Exterior Appearance *****
Plato was interested in ideal forms. Your eyes are round, he taught, because somewhere there exists a perfect circle. May I present to you the archetypal SUV. In fact, the 2007 Wrangler is so perfectly formed, I can't even imagine how, say, a 2013 model can be made to look any better. (An extra gas can hanging off the back? Shovels mounted below the doors? Naw, too busy.) Luckily, and assuming DCX survives the new year, they'll have the better part of a decade to figure it out.
Interior Appearance ****
Jeep has a huge advantage here. Compared to other 'merican-side DCX products, buyers expect the interior to be cheap and hard. Just by adding a minimum of aesthetically minded ergonomics, designers made the Wrangler feel classier than it is. (It's like eating at Black Angus instead of Applebee's.) However, like the vehicle itself, the parts you touch the most have a reassuring solidity. The steering wheel, column stalks, door pulls and "oh shit!" bar all feel rugged. And nothing inspires more confidence than reaching up and grabbing a fist full of roll bar. Why not five stars? Ask a short female friend in heels to climb aboard. Want more laughs? Tell her to get in the back.
I'm giving it two stars because the Wrangler exists in the form of a painfully slow vehicle; zero-to-60 times are best left unmentioned. Relatively speaking, it deserves four stars, just because putting pedal to metal is such a hoot. The Jeep rears back on its haunches and the engine snorts — a horse-and-buggy experience that makes you think you're doing something quite dangerous, which you probably are.
Back to our general theory of relativity here. For an open-top Jeep, the new Wrangler's ride is superb. Compared to other SUVs with fully independent suspension setups, not so much. As the Rubicon is still a top-heavy, body-on-frame type affair — and you are longer than the wheelbase — the ride is fairly crude. There is a big however, however. There is a particularly brutal set of expansion joints near Dodger Stadium that I use to evaluate a vehicle's ride. In the Shelby GT500 traversing these road imperfections was miserable, highlighting just how primitive the ber-Mustang was underneath all the bluster. In the Wrangler, the ride is so ignoble that it seemed to leap from joint to joint. Imagine your favorite wooden roller coaster. You're driving it.
Handling (On-Road) *** (Off-Road) *****
Shockingly, bombing about town in this little Jeep is a blast. Credit the puny wheelbase and rear-wheel drive. Still, a belly-button-high center of gravity and an arm span between the wheels is the recipe for a rollover at high speeds. At low speed, and especially when lug-nut deep in the muck and mire, the Wrangler is magical. Pointing sideways on an especially challenging slope, I turned the wheel to the right as far as possible. The Jeep was beginning to slide in the mud and, considering I was at a 40-degree angle, I was convinced I'd soon be laying the poor thing on its door. I quickly hopped off the brake and, ever so slightly, gave her some gas. Miraculously, though predictably, the tires bit and the Wrangler continued down the hill. Amazing.
We wish our tester had come with the six-speed manual instead of the mileage-sapping, old-school four-speed slush box (an $825 option). Still, the tranny performed well, holding gears to around 85% of redline (6000 rpm). And it never hunted for a gear, unlike some DCX products (I'm looking at you, Sebring). Considering we averaged a pretty pitiful 16.5 mpg, a fifth (or sixth) gear is badly needed.
You know my rule — Howard Stern on Sirius makes me happy. And even though the Wrangler's Freedom Top features removable panels, wind noise never interfered with the lesbians. The rear part of the removable top even had speakers. Thankfully, unseasonable weather kept me from trying to lift it off. You can plug your iPod in, too.
First the clich ; The Wrangler Rubicon is a toy! Second, the Freedom Top, with its individually removable T-panels, is devastatingly cool. At a stoplight, the driver or passenger can remove their particular panel and throw it in the back seat. And since there are no electronics to worry about, you can do so while moving (though not recommended). Plus, the Rubicon has all that great off-road kit and the doors come off and the windshield folds down. Good times.
Not so much. With the rear seat in place, the T-tops will not fit in the back. Folding the rear lets you stow the tops, but it also continually bounces back and forth, smashing into whatever you do manage to shoehorn in the back. If four people go camping, they will need to cart their gear in another Jeep. There is a tiny mini-truck under the bed for loose junk. Ahem, tiny.
Our every option checked tester showed up with a $31,110 sticker. Which is a lot of money for a bouncy, poorly insulted truck. That said, the capability you get is essentially unparalleled, and the power windows and door locks are worth the stretch.
A joy of a vehicle. On road the 2007 Wrangler is refined (for what it is), comfortable and great looking. Off road, this cute little guy transforms into the bully of the sandbox. The mileage could be better and the heater could be stronger and the top speed could be higher, but I'm nitpicking. If I could afford two cars, I'd buy one.
Jalopnik Reviews: 2007 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Part 1 [internal]