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Nena Knows - The Next Wrangler Should Not Be A 4-Door

Posted in Features on February 9, 2016
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I admit that I was one of the nay-sayers when the four-door JK Wrangler Unlimited was introduced. “That’s not a real Jeep!” To me, like so many people, the “classic Jeep” was two-door (or rather, no doors), no frills, play-in-the-dirt basic.

So, what am I driving now? Yep, a four-door. Like so many others in the past decade—yes, decade of JK—I now prefer the comforts, capacity, and stability of my four-door. I appreciate my heated leather seats, Bluetooth, and remote start. On future Wranglers, I want to see things like roof racks, heated steering wheels, automatic air-down wheels, and most importantly, a serious gross vehicle weight rating to accommodate all of my equipment and friends.

The comfort and convenience factors of the JKs have brought in a new demographic of Wrangler owners who might have otherwise chosen Land Rovers or 4Runners. But the Wrangler’s somewhat lacking maximum Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 5,700 pounds pales by comparison to the Toyota 4Runner’s 6,300-pound rating and the Land Rover LR4’s venerable 7,100-pound rating. Why is the GVWR important? Because we want to bring our stuff and we want the vehicle to go and stop effectively and not break things like axles, brackets, or anything else weight-related.

To streamline production, manufacturers use the same platforms for different cars. Jeep has used pretty much the same rolling chassis for both two-doors and four-doors. The four-door starts out about 10 percent heavier than the two-door. Then the extra interior capacity encourages us to carry 30-40 percent more weight in people and stuff than would even be possible with the two-door. With all of this, we still expect the same components to work. My four-door weighs 6,500-pounds when I am on the trail—that’s with modifications, tools, and camping gear. I break some stuff.

Yes, I want it all. I want to go rockcrawling with my overlanding rig. That means stronger housings and brackets, bigger brakes, and beefier gears—a Jeep with a GVWR around 7,000 pounds. That puts it in Grand Cherokee or Ram 1500 territory. Could the Wrangler Unlimited be built on the body-on-frame chassis of a Ram 1500? The standard cab Ram 1500 has a wheelbase of 120-inches, a mere 4-inches longer than the current Wrangler Unlimited, but it boasts a 6,500-pound GVWR. Additionally, the Ram 1500 chassis also offers both the EcoDiesel and Hemi powerplant options. Maybe we just drop the “Wrangler” and call it the “Unlimited.” Did I mention it could come with a Hemi? Better yet, can you say “Jeep truck”?

So what about the “classic” two-door? I’m still attracted to the lightweight sport utility that is the two-door, as are many others. Based on sales of JKs, 30 percent of Wrangler buyers prefer the “classic” Jeep two-door style. They are maneuverable and sporty. The two-door is still the Jeep I go to when I am feeling that need for simplicity, pure rockcrawling maneuverability, and an excuse to not have any backseat passengers (or “drivers”).

The current Wrangler platform is perfect as a two-door. The four-door? Not so much. Can’t we have both?

A two-door and a four-door traversing the same obstacle (Nobi’s Knob on the Rubicon Trail) have different advantages and disadvantages.

Here’s the gratuitous fat Jeep shot, carrying four days worth of gear for 10 people on the Rubicon Trail.

Admit it: You never carried this much junk in your two-door, nor did you have heated leather seats upon which to carry you!

Four-doors will never be as sexy as two-doors or no doors. Look at that slim belly!

If you’re going to take your overlander rockcrawling, be sure to have good belly armor.

The extra weight of the four-door Wrangler has been known to demonstrate the weak points in the rolling chassis.

The new Ram Rebel next to the larger Power Wagon. The Ram Rebel is based on the Ram 1500, and though IFS, it is a surprisingly capable four-wheel drive truck. With the Power Wagon, based on the 2500 platform, Chrysler has already proved its ability to build bigger, tougher 4WD rigs.

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