After 12,500 Miles, Still Our Favorite Jeep Ever
After nearly a year in our test stable, our long-term JK Wrangler has certainly earned its keep with us. We've put her to use as a dedicated trail runner, an urban driver and a freeway commuter. She's taken us and all our gear from L.A. to Moab in comfort. More recently, we put her through somer paces as a photographer's support rig, shooting feature trucks in the Mojave Desert. Our crack lensman summed up his seat time thusly: "On-road, puh-leze. Off-Road, please!"
That might be oversimplifying just a bit, but for the most part, our opinions of the JK, both pro and con, haven't changed much over time. We still long for another engine for our Jeep (no, not a Hemi; we're not that crazy). The 3.8L V-6, sourced from the (gasp) Chrysler minivan lineup, simply doesn't cut the mustard at low rpm, or when instant acceleration is needed, and the crude and jerky 42RE four-speed likewise seems to work against the powerband on long grades or under hard throttle. Put 'em together, and less-than-stellar mileage is another result. On the other hand, those are about the only things we actually can complain about on this rig, save the occasionally balky transfer-case shifter that sometimes takes a bit of babying to slip into 4-Lo. The Jeep's short overhangs and tight turning circle make it super-maneuverable, whether we're crawling through a rocky V-notch or squeezing into a tight parking space. And the straight-from-the-factory selectable lockers let us "tune our traction" to suit our needs at any moment-giving us the freedom to lock up only the front wheels, rear wheels, or all four at the same time. The five-link/coil suspension, while somewhat wallowy at higher speeds on pavement, delivers as much travel on the trail as an out-of-the-box OE four-wheel drive can deliver without a long-arm assist via the aftermarket.
Mileage for the most recent test period has only marginally tipped upward. If there is much more in the way of mpg to be squeezed out of the powertrain, we're at a loss to explain how since we've logged a disproportionate amount of unloaded Interstate miles during the test period. However, we've had no warranty or repair issues with this rig, so we'd have to say the cost of a JK's ownership, at least as we've experienced it, is largely dependent on the price of fuel. Otherwise, our JK has been very well-mannered, delivering dependable, trouble-free performance throughout the past year, and after 12,000-plus miles, she's still our Favorite. Jeep. Ever. We'll check back in another couple of months for our final, farewell test evaluation before she turns into a pumpkin.
Report: 3 of 4
Previous reports: Apr. '08, Aug. '08
Base price: $26,695
Price as tested: $32,420
Four-wheel-drive system: NVG241 Rock-Trac part-time two-speed
Miles to date: 12,525
Miles since last report: 2,650
Average mpg (this report): 15.67
Test best tank (mpg): 18.78
Test worst tank (mpg): 12.26
Problem areas: None
What's Hot, What's Not
Hot: Tight turning radius, quiet interior, chick-magnet paint, unsurpassed trail manners
Not: Occasional brake fade, sometimes-brutal mileage
* "I liked the six cylinders a lot better when they were a single file."
* "By far the most refined Wrangler in the lineage."
* "Twelve thousand miles, minimal tire wear and paint still factory-new."
* "Love the tight turning circle; reacts to steering inputs quickly."