The Jeep Wrangler is a legend. The 2010 model's part of a line of pure, utilitarian, rough-and-tumble vehicles stretching all the way back to 1941. And that's exactly why you shouldn't buy it. The 2011 Wrangler is that much better.
It's a Wrangler, right? Certainly. All the mechanical bits underneath the 2010 Wrangler remain the same for the 70th 2011 anniversary edition.The only visible change for the outside is the option of a body-colored roof for the top-level Sahara models. So what does the 2011 have over the 2010? An interior you can live in. Gone is the chintzy plastic, hollow, rattly construction, obvious parting lines and non-existent door-side arm rest. In their place you get an interior that looks like it was actually, well, designed.
We spent some time with the newly updated Wrangler today at the Chrysler Tech Center in Auburn Hills and came away quite impressed. In photos, the Wrangler looks like it's gone soft, like someone wedged a gouge-able soft interior into the off-roader, when in reality most of what you see on the dash is still a very hard, very durable plastic. It's thicker, with a coat of soft touch paint to reduce glare, and subjecting it to the patent-pending Jalopnik Knock Test produced a solid, satisfying "thump." Chrysler's actually reduced the total part count to eliminate assembly quality issues and reduce the number of visible parting lines and possibility of plastic flash.
From a use and comfort perspective, a new gauge stack is simple to use and all the buttons have a simple feel. Heating and cooling controls go all-digital rather than cable to improve the action of the buttons. The gear selector and transfer case shifter have a good solid engagement. Elbows will be happier in the 2011 since both the door and center arm rest are softer and the door-side rest is much larger. And for those hardcore off-road enthusiasts who want to know "can I still hose it out?" The answer is anything you could do to the 2010 you can still do to this one.
But then here's the catch. The 2011 Wrangler is a leap-ahead for a mid-cycle refresh, but there's still one glaring deficiency in the vehicle. The 3.8-liter, 202-hp, 237 lb-ft V6 engine. It's tired, and although it gets the job done rock-crawling, it's not so great on the highways. We hear the newly-minted 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 is headed to the Wrangler's engine bay in late '11, early '12, so maybe hold onto those pennies for just a little while longer.
Or you could man up, buy one, and then head over to American Expedition Vehicles and have them shoehorn a Hemi under the hood.