It is what it is, and if you want something like this, the only thing like this is only this. This, of course, is the Jeep Wrangler. That borders dangerously close to Jeep’s “There’s Only One” advertising slogan, but on the other hand, Jeep has cornered the market on, well, Jeep.
And in a world where solid SUVs become cushy crossovers, the Jeep Wrangler remains the Jeep Wrangler, the only road-legal vehicle available in the U.S. designed so its doors can be removed.
We borrowed a 2013 Jeep Wrangler Sahara 4×4 with a soft top and automatic transmission and enough options to raise its base price from $27,695 to a bottom line of $32,610. The Sahara is bracketed pricewise by the entry-level Jeep Wrangler Sport and the hardcore offroad-ready Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, the latter named after the trail it was designed to conquer.
Oddly enough, the official name of the Sahara is “Sahara 4×4,” despite the fact that all Wrangler models have four-wheel drive but only the Sahara has “4×4” appended to its name, though just on the documentation and not on the vehicle itself. We would have liked to have been in on the marketing meeting that came up with that whole scheme. But just as observers. Only as observers.
However the Sahara (OK if we don’t write “4×4” every time?) is the fancy Wrangler. Where the Sport and the Rubicon have matte black fender flares, the Wrangler Sahara’s fenders in glossy body color. The Sport comes standard with 16-inch wheels, the Rubicon has 17-inchers (with bigger tires) but the Sahara’s wheels are 18’s. More? The Sahara has side steps, the Rubicon has rock rails. The sport has neither. The Sahara is also the only Wrangler to come standard with a body-color hardtop. Our test vehicle, however, had the “Premium Black Sunrider Soft Top,” a $400 option. On the other hand, if you want a hardtop for your Rubicon instead of its standard soft top, be prepared to shell out an extra $1,795. Yes, we’ve entered the strange world of marketing.
In short, then, the Jeep Wrangler Scout is for the Jeeper with moderate trail demands (though for still one of the most capable offroaders on the planet) and more modest means, and the Rubicon—especially with options that make it even yet more capable—is for going where very few other wheeled vehicles are able. And the 2013 Jeep Wrangler Sahara 4×4 is style.
Not that the Sahara doesn’t have rugged equipment and capabilities. It comes with Jeep’s Command-Trac II four-wheel drive system. It’s a straightforward 4×4 setup, with a low-range and shift-on-the-fly capability, but it’s a part-time system. There’s no “all-wheel” mode; it’s either rear-wheel, or center-differential-locked not-to be-used-on-dry-pavement four-wheel drive. Jeep video on Command-Trac.
Like the Wrangler Sport, the Wrangler Sahara also comes standard with Dana Next Generation 30 solid front axle and 44 rear axle. The Rubicon has the heavier-duty Dana 44 on the front as well, though that has disadvantages in terms of on-road ride.
Our test 2013 Jeep Wrangler Sahara came with the optional anti-spin rear differential. Hard-core Jeep enthusiasts look down their muddy noses at the clutch-pack type mechanism, claiming it wears out too quickly if used in severe offroading, and that’s probably true. But for moderate offroad and on-road use, the anti-spin differential provides cross-axle traction, especially in situations such as rainy roads where four-wheel drive wouldn’t be engaged.
All Jeep Wrangler come with stability control, traction control, anti-lock braking, plus electronic roll mitigation (similar to stability control, but configured to apply select brakes to help prevent rollover), hill start assist and trailer sway damping. The latter is an adaption of stability control that applies individual brakes selectively to help prevent trailers going into terminal tankslappers.