The 2017 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara is not for everyone — it might be for you if you off-road frequently, like a hard ride or are under 35. None of those describes me, yet I like this machine, even if it is a throwback.
The Wrangler’s exterior has evolved cautiously over the past 75 years — the exception being my Unlimited four-door Sahara tester. It came with Power Convenience Group items, 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic LED headlights, LED fog lights, additional painted body panels/trim (including removable Freedom Top and panels) and tubular side steps. Removable doors: check. Removable roof: check. Fold-down windshield: check.
Under the flat, long hood resides a 3.6-liter V-6 engine producing 260 pound-feet of torque. “Old school” again is the term as the engine is hooked to a five-speed automatic, but my test vehicle did feature hill start assist and hill descent control (both are options). Fuel economy is not a strong point, but this combination allows Wrangler Unlimited to tow up to 3,500 pounds.
Like the overall design of the two-door Wrangler, the Unlimited’s interior is basic and easy to clean. A guy up the street parks his Unlimited in the drive with the top off all year. Controls are well positioned, but layout and amenities feel a generation old, particularly a tiny navigation screen and no back-up camera available. Major options included air, leather steering wheel, satellite radio and power windows/locks. OK, squeezing four adults in Unlimited’s back seat is tough; five means unhappy campers. Cargo space isn’t great either, as Unlimited provides 31.5 cubic feet of space behind the back seat and improves to 70.6 cubic feet with seats folded.
On road, it’s a short story. My Unlimited was not quick; the steering was vague; you feel every jarring, bouncy bump; and body roll is very pronounced.
Off-road is where the body-on-frame Wrangler is unmatched. My tester had the Trac-Lok differential, on/off-road tires, skid plates and tow hooks. The live-axle, link coil front and rear suspensions, which magnify every pavement irregularity, are fantastic off-road. For overall drivability, go with a 3:73 “Mama Bear” axle ratio for better torque mapping over tough obstacles. Wrangler’s approach and departure angles are 41.7 and 31.8 degrees respectively, and minimum ground clearance is 9.7 inches.
I’ve crawled up house-sized rocks on the unforgiving Rubicon Trail and participated in Jeep Jamborees driving a stock Unlimited on trails designed for modified Jeeps. So, if you’re going to do some real off-roading, the 2017 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4×4 is the one to go with. If you want comfort and amenities, go for a Grand Cherokee.
All 2017 Wranglers come with anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control and front airbags. Front side airbags are options.
So, even with all its faults, I’d take a tricked-out Wrangler. A big bonus is that Wranglers retain their value much better than average, even after years of ownership.