By Shari Prymak
If your mind is set on having an adventurous, go-anywhere 4×4, chances are the Jeep Wrangler has made your short list. As purpose built as it is, the Wrangler’s versatility goes beyond that of a dedicated off-road tool. Jeep has done a phenomenal job of broadening its appeal by offering a wide range of options, drivetrain configurations, and body styles to suite just about every need or desire. For those seeking the most authentic Wrangler experience though, no version does it better than the classic 2-door variant.
The more popular Wrangler Unlimited is the preferred choice for most thanks to its superior cargo capacity and four-door practicality. The 2-door, however, is the true modern equivalent of the historic Willys Jeep, a purpose-built military vehicle which traces its roots all the way back to World War II. It maintains that iconic appearance and pure driving experience for which the Wrangler is so well known.
An essential part of that experience is maintaining the ability to easily remove the doors, top, and windshield. It is a straightforward process, and one that gives the Wrangler a unique appeal, helping to differentiate it from its few off-road rivals. Driving a stripped-down Wrangler is an experience like no other. It doesn’t matter whether you are cruising through the neighbourhood streets or attempting to tackle a forest trail, it makes every drive a feel like an adventure.
Although not nearly as practical as the Unlimited, the 2-door Wrangler’s stubbier dimensions make it rather enjoyable to drive. It still has that somewhat crude, primitive Wrangler feel, but it is also rather agile and maneuverable with a nice commanding road view. The short wheelbase also gives it inherently better off-road capability with excellent approach, departure, and break over angles for scaling tricky terrain. The base Sport model comes plenty capable, but those wanting serious off-road chops may want to consider the Rubicon. It includes heavy duty suspension, 33 inch all-terrain tires, an advanced Rock-Trac 4×4 system, heavy-duty Dana 44 locking front and rear axles, an electronic disconnecting sway bar, and off-road optimized gear ratios.
Drivetrain choices are plentiful, starting with the naturally-aspirated 3.6L Pentastar V6 engine which produces an adequate 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed manual gearbox comes standard, but an 8-speed automatic is available on all trim levels. Selecting the automatic transmission opens up additional engine options. Although I wouldn’t recommend the complicated turbocharged 4-cylinder or the diesel options, the available V6 with etorque is a decent upgrade. The 48V mild-hybrid assist gives the V6 a modest power boast which makes it feel quite lively in the smaller, lighter 2-door body style. The issue is that etorque technology also adds weight and complexity without really improving fuel economy, which means the basic V6 might still be the way to go.
The Wrangler may have a reputation as a simple, rugged, utilitarian off-roader, but there’s certainly nothing modest about its price tag. The 2-door Rubicon has a starting MSRP of $49,645. My near fully-equipped tester, complete with the 8.4 inch uConnect infotainment, Alpine premium sound system, leather upholstery, three-piece Freedom hard top, the fully range of active safety technology, and various other goodies inflated that total to an eye-watering $65,625. At that price, I’d be taking a hard look at a few alternatives, including the Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro or even a Land Rover Defender.
The truth is that you really don’t need to go much beyond the base 2-door Sport model’s $36,295 starting price to enjoy the Wrangler experience. Although few would be willing to live with the base trim’s lack of air conditioning or even power windows, moving up to the Sport S, or even the rather cool-looking Willys model, while also adding a few desirable options, would still keep the price somewhat in check. Such a configuration isn’t as practical as a more daily-friendly Unlimited Sahara, but it is certainly the purest and most faithful to its roots. If that’s what you’re after, the Wrangler 2-Door should make you very happy.