Expanding on a proven, accepted platform is an equation that rarely fails. Jeep adopted that proven strategy with the introduction of the Wrangler Unlimited. Sharing all the legendary components that stamped the Jeep Wrangler with iconic status, Jeep engineers didn't have to change much. The Wrangler Unlimited is basically a roomier, quieter TJ, with 15 inches added to its overall length.
The added length provides room for a larger, more effective muffler, an extra frame crossmember, and 2 inches of rear passenger legroom. The big news, though, is the addition of a very usable 13 inches of cargo room behind the rear seat. Finally, in this latter-day echo of the much-loved CJ-8 Scrambler, Jeep owners will be able to tote lots of gear around without having to purchase an aftermarket cargo-rack system.
The first thing you'll notice, once you get behind the wheel of the TJ-L, as it is called, are its remarkably improved road manners. Gone are the sharp, bone-jarring impacts from imperfect road surfaces that are so much a part of life with a TJ. The 10 inches of additional wheelbase provide a much friendlier ride quality in all areas, soaking up and slowing down the vehicle's reaction to bumps. In addition to the refined ride, the longer wheelbase results in a 1,500-pound increase in towing capability.
Jeep engineers claim the new Wrangler Unlimited took just 18 months from initial concept to full-scale production. DaimlerChrysler Vice President Jeff Bell told Four Wheeler, "Designers only changed what was absolutely needed to accommodate the stretching. As a result, Jeep was able to minimize expenses such as retooling manufacturing plants, and revising assembly procedures." This results in a wallet-friendly starting price of $24,995. Equally notable is the Unlimited's weight. It's a mere 3,720 pounds, just 200 pounds more than its shorter sibling.
Jeep's continued dedication to improvement is evident in the new Sunrider soft top, which is standard on every Wrangler Unlimited. The new top includes a sunroof feature for those days when you're not sure you want to take the top completely down. It has a fold-back front section that allows the driver and front passenger to enjoy an optional open-air experience with less fuss. The rear portion of the top has also been improved, with larger, deep-tinted windows for increased visibility and security. The hardtop has also been refined, now offering added strength and greater noise deadening with increased crown height. Jeep officials expect that 35 percent of Wrangler Unlimited buyers will order the optional hardtop.
Currently the Wrangler Unlimited is only available in North American markets. The only question that begs an answer now is whether or not the new longer version will ever have the name of our favorite northern California trail printed on its hood, and the upgraded innards associated with that model assigned to its underpinnings. We asked of course, and the Jeep marketing professional simply grinned and said, "We'll just have to wait and see."
Vehicle Model: 2004 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
Turns (lock to lock): 3.4
Maximum Towing Capacity (lbs.): 3,500
Fuel Capacity (gal.): 19.1