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Jeep Wrangler Life: One Enthusiast's Transition to Daily Driving a Jeep

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author photo by William Byrd November 2017

As I recently informed the Oversteer world, I sold the "perfect car" and bought a new Jeep Wrangler Unlimited to take over daily driving duties. I am now a couple of months into this new experience, and here's what I've found.

Downsides

As one would expect, the gas mileage is horrendous; but personally I can't recall owning many cars that actually got more than 30 miles per gallon in the real world. I guess that's just one of the realities of #enthusiastlife. Not to sound too hoity-toity, but ever since trading a 1996 Camaro for a 1999 Civic during college, I don't think I've ever actually chosen a vehicle solely based on its fuel economy.

Oddly enough, this Wrangler Unlimited doesn't have a backup camera -- something I lamented while driving my 15-year-old Lexus IS300. It's much worse in a larger, bulkier vehicle -- and I find it amazing that it's not standard on such a pricey Jeep. I traverse lots of tight D.C.-area parking garages, and just last week I had a parking attendant flag me down to notify me that I was dragging a parking cone under my large tires.

I guess that's a 1-second penalty.

Also -- and this may go without saying -- don't go into Wrangler ownership expecting a cushy ride. This is my second Unlimited; I briefly owned one five years ago before convincing myself that I needed a larger vehicle. My point is that I knew what I was getting into, although this "Big Bear" edition has knobbier BFGoodrich KO2 tires, which could be contributing to the extra bumps.

Finally, it has rock rails, which makes it difficult to add running boards to improve entry and exit. In other words: I'm forced to consider trading off-road ability (and losing the rock rails) in order to keep my wife and my family happy (and adding the running boards). I think you know which direction I'm headed. Let me know who makes your favorite running board.

Upsides

That's a fairly substantial list of downsides for a brand-new, near-$40,000 vehicle. However, the rest of the experience has been great. I have always maintained that your vehicle should not be boring, and that it should be able to pass the "look back" test every time -- the bit where you park, walk away and glance back at your ride. If you don't smile and say "yep, I chose well," then you did it wrong. This particular Wrangler passes that in spades. I actually found myself noticing it parked on the street the other day, commenting to myself, "oh, check out that Jeep," before realizing it was my Jeep and quickly laughing at myself. Point being, it's not boring. Sure, it's a bit inefficient compared to most crossovers, but I don't care.

As the title implies, I've long considered myself an "enthusiast" in the sense that I really enjoy sporty, fast, high-performance cars. It's a little exhausting, though: No matter what I'm driving, there's always something faster -- which leads to a never-ending cycle of modifications that normally ends up with a ruined daily driver. So while I miss driving something fast, the pressure to "be faster" is gone. For now at least. Sure, there's always the potential that I'll want to keep up with other Jeep enthusiasts, as well -- and we'll have to see if that actually happens.

Jeep Wrangler
(Pictured above: I parked next to a sweet AMG wagon the other day)

I also like the fact that there are few other vehicles that can claim the sense of "community" that Wrangler owners enjoy. Aside from motorcycle riders, I don't know any other vehicle group that consistently waves at each other. Sure, there's that Viper snake hand thing, but how often do you think Viper owners pass another Viper? I pass dozens of Wranglers a day -- and more often than not, they wave. My 13-year-old son has taken to enthusiastically waving at all of them from the passenger seat; he's gotten some great wave-backs.

At this point, you just said to yourself: "How could this thing be as cool as he's saying if there are so many of them?" Touche, sir or madam, but you are forgetting just how different you can make your Jeep. Even from the factory, there are tons of different models; Doug ran you through all of them back in May. And each year the "special edition" changes. So while some versions, like the Sahara and Rubicon, carry over from year to year, my "Big Bear" will only be sold for a specific model year run. That means that you may see dozens of different variations of the Wrangler on the road -- not even counting the aftermarket!

Don't like how yours looks? The aftermarket is flush with ways to make your Jeep Life better. Plus, you can fix some of the "issues" I mentioned above quite easily. If you want a softer ride, for instance, just change the tires. If you need a backup camera, there are aftermarket options that attach right to the spare tire on the back. If you need help getting into it, they sell steps. And after shopping a bit, I have to say that Jeep parts are amazingly cheap compared to most fast car bits I've purchased.

Just don't make yours look angry. That looks silly.

Based in Northern Virginia, William is professional writer and editor and acts as the Editor-in-Chief of Right Foot Down. He misspent most of his youth on tracks in the Mid-Atlantic, as well as killing cones in parking lots, and he once taught at a teen performance driving school.

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Jeep Wrangler Life: One Enthusiast's Transition to Daily Driving a Jeep - Autotrader