If there were a vehicle in this test we’d want to go on a road trip in and take the entire staff, it would have to be the Infiniti. With a huge passenger cabin and accommodations that leave not a bad seat in the house, the Infiniti is a pleasure to ride in with a full compliment of crew and gear. The interior is screwed, glued, and stitched together with incredibly fine materials and the ride, with the help of Infiniti’s Hydraulic Body Motion Control System suspension, makes highway miles disappear like a box of donuts in the lunchroom. We also took a liking to the 15-speaker Bose Cabin Surround sound system, which recreated music in such a way, we were tempted to bust out our lighters and sway with the soundtrack.
From the driver’s seat, the Infiniti offers an Alphabits bowl of technology including the Around View camera and sonar system, Intelligent Cruise Control (ICC), Blind Spot Warning (BSW), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Distance Control Assist (DCA), Intelligent Brake Assist with Front Collision Warning (IBA with FCW), Adaptive Front Lighting (AFL) with auto-leveling headlights and pre-tensioning seat belts. This is one of those vehicles that digitizes the driving experience, further removing the driver from the equation. While we can effortlessly roll miles on the odometer, it’s about as involved a driving experience as one would find on a gaming console in their living room.
While the Infiniti presented itself as a highway vehicle, we did note that it wasn’t as quiet as we would have expected for such an expensive ride. Part of the noise came from the optional 22-inch tires, which would slap tar strips and expansion joints, like they were bros hi-fiving after getting lucky on a double date. We also found the interface with the controls and technology to be complex, necessitating a steeper learning curve than the last Android phone we used.
If the Infiniti symbolizes the isolation chamber of the test, the Wranglers represent what may have caused you to need an isolation chamber in the first place. While offering much-improved NVH over previous models, there is no denying that you are immersed in the world outside your driver’s door in the Wrangler. If it is hot, cold, sunny, wet, busy, still, smooth or bumpy, you will know it in the Wrangler. The Wranglers are good, but not great, highway cars and require, even demand, driver involvement. The two-door, in particular, with its short wheelbase and manual transmission is not a vehicle you can be lazy in, but it is this involvement that makes the Wrangler an absolute pleasure to operate.
For those in the shift-it-for-me camp, you’ll be equally as impressed with the new W5A580 five-speed automatic, which is such a leap forward in progress from the antiquated four-speed 42RFE that you’ll wonder if Jeep engineers used a time machine to bring it back from the future. We especially like the manual-shifting functionality. Not only can you select a particular gear, but the transmission will hold it all the way to fuel cutoff, never second guessing your gear selection strategy by upshifting for you.
The interiors of the Wranglers are simple and straightforward with a clean, stylish, and uncluttered dash. Controls are intuitive to operate and everything just works. The Wranglers got high marks for comfortable seats that provide a wide range of adjustment and an elevated seating position.
We also had both versions of the Media Center head units offered by Jeep. The 430N and the 730N while similar, are not the same. The 730N is the more expensive option and has features not available in the 430N such as a much nicer NAVTEQ mapping system and display, SiriusXM Traffic, dead reckoning, and a music/nav split screen. If navigation is not the most important purchase consideration, then the 430N might be right for you as both units offer a 40GB hard drive, will play DVDs when parked, wirelessly stream music from your Bluetooth phone, and access SiriusXM Travel Link. There is no difference in sound quality, which is generally acceptable, if not a bit underpowered.
The main difference between the Wrangler and the Unlimited is the extra length on the Unlimited that makes it slightly more stable and less twitchy going down the highway, but a little less maneuverable at lower speeds. We also noted that the Unlimited seemed to be slightly noisier than the Wrangler, which would makes sense considering how much extra fabric is contacting the airstream.
2nd Place: Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon
Power, room for the family, increased stability
Decreased breakover angle, increased weight
The One when you aren’t wheeling alone
From the Logbook:
- “Stability improvement on the highway over two-door is notable.”
- “Reasonably quiet noise levels, despite an uninsulated cloth top.”
- “Can feel increased weight over whoops.”
- “The auto is way more fun than I expected, great shifts!”
- “Maybe if I had a family, I would like the four-door more.”
John Cappa, Editor
Both the two- and four-door Wrangler Rubicons are impressive with their seemingly do-all-well capability. The Infiniti QX56 absolutely wowed me with luxury, technology, and it’s dune performance. But at the end of the day it’s the simple two-door Wrangler Rubicon with a manual transmission that I’d want in my driveway. I’d love to have the additional cargo space of the four-door Wrangler but I just don’t need it often enough to justify the compromises that the extra wheelbase creates.
Ken Brubaker, Senior Editor
Out of this trio of vehicles, I have to give a shout out to the Wrangler Rubicon. Having spent a fair amount of time behind the wheel of the 3.8L-powered JK, I have to say that the new 3.6L Pentastar left me very impressed. The new engine has significantly transformed the two-door JK into a snappy, fun-to-drive machine, and the bump in fuel mileage is decent, too. The Pentastar V-6 almost makes me forget that I prefer Jeep cylinders lined up in single file.
Sean P. Holman, Tech Editor
For me it has to be the Wrangler Unlimited with its extra set of doors and extended wheelbase. I am a fan of longer wheelbase vehicles, however, the Unlimited isn’t so long that it can’t get through tight places. It also allows me to carry enough supplies for a weeklong excursion, or transport the family in style. More than a hypothetical answer to a hypothetical question, I was so impressed with the Wrangler Unlimited that I actually went out and bought one.
Jason Gonderman, Web Editor
If I were to choose one of these SUVs to live with everyday, I think it would have to be the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited. It has all the off-road prowess of the two-door Wrangler, feels more stable thanks to its added length, is easier to get people into, and holds more gear. The Infiniti is nice, but it makes me sad to get it dirty.
Greg Smith, Art Director
I would take the Wrangler Unlimited. It fits my family, will tackle any trail I’m brave enough to attempt, plus with the automatic, it’s a pleasure to drive in the torturous Los Angeles traffic. Also, I have to say that Jeep has hit a home run with the new powerplant, and makes this Wrangler the best yet.
Steve von Seggern, Publisher
Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. To quote myself from our 2007 Four Wheeler of the Year story: “The two-door Jeep is the rightful winner, but only because the minivan V-6 just doesn’t have nearly enough huevos for the four-door. If you gave the Unlimited a Hemi, or a 3.0 CRD, or Jeep’s own 4.7 V-8, or even DCX’s new 4.0 OHC V-6, you’d have my winner of this smack down in a heartbeat. That’s sad because the Unlimited is the most significant new vehicle to come along for us in a very long time and will have implications for us for years to come; just imagine a rig as capable as the Rubicon Unlimited on 37s and still quite comfortable as a daily-driven family car. Let the aftermarketing begin.” OK, it finally happened, it just took Jeep 5 years to get around to it.
David Hamilton, Account Executive Vermin
I picked the JK Unlimited for my OTY winner. What other vehicle can you still buy off the dealer lot, that includes unmatched off-road capabilities, a peppy 3.6L Pentastar, five-speed auto, and a refined boulevard cruising interior. The new Jeep Wrangler Unlimited is hard to beat!