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#25

in 2009 Affordable Compact SUVs

Avg. Price Paid: $16,371 - $24,366
Original MSRP: $20,710 - $32,090
MPG: 15 City / 19 Hwy
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2009 Jeep Wrangler Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

The 2009 Wrangler's performance is a mixed bag. Its off-road capabilities are superior to almost any other SUV. However, its on-pavement ride is choppy and adequate at best -- making it rather uncomfortable for use as a daily driver.

  • "The Jeep Wrangler would be our nominee for the most capable off-road vehicle sold in America." -- Car and Driver
  • "As before, the Wrangler, especially in Rubicon trim, is pretty much unstoppable in off-road situations." -- Edmunds
  • "The tough suspension treatment makes Rubicon a handful on the highway, with a punishing ride and dicey handling. Wind roars around those boxy corners and the off-road tires emit plenty of whine." -- Arizona Republic

Acceleration and Power

Test drivers have mixed opinions on the Wrangler's 3.8-liter 202-horsepower V6 engine. According to the EPA, the 2WD Wrangler nets 15/20 mpg city/highway, while the 4WD model nets 15/19 mpg with both the manual and automatic transmissions.

  • "All Wranglers are lackadaisical off the line, needing generous throttle input in order to build speed. There's no abundance of passing power. All models offer similar acceleration, regardless of body style or transmission." -- Consumer Guide
  • "At first I found the six-speed manual transmission a bit of a challenge. The gate for reverse felt sometimes too difficult (swing through the neutral gate with vigor!) and once too loose as I shifted from fourth into a grinding, embarrassing discovery of reverse. A day's familiarity resolved that issue." -- The Auto Channel 
  • "Its 3.8-liter V6 is cursed with being both anemic and fuel-thirsty. A zero to 60 time in less than ten seconds would have to be run downhill, and at 17.4 mpg, the Wrangler achieves full-sized SUV fuel economy. The four-speed automatic transmission doesn't help in the Jeep's failed quest to hit 20 mpg on the highway and the Wrangler Unlimited can barely get out of its own way on dry pavement." -- Autoblog
  • "The 3.8-liter V-6 has the feel of a truck engine, with loads of torque accompanied by plenty of roar. Acceleration is modest, but not bad. The Jeep is strong on hills and, of course, over steep obstacles." -- Arizona Republic
  • "Keeping in mind that the Wrangler is not intended to be an on-road runabout, it actually performs quite well -- even with our tester's optional four-speed automatic. The 3.8-liter V6's 237 lb-ft. of torque peaks at a relatively low 4,000 rpm, meaning the Wrangler has reasonable around-town and low-speed rock-hopping muscle. Horsepower is a modest 202 ponies at 5,000 rpm." -- Left Lane News    

Handling and Braking

The 2009 Wrangler is designed to maximize its off-road performance, but that comes at the expense of a smooth on-road ride.

  • "Bumpy pavement can trigger bouncy feel and wayward body motions. Wrangler is surprisingly cushioned on sharp ruts and ridges. Unlimited's longer wheelbase quells some of the unwanted motions." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The anachronistic steering mechanism also demands your attention, calling for constant corrections to even walk a straight line on the interstate. If cars were people, the Wrangler would get a DUI." -- Automotive.com

Off-Roading

For maximum all-terrain performance, the Wrangler offers an 8.8-inch ground clearance, while Rubicon models offer a best-in-class clearance of 10.5 inches. Test drivers heap lots of praise upon the Wrangler's off-road prowess.

  • "Off-road testing shows Wrangler in its best light. Its suspension design and array of traction-assisting technology subdues most every obstacle." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Skid plates diligently guard the underbody, which has best in class ground clearance, as well as bolder-friendly approach and departure angles. On the Rubicon the front stabilizer bar can also be disengage, greatly improving off-road axle articulation." -- Motor Week
  • "Meanwhile, the 10.2 inches of ground clearance, the steep approach and departure angles and the two-door's short wheelbase make the Wrangler the go-to vehicle for serious off-roading. If the Wrangler can't get you there, then you should probably consider traveling by helicopter." -- Edmunds   
  • "Still, we were impressed by the uncanny ease with which the Wrangler traversed massive rocks and by the sheer solidity of its three skid plates. One feature we appreciated most is the electronic throttle, which allows for smooth throttle application in low range." -- Kelley Blue Book

Next Steps: 2009 Jeep Wrangler

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