First drive review 2017 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon: Going old school never felt so good



My local chain grocery store now delivers; not only that but will do so within thirty minutes of you ordering. If the grocery store doesn’t have it, Amazon Prime will deliver many items on the same day that you order. And if your office, like mine, is next door to the regional Amazon warehouse, they’ll even have a cheerful Amazon employee walk your order over to you; a 20-something male hipster with tattoos, skinny jeans and man-bun who thanks you not only for your order but for the chance to ‘get out of the office for a bit.’

That youthful Amazon-employed hipster probably drives some sort of hybrid, or plug-in, to get work. He will no doubt be the first in line to get a self-driving car.

These days the talk in the automotive world is all about these autonomous cars; self-driving machines that require we do very little, if anything, in the way of actual driving. Most don’t even have anything in the way of knobs or controls; instead we simply tell it what we want, “Car: turn the radio on”, “It’s too cold in here, turn off the air”.

All of this combines to make us American’s even more lazy, and fatter, then we already are. Obesity will continue to be an issue as long as we have to do very little, and can get a bag of Doritos delivered by a drone an hour after we order them.

One can envision a time when we rarely, if ever, need to venture from home. After all, we don’t need to go to the grocery store, or anywhere else to get what we need to survive.  Evolution might have humans of the future who have morphed into fat nearly legless blobs. Creatures whose eyes must be shut from the blinding sunshine when we leave the confines of our home. We waddle out to the self-driving car, there to be gently lifted into place for a ride somewhere (“kids, I remember when we left the house EVERY DAY, not just once every three years!”).

Even those cars that don’t drive themselves are guilty of becoming too soft it seems.  Massaging, heated, seats, lane departure warnings, blind spot monitoring, front end collision avoidance. And with all the safety innovations, which are good things, there are enough airbags now to wrap you up like a marshmallow if you do get in an accident.

These too add to our laziness. After all, if your car is going to stop on its own should someone stop in front of you, why pay attention? Answer that text, it’s okay.   Don’t worry, if you do get in an accident, all those airbags will swaddle you like baby Jesus in a manger.

All this is why I thank the automotive gods for the Jeep Wrangler. Because sometimes some of us don’t want to be coddled, have our hand held, or ride “wrapped in luxurious comfort” while getting a massage.

The Wrangler is a bulldog. You want to be coddled? Go elsewhere. You want to drive, pay attention to the road, and maybe go off it once in a while? Well, here you go.

All this was reinforced when FCA delivered me a 2017 Wrangler Unlimited for a recent week.  There’s very little in the way of anything remotely resembling luxury. Sure, you can take the top off, but there is no button to push, and it will take a bit longer than 30 seconds.

That’s all just fine with me. Because this most iconic of American off-road vehicles shows how driving used to be, and in my opinion at least, should be again.

The Jeep Wrangler comes either two-door, or as the four door, five passenger Wrangler Unlimited.  There are three levels, Sport, Sahara and Rubicon.  There are several special models based on those levels and a vinyl convertible roof is standard on both. A hardtop with easily removable panels above the front seats is available.

The base Sport has very little in the way of any real “comfort” items. There’s a fold-down front windshield, metal doors with good old fashioned window cranks, cloth upholstery, a height adjustable driver’s seat, and a title only steering wheel.  The tires are dual purpose, on or off road, and there’s skid plates, tow hooks and fog lights. The doors are removable, and there is cruise control and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack. If you opt for the Unlimited you’ll get a bigger gas tank and AC.



Yes, you can add power windows and locks, keyless entry, heated power mirrors, a security alarm and an auto-dimming mirror with the Power Convenience group. Or add on to that remote start and heated seats with the Cold Weather package.  You can also add 17-inch wheels (up from 16) and AC for the two door. And if you insist a leather wrapped steering wheel can be ordered.

With the Sahara, all the Power Convenience items are standard as are 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic LED headlights, LED fog lights, along with some more trim and body panels.  There’s also some insulation under the hood, AC, the leather-wrapped steering wheel and satellite radio.  The only thing different on the Unlimited are tubular side steps and grab handles for rear passengers.

The Rubicon, the model I had for the week, is more off road orientated and mechanical.  It has special tires for the 17-inch alloy wheels, a heavy-duty Dana 44 front axle which matches the rear, shorter 4.10 axle gearing (standard with the manual transmission; optional with the automatic), an upgraded transfer case with a lower crawl ratio, electronic front and rear locking differentials, an electronically disconnecting front sway bar, rock rails, automatic LED headlamps and the under-hood insulation.  There’s also AC standard, a 115-volt outlet and satellite radio and a leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel. The Power Convenience Group is optional on the Rubicon, but standard on the four-door Rubicon Unlimited.

The limited-slip rear differential is an available option on the Sport and Sahara. The Sahara and Rubicon can option in automatic climate control and leather upholstery bundled with heated front seats.

For every model, you can option in a nine-speaker Alpine sound system and the Connectivity Group, with an upgraded version of the Uconnect 430 touchscreen.

As mentioned, there are a several special edition packages.  My tester for the week was the Rubicon Unlimited Hard Rock with black 17-inch wheels and exterior trim, winch-ready steel bumpers, a Power Dome hood, red tow hooks, upgraded rock rails, black leather upholstery, heated seats, the Alpine sound system and special badging.

Every 2017 Jeep Wrangler has a 3.6-liter V6 powerplant under the hood delivering 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Four-wheel drive is standard and includes high- and low-range gearing. The Rubicon has unique short gearing and an upgraded transfer case with an extra-low crawl ratio. A six-speed manual transmission with hill start assist is standard, while a five-speed automatic with both hill start assist and hill descent control is optional. Towing can be done, but the Unlimited is limited to 3500 pounds.

Besides the overall exterior look, one of the many things I like about the interior is its sparseness. There is very little form and simple functions.

One of the other things I liked was the drive. Like a truck of steroids, the Jeep isn’t really smooth on the road, nor is it quiet in the cabin, although not annoyingly so.  You’ll have to actually pay attention when driving, expect a little bit rougher ride, but know that there will be very little you can’t do with the Wrangler.

I loved every single minute of my week with it.

If you’re looking for a daily driver that will be smooth on the roads with a quiet cabin, the Wrangler probably isn’t for you.  However, if you want a vehicle that can do just about anything on, or off, road, there is very little that will get in the way of a Jeep Wrangler.

Owning one will be a great excuse to get out of the house and do something in the great outdoors. Anything better than waiting for your groceries to be delivered.

The 2017 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited (Hard Rock Edition)

MSRP: $37,445
MSRP (as tested): $47,620
Engine: 3.6 liter V-6, 285 horsepower @6400 rpms, 260 ft-lb torque @4800 rpm
Fuel Mileage (EPA): 16 city, 20 highway, 18 combined
Fuel Mileage (as tested): 19 mpg
Transmission (as tested): 5-speed automatic w/overdrive
Curb Weight: 4522.00 lbs
Maximum Payload Capacity: 1178.00

Interior Dimensions (in)
Passenger Capacity:  5 adults
Front Head Room: 41.3
Front Leg Room: 41
Front Shoulder Room: 55.8
Front Hip Room: 55.6
Second Head Room: 40.4
Second Leg Room: 37.2
Second Shoulder Room: 56.8
Second Hip Room: 56.7

Dead Weight Hitch – Max Trailer Wt.     3500
Dead Weight Hitch – Max Tongue Wt.     350
Wt Distributing Hitch – Max Trailer Wt.     3500
Wt Distributing Hitch – Max Tongue Wt.     350
Maximum Trailering Capacity     3500

Exterior Dimensions (in)
Wheelbase: 116
Length, Overall: 184.9
Width, Max w/o mirrors: 73.7
Height, Overall: 72.6
Track Width, Front: 61.9
Track Width, Rear: 61.9
Min Ground Clearance: 10.1
Cargo Area Dimensions
Cargo Volume to Seat 1     70.6
Cargo Volume to Seat 2     31.5
Cargo Volume to Seat 3     31.5

Basic: 3 Years/36,000 Miles
Drivetrain: 5 Years/60,000 Miles
Corrosion: 5 Years/Unlimited Miles
Roadside Assistance: 5 Years/60,000 Miles

All specs can be found here.

Greg Engle