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Home tech News 2019 Jeep Wrangler Sahara: It rocked my world

2019 Jeep Wrangler Sahara: It rocked my world


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Fiat Chrysler will convert its Mack Avenue Engine factory into an assembly plant. The plant will build the next-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee and a new, large Jeep SUV.
Tanya Wildt, Detroit Free Press

Tell the truth. Summer is rapidly approaching, and the idea of putting on a swimsuit and going into public is enough to inspire nightmares.

One solution: Lie on your stomach and lift your feet and knees off the floor by flutter-kicking, as if you were swimming freestyle in a pool.

Another path to serenity: Grab keys to the 2019 Jeep Wrangler, climb in, roll down the windows or leave off the top and just drive into the sunset.

Jeep Wrangler is sexy, yummy and just plain cool.

It is the washboard abs of vehicles.

Forget your age or height or weight. You look good driving the thing. You feel good. Life happens. Worries melt away. And people envy you.

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Now, if you’re antisocial, this may not be the right choice. Strangers approach to talk about what it’s like to drive the popular vehicle. And you’ll get questions. Because the Wrangler is made to crawl, people will ask if you’re a rock crawler or a mall crawler. What they’re asking, really, is if you plan to use the vehicle for the purpose designed.

While I have done just a little rock crawling, people in my world love it. But this Jeep Wrangler, for me, was primarily a highway and city vehicle in the week that I drove it. It is easy to park and easy to pack. Kids would fit, no problem.

It’s a perfect vehicle for winter or summer. 

In 22-degree weather, the heat cranked up as fast or faster than any vehicle, large or small, that I’ve ever driven. One day, I jumped out to report in the freezing cold without wearing gloves and the heated steering wheel thawed my fingers immediately. 

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Full of surprises

This is a convertible that easily provides warmth, safety and comfort in the winter. An unusual combo, really.

I’m the absolute last person who should have liked this ride. At the end of the day, deep down inside, after so many years, I am a Mercedes sedan girl. But the Wrangler rocked my world.

Which is not at all what I expected, frankly.

The last time I drove a Jeep Wrangler, the Berlin Wall was coming down.

Three decades ago, after driving a Wrangler just once, I swore I would never ever do it again. The ride in Ixtapa, Mexico, was rough and miserable and I was so nauseous. It ruined a day that should’ve been spent sipping margaritas on a Pacific Coast beach.

But all the buzz about the new Wrangler, and its essential role in the Fiat Chrysler business plan to take over the world, made me curious.

No question, the Wrangler drives like a dream. Yes, it’s rugged. Yes, I smeared dirt on my clothes every single time I climbed in and climbed out. But I simply didn’t care. 

Stepping up onto the running board is like climbing into a stirrup when you mount a horse.

Potholes? They feel like pebbles. Bring ’em on.

Simple tech

The power, the handling, the versatility.

The four-wheel drive, eight-speed automatic transmission makes everything easy. If I tell the whole truth, I prefer a stick shift. But perhaps what I like best is the heavy-duty suspension with gas shocks. This is why the ride feels good.

Because the Wrangler is meant to be used in all weather conditions, the dashboard levers have covers that protect everything. Tiny but important details. Tech is simple and uncomplicated.

The nine-speaker sound system, however, is made to play music very, very loud.

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“I, personally, am in love with the headlight design. I couldn’t think of a tougher vehicle to design, given its heritage and its owners,” said Maeva Ribas, manager of design analysis at The Carlab, an automotive consulting group in Southern California.

Yes, we could list all data points about the car and its engine, but that’s simply not necessary.

‘Pure’ design, timeless

And if you decide to drive the Firecracker Red Sahara version, and feel what it’s like — well, let’s just say that of all the cars I have driven, this is the only one that everyone in my family agreed I needed to buy. It won the hearts of people loyal to Ford, Chevrolet, Toyota, Volkswagen and the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

“The Wrangler is the original SUV that mainstreamed the idea that a vehicle designed for off-road could also function as a stylish, daily driver,” said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of industry analysis at Edmunds.com. “The Wrangler’s design is the most pure example of the original purpose of a sport utility vehicle, and it’s smart that Jeep has kept it virtually unchanged since inception. The Wrangler is one of the few truly timeless vehicles on the road today.“

In 2018, Jeep sold 240,000 Wranglers, up from 191,000 a year earlier.

While the two-door Wrangler gets a lot of attention, I prefer the four-door. The sculpted look and feel is unlike any other. I packed five adults in the Wrangler to go to a business meeting. Everyone seemed to have plenty of leg room and elbow room.

No drama

When a car in front of me slammed on its brakes at a yellow light along Michigan Avenue in Dearborn, I tested the response time of the Wrangler. No drama.

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At one point, I noticed the tiny little Jeep logos strategically placed around the vehicle — so-called “Easter eggs.” It’s a “Where’s Waldo?” exercise created by designers who understand the playful vibe of the Wrangler, which can start at $28,045 and easily reach $52,015.

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It’s likely quite a few Wrangler fans will pivot to the unique new Jeep Gladiator pickup truck. But the Wrangler is likely to just raise its profile and recruit more drivers to the family.

The Jeep Wrangler recently made the Edmunds 2019 best resale list for midsize SUV that has the highest projected value after five years

“Every new Wrangler owner quickly learns the Jeep Wave, a subtle nod to one another that Wrangler drivers have been sharing for decades,” Jeep brand director Scott Tallon said. “Wrangler owners share a vehicle, and a lifestyle, founded on adventure. No one else can say that.”

For the record, I never really thought of myself as an adventure girl. I have always been about books and museums and movies. But after all these years, I’ve discovered 5K runs and sailboat racing on the Great Lakes and paddleboard competitions on the Detroit River. 

Adventure, I’ve learned, is an essential part of a healthy life.

Many people wish for a ride that can handle big rocky mountains and steep hills and dangerous roads. As someone who used to live in an earthquake zone, I consider a vehicle’s ability to crawl reassuring. 

Jeep Wrangler is infinitely more than fun; It can handle anything, including Armageddon.

Contact Phoebe Wall Howard at 313-222-6512or phoward@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @phoebesaid. She writes periodically about how people relate to their vehicles. Read more by signing up for our autos newsletter.

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