2010 Jeep Wrangler Sahara 4x4 new car reviews

Yes, there's the dream. Then there's the reality.

Better than: walking.
But not as good as: a camel.
GRM Bang For The Buck Index: 54.26

The Jeep has to be one of the most iconic vehicles in America. It delivered the mail, carried our dads and granddads across foreign lands, and even transported Mork and Mindy.

The Jeep Wrangler received the new TJ platform starting with the 2007 model. It was bigger than its predecessor, and a four-door version joined the options list. The ever-popular Wrangler received a face-lift for 2010. That's where we are today.

Despite what's shown in the photo, our test "car" is a Sahara 4x4 model. It has a 3.8-liter V6 engine and a few options: a Dual Top Group ($1625), four-speed automatic box ($825), and $1550 media center that includes a 30GB hard drive, 6.5-inch touchscreen and GPS navigation.

Other staff views

David S. Wallens David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

The dream is hard to ignore: conquering the wilds of faraway lands, perhaps with a loyal dog by your side. Somewhere within reach is a well-worn bandana and a few Phish CDs.

Then there's the reality: bouncing all over the place like a drunk while simply trying to commute to work.

Welcome to the Jeep Wrangler.

I know, I know, the Wrangler is designed for hardcore off-roading--you know, crossing streams, climbing rocks and traversing the desert. It's the kind of vehicle Gen. Patton would drive, provided he were still here with us.

On pavement, you know, where most of us spend the majority of our time behind the wheel, the Wrangler just left me cold. First, there's the horrible, bouncy ride. Are these tires connected to the pavement? Does this vehicle have functioning shock absorbers? Who would chose to commute in this vehicle?

Power is okay with the automatic box. It doesn't feel like the kind of vehicle that's going to just leap from boulder to boulder, however.

Then there's the interior. And again, I know, I know, this vehicle was designed for those who participate in motorized parkour-like exercises, but does it have to make so many compromises? Does everything have to look and feel so cheap? Can the driver not be so cramped? And does the rear wiper motor have to block so much of the rear window? Couldn't it have been hidden behind the spare tire?

I know it's not quite the off-road bruiser, but for similar money--figure low- to mid-$20s, although our Jeep came in at $31k--I'd have to go with the Subaru Forester instead. Maybe it's not so overflowing with testosterone, but it's so much more civil and asks for so much less in return.

I have seen the spare tire covers: It's a Jeep thing; you wouldn't understand. I guess I just don't.

Joe Gearin Joe Gearin
Associate Publisher

This Jeep drives home the point that "car" people can have vastly different opinions about the same subject.

I spent a few days with this newest version of the American icon, and I loved it. True, the ride is bouncy, but as long as you don't have to drive from FL to CA it isn't unbearable for me. I actually like the "liveliness" of the driving experience, as the steering is accurate and quick. The Jeep (like most) is a pretty nimble handler around town. You sit up high, allowing for an expansive view of the road ahead, and I found the driving position comfortable and confidence-inspiring.

I'm not a huge fan of the new V6, but it does its job silently and without much drama. I'd rather have the legendary straight-six under the hood, but the new mill certainly doesn't ruin the driving experience.

Many of the things I liked about this Jeep are the same things that turned off other staffers. I appreciate the stark simplicity of the "hose out" interior. Also, the materials used inside aren't fancy, but they do seem durable, which is more important in a machine like this. The straight front axle contributes to the Jeep's less-than-Lexus ride quality, but try to take a Lexus down the Rubicon Trail! I also liked the fact that, although time has marched on, the Jeep's simplicity, ruggedness and honesty has prevailed. There is a direct connection between this Jeep and the machines that helped win WWII, and you can feel the history from behind the wheel. Along these lines, I could have done without the confusing-to-use nav system, even though such a system actually makes a lot of sense in a vehicle capable of getting you into VERY remote places.

Our loaded Sahara came equipped with Jeep's new hardtop, which gives you the option of total coverage or, by removing the front two panels, a massive targa-like opening over your head. It's a nice option that only amplifies this vehicle's versatility.

Although I didn't get a chance to tackle any serious off-road trails, there is no doubt this Jeep is at least as capable as its forebears. With a true low gear, the aforementioned straight axle, and body-on-frame construction, this Jeep doesn't pretend to be a car or minivan. This Jeep is a truck. It rides like a truck, looks like a truck, and will run over zombies like a truck!

I guess what it comes down is this: You either like the idea and the reality of off-roading and are willing to deal with the on-road compromises, or you don't. I love to get muddy and act like a teen occasionally, so the Jeep offers great appeal to me. Fortunately, this Jeep is more civil than previous iterations without giving up the capability and versatility that has made the brand such a success. It's easier to live with, but don't fool yourself into thinking it will ride like a car, or a car dressed up like an SUV. The doors still come off, the top still goes down, and the windshield will still fold down, just like Jeeps always have. This new one hasn't lost any of its Jeepness, but it has gained just a tiny bit of civility.

One more thing to love about the Jeep is the massive aftermarket that caters to these machines. If you don't like the way it is stock, there are about a million options that will allow you to modify it to your taste.

I rarely consider buying a new vehicle. This Jeep ranks up there with the new MINI as a machine I'd happily go into debt for.

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Comments

View comments on the GRM forums
miwifri
miwifri New Reader
4/29/10 9:11 p.m.

Wanna' read some stuff by people that do understand? Go here: http://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/grm/jeep/21440/page1/

DrBoost
DrBoost UltimaDork
4/29/10 9:50 p.m.

Sorry David, you are officially a wuss. "Who would chose to commute in this vehicle?" Me, I did for 15 years. I've owned stock ones and seriously built ones and loved every minute of it (almost). I didn't complain about commuting in a miata when I got one because I understood that there were compromises and I was glad to have them. I don't mind the cheap interior since I know it's made out of those materials because when you get it muddy, you pull the drain plugs out of the floor and hose it down. Do that in the Forester!! I'm actually surprised that a magazine like this, one that knowingly puts up with compromises in it's sporty cars just can't wrap it's head around the point of a Jeep.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
5/3/10 3:23 p.m.

Hey, I'm being blunt. The Miata asks for less than the Jeep. Even my no-a/c, no-anything CRX track rat makes a better commuter. On the streets, the $31,000 Jeep just failed to impress me.

pinchvalve
pinchvalve MegaDork
5/4/10 1:58 p.m.

My mother (in her 60's) and her mother (in her 80's) drove my sister's CJ-7 from Pittsburgh to the Outer Banks once. Stopped every hour to put the top back on. It had oversized tires and wandered down the road worse than Lindsy Lohan. The tire noise and wind roar registerd at about 130db. I still don't know how they made it.

Still, heading down the beach with the top down, doors off, salt spray in your face was hard to beat.

mdawley
mdawley New Reader
5/4/10 3:16 p.m.

We have a '93 Wrangler 4 cyl 5-spd leaf spring version. Our '67 XKE is absolutely worthless on the fire roads up in the mountains. Yes, it handles like a drunk on ice skates but autocrosses are not its intent. Leaf spring Jeeps are the undisputed king of the unsprung weight to total weight ratio! WE will never be without one in our collection - same kind of character as our '68 MGB roadster; the best kind.

TJRP
TJRP New Reader
5/5/10 12:34 p.m.

I think you meant the JK. Not the TJ, the TJ was around from 1997-2006. The JK started production in 2007.

I commute in a jeep everyday. I love it. Different strokes I guess.

Fueled by Caffeine
Fueled by Caffeine MegaDork
5/7/10 6:19 a.m.

I've owned a few jeeps and I love them, but I think David has a point. A wrangler for $31k? The sahara is the wrangler that tries to put on airs and at $31k who wants one. (not me)... I'll bet david and the gang would have been better served by a 4cylinder 5 speed with a rubber floor mat. I had a YJ like that and It was great because it reminded me all the time it was a jeep. A jeep with A/C and fancy seats and 30gb HD is for yuppie poseurs who want to buy something cool for their 17 year old bratty daughter.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/10/13 12:00 a.m.

The Jeep has to be one of the most iconic vehicles in America. It delivered the mail, carried our dads and granddads across foreign lands, and even transported Mork and Mindy.

The Jeep Wrangler received the new TJ platform starting with the 2007 model. It was bigger than its predecessor, and a four-door version joined the options list. The ever-popular Wrangler received a face-lift for 2010. That's where we are today.

Despite what's shown in the photo, our test "car" is a Sahara 4x4 model. It has a 3.8-liter V6 engine and a few options: a Dual Top Group ($1625), four-speed automatic box ($825), and $1550 media center that includes a 30GB hard drive, 6.5-inch touchscreen and GPS navigation.

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