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#22

in 2011 Affordable Compact SUVs

Avg. Price Paid: $19,431 - $28,918
Original MSRP: $22,045 - $33,320
MPG: 15 City / 19 Hwy
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2011 Jeep Wrangler Performance

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

 The 2011 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 could be called adequate at best -- making it rather uncomfortable for use as a daily driver. Even worse is its abysmal fuel economy rating. If you're looking for an off-roader that's happier on the pavement, consider the Jeep Grand Cherokee or Toyota 4Runner.

  • "But piloting a Wrangler has always had a charm all its own, and this 2011 is no different, offering more of a man-and-machine connection than about anything else on sale today." -- Car and Driver
  • "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
  • "If you're looking for the most invigorating exposure to the great outdoors this side of a dual-sport motorcycle, this is your ride. The top goes down, the doors come off and the windshield can fold down onto the hood (albeit with great effort). 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." -- Edmunds

Acceleration and Power

Test drivers do not like the two-door Wrangler's 3.8-liter 202-horsepower V6 engine. While the V6 power is enough to pull the Wrangler over obstacles, it proves sluggish in acceleration from 0 mph and highway driving. It's also extremely thirsty. In fact, the Wrangler's fuel economy is the lowest in its class. Four-door Wrangler Unlimited models hardly fare better. Wrangler Unlimited models get the same V6, but with slightly more power. Still, reviewers say it is not enough. A new engine is expected for 2012. If you think the Wrangler lack power, it might be worth waiting for.

According to the EPA, four-wheel drive Wranglers net 15/19 city/highway fuel economy with both the manual and automatic transmissions. Fuel economy estimates for two-wheel drive models aren’t in yet. For better fuel economy in an off-road package, consider the Jeep Patriot, which boasts some of the highest fuel economy in its class.

  • "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
  • "The optional four-speed automatic in our Wrangler is an abomination, too -- better to stick with the six-speed manual, which is at least more entertaining."--Car and Driver
  • "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
  • "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    
  • "In testing, we've found that a Wrangler Unlimited takes a longish 9.7 seconds to reach 60 mph -- and that was the good time. Another Wrangler Unlimited we tested took a sluggish 10.4 seconds." -- Edmunds

Handling and Braking

The Jeep Wrangler is designed to maximize its off-road performance, but that comes at the expense of a smooth on-road ride. For better on-road handling and similar off-road capabilities, consider the Jeep Grand Cherokee or Toyota 4Runner.

  • "Driving a Wrangler on the road still feels a bit like sprinting down a cobblestone street while earing wooden clogs, so the Jeep isn’t very competitive if you’re looking at it from a purely dynamics standpoint. "--Car and Driver
  • "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 and Sahara models have clearances of 10.2 and 10.3 inches, respectively. Rubicon Unlimited models also feature a unique electronic sway bar disconnect feature, which allows the front and rear wheels to move independently of one another -- making for an even easier climb over obstacles. Test drivers heap lots of praise upon the Wrangler's off-road prowess.

  • “Off-road, it’s nearly unstoppable."--Car and Driver
  • "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
  • "There are few vehicles that can compete against the Wrangler when the pavement ends. With articulation-friendly solid axles up front and out back, gobs of ground clearance and a super low-range transfer case, the Wrangler aims to go where few others can tread. Count that dastardly FJ Cruiser in as an obvious rival, for sure, as well as the Nissan Xterra and the Hummer H3." -- Left Lane News

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