The Jeep Wrangler returns for 2009 with the same iconic features, removable doors and a fold-down windshield, that's made the vehicle famous, as well as the body-on-frame chassis and solid front and rear axles that established the Wrangler as one of the most capable SUVs.
With room for five adult passengers, the Wrangler Unlimited model remains the only four-door convertible SUV on the market. For 2009, 20.6 inches were added to the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited's wheelbase, stretching it to 116 inches and giving it the most cargo space ever offered in a Wrangler, as well more passenger room and comfort with a larger rear seat. Unlike the four-wheel-drive-only configuration of the standard Jeep Wrangler, the Unlimited is also available in two-wheel drive.
The Jeep Wrangler is two years old in its current form but retains all the classic lines of Jeep's past. The 3.8L V-6 engine produces 202 horsepower and comes with a choice of either manual or four-speed automatic transmissions. Fuel economy on rear-drive, manual-transmission models is as high as 16 mpg city, 21 highway, which is good for the Wrangler lineup but not particularly economical. The engine feels strong, but it still makes more noise than you might expect of a more traditional SUV.
The removable tops are one of Jeep's best features--though they allow lots of road noise in the cabin, they can completely open the cabin of both the two- and four-door models, turning a hardtop Jeep into a convertible SUV.
On the highway the Wrangler can be a jittery, bouncy ride with plenty of road noise and imprecise steering. Off-roading toughness of both Jeeps is assured by live axle front and rear suspensions, with 10.2 inches of ground clearance and the availability of a four-wheel-drive system with heavy-duty axles, locking differentials, Rock-Trac transfer case with extra-low gearing, electronically disconnecting stabilizer bar, and knobby BF Goodrich tires on Rubicon versions. Anti-lock brakes and stability control are now standard, with side impact airbags available optionally.
The 2009 Jeep Wrangler scores five-star ratings for front and side impact protection. Two-wheel-drive models have four-star rollover protection, while four-wheel drivers have a three-star rating. New safety features for all 2009 Jeep Wranglers include Hill Start Assist (HSA) to prevent rollback on a graded surfaces and Trailer Sway Control (TSC), which monitors vehicle movement relative to the intended path and activates the Electronic Stability Program (ESP) if the trailer begins to sway outside set parameters. Tire pressure monitors are now standard on both short- and long-wheelbase Wranglers, and remote start is a new option for 2009.
Air conditioning and cruise control are standard on most models, and Sirius Satellite Radio is an option, as are a navigation system and a music hard drive.
The Bottom Line:
Doors or no doors, hardtop or soft, the 2009 Jeep Wrangler is unlike any other SUV.