When you settle into the cabin of the 2011 Jeep Wrangler, you’re greeted with a new instrument panel that is stylish and more sophisticated. The redesigned surroundings raise the level of creature comfort without undermining the Wrangler’s rugged nature. Since Fiat partnered with the Chrysler Group in 2009, the company has focused on upgrading its vehicle interiors, and the changes have been most welcome. The Jeep’s new interior is less dramatic than that of other models, but that is in part because of the vehicle’s utilitarian character.
In addition to the new instrument panel, the cabin now has a redesigned centre stack, a lockable console and door panels with new armrests and comfortable touch points.
Heated seats and heated power mirrors are now available, as well as automatic temperature controls.
The steering wheel has controls for the radio, cruise control and hands-free phone. It is possible to connect thumb drives and MP3 players to the vehicle’s media centre. Bluetooth, including streaming audio, is available.
Twelve-volt accessory outlets have been added and a new 115-volt outlet is available to provide power similar to AC outlets in the home.
While the Wrangler is still the four-wheeled equivalent of a mountain bike, it has been tamed enough to make daily commuting tolerable. That is especially so in the case of the Wrangler Unlimited because its 116-inch wheelbase reduces the choppiness that comes with a two-door’s shorter wheelbase.
For 2011, the two-door Wrangler and four-door Wrangler Unlimited are available in Sport, Sahara and Rubicon models.
Like most drivers, I didn’t take the four-door Wrangler off-road, although I know it excels there. The Unlimited’s longer wheelbase would be a bit of a handicap in some very tight trail situations, but for the most part it will handle anything you attempt.
The Wrangler’s engine is a 3.8-litre V-6 with 202 horsepower. This engine delivers 237 pound-feet of torque through a six-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. The test vehicle had the automatic.
For off-road use, the engine needs to deliver its torque at low speeds, and this one does. Four-wheel drive can be selected on the fly. The Command-Trac transfer case has a low gear that enables the vehicle to crawl slowly, but it has to be engaged while the vehicle is stopped.
The three-piece hardtop with removable sections over the front seat was quieter than the cloth top.
The test vehicle was equipped with optional leather seats. The front seats had ample contouring for good side support, which is helpful in off-road use. The back seat is wide enough for three, and the cargo space is adequate.
The front power windows retract with one touch. The window switches are in the centre of the dash because the doors are removable. The rear doors are 30.5 inches wide and open 90 degrees.
Standard safety items include vehicle stability control, anti-lock brakes, hill-descent assist and side airbags.
2011 Jeep Wrangler
Engine: 3.8 litre, 202-hp V-6
Transmission: Four-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 116 inches
MPG rating: 15 city, 19 hwy.