2021 Jeep Wrangler Review
The Wrangler is the original go-anywhere, do-anything vehicle that still has the spirit of the original military Jeep of World War II. In an era when SUVs have become the de facto family vehicle, the Wrangler is a throwback to rougher and more rugged off-road vehicles. It's not as comfortable as rival SUVs such as the Toyota 4Runner or Land Rover Defender, but in return it provides excellent off-road capability, two-door and four-door configurations, and a removable top.
For 2021, there's also something unexpected: a Wrangler plug-in hybrid. Called the Wrangler 4xe, it has a turbocharged four-cylinder engine plus hybrid components that provide 375 horsepower plus about 22 miles of all-electric range. If that all sounds a little too much like witchcraft, don't worry. The Wrangler 4xe retains the Wrangler's eight-speed automatic transmission and is even available in the Rubicon trim.
At the opposite end of the fuel efficiency spectrum, Jeep has also introduced the Wrangler Rubicon 392. Packing a 470-hp 6.4-liter (392-cubic-inch) V8 engine, the 392 Rubicon retains all of the Rubicon's impressive low-speed off-road ability but adds a new dimension of muscle-car-like speed and sound to the Wrangler.
The Wrangler's competition is heating up. Besides its long-running rival the Toyota 4Runner, the Wrangler now has to contend with the all-new Ford Bronco, a rough-and-tumble SUV that also offers a removable top and doors for those who enjoy open-air driving. There's also the Land Rover Defender, which takes a more upscale approach to the off-road SUV formula. Which one should you get? Check out the categories of our Wrangler Expert Rating below to help you decide.
What's it like to live with?
When the redesigned Wrangler was revealed in 2018, we knew we had to have one for our long-term test fleet. We ended up buying a top-of-the-line Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited. We tested it for two years and 50,000 miles. Check out what it's like to live with the Wrangler by reading our long-term Wrangler road test.
The Wrangler oozes personality. It's fun to drive in a visceral way and is unbeatable off-road. On the downside, the steering, handling and ride quality suffer from this SUV's off-road focus. Overall, though, the Wrangler has just enough of a modern vibe to make it feel nicely up-to-date.
How does the Wrangler drive?
There's no doubt the Wrangler is a beast when it comes to off-road prowess. That's especially the case with the Rubicon trim and its 33-inch tires and lockable differentials. But everyday steering and handling suffer because of the traditional body-on-frame construction, solid-axle suspension and old-school steering. The brake pedal travel is long, which is great for modulation off-road but not ideal for everyday driving.
The 3.6-liter V6 is stout and makes plenty of power — our four-door Sahara test Wrangler scooted to 60 mph in a respectable 7.6 seconds. The eight-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and always seems to be in the right gear.
How comfortable is the Wrangler?
The Wrangler doesn't place a great importance on passenger comfort, but there are a few highlights here. The front seats are well shaped and remain livable on long trips. The rear bench is flatter and firmer, but it reclines a bit. We like the effective climate system, which also features rear air vents.
But the body-on-frame construction that gives the Wrangler its ready-for-anything personality also contributes to a brittle ride on anything but the smoothest road surfaces. The boxy design and large tires create a heap of wind and road noise, though it offers a quieter cabin than previous Wranglers. The hardtop is significantly quieter than the soft top.
How’s the interior?
Though there are many controls (especially in the Rubicon and its numerous adjustments for off-road driving), the layout is refreshingly intuitive. The slender pillars and square windows greatly reduce blind spots. The driving position is fairly upright, but there's a useful range of adjustment from the seat and steering wheel. The soft top's new design makes it easier to remove than the previous Wrangler's.
Because of the Wrangler's high stance, most people will need to use the grab handles to help get inside. We're also unimpressed by the amount of interior room — the Wrangler has less shoulder and legroom than rivals.
How’s the tech?
The Jeep Wrangler is surprisingly modern when it comes to infotainment and smartphone integration. The optional 8.4-inch Uconnect system offers sharp graphics, quick responses, and one of the best infotainment interfaces in the industry. Plenty of charging ports (USB and USB-C) are available. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard with the Wrangler's 7- and 8.4-inch touchscreens.
The Wrangler falters when it comes to advanced driving systems. You can get some features, such as blind-spot monitoring, but you won't find high-tech aids such as automatic emergency braking or lane keeping assist.
How’s the storage?
The Jeep's narrow body is an off-road strength, but it does limit ultimate cargo capacity. There's a decent amount of cargo space, but competitors offer a bit more. Even so, the rear seats fold neatly into the floor if you want to carry extra stuff. And there are even six rugged tie-down points and an underfloor compartment. Up front, there aren't many places to store small items, and the door pockets are nothing more than shallow nets.
Car seats are easy to fit in the Unlimited so long as they're not too bulky — you might have to move the front seat forward to fit a rear-facing seat. The Wrangler can tow up to 3,500 pounds and can be flat-towed behind a motorhome.
How economical is the Wrangler?
At 20 mpg combined, the Wrangler Unlimited with 4WD and the V6 is 2 mpg better than the Toyota 4Runner, its closest SUV competitor. However, we've struggled to meet these estimates in traffic-clogged Los Angeles; our average fuel economy over 30,000 miles in a long-term Rubicon was 17.6 mpg. The optional 2.0-liter turbo is rated at 22 combined (22 city/24 highway), which nearly matches mainstream crossovers such as the Ford Edge and Toyota Highlander.
Is the Wrangler a good value?
The Wrangler looks like Jeep put real effort into the interior. Much of the switchgear looks distinct and is satisfying to use. The dash and seat materials are attractive and have a good tactile feel. The Wrangler's price tag is a little high, but the improved materials and design feel worth the cost. Jeep's warranty coverage is average.
Few vehicles are as distinctive as the Jeep Wrangler. This is one of the few no-compromise off-road vehicles left. And it happens to be an iconic convertible! Forget about steering and handling because, after all, these things are forgettable. You can go anywhere with one of these.
Which Wrangler does Edmunds recommend?
Recommending anything specific is tricky given the Wrangler's wide range of configurations, features and engines. The Sport S trim is a good place to start your Wrangler search, though the Rubicon is pretty much a requirement if you're going to be doing a lot of hard-core off-roading. As for engines, the V6 and four-cylinder are fine, but certainly consider the diesel six-cylinder or new 4xe plug-in hybrid if you've got the budget.
Jeep Wrangler models
The 2021 Jeep Wrangler SUV is available as a two-door or four-door (Unlimited). Both have a removable roof (either a soft top or hardtop) and doors as well as a folding windshield. The two-door is available in three trim levels — Sport, Sport S and Rubicon — while the four-door Wrangler is also available in the more street-tuned Sahara trim. Jeep offers a huge range of additional features and configurations, and it can be confusing to figure out what you're getting. Here's our breakdown: