the big, knobby tires don’t exactly glide along the freeway. Also, the Wrangler is still equipped with a four-speed automatic transmission that kills the gas mileage when going fast. Hopefully the reborn Chrysler will be able to develop a five- or six-speed automatic transmission, with the higher gears tweaked for better, more efficient highway cruising. Unless you absolutely hate clutches, go for the six-speed manual. You’ll thank yourself at the pump.
The interior is about what you’d expect from a Wrangler: utilitarian. Don’t expect plush seats and extravagant comfort; that’s not what a Wrangler is all about. When it comes down to it, though, if you don’t know what a Wrangler is all about, and your not excited about it, then it’s not the car for you. There are other, more luxurious (and cheaper) SUVs out there for you. If you’re a Jeep-head, though, then rejoice. The 2009 Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon has everything you’d expect from a classic off-roading Jeep, plus two extra doors.