When you’re 16-years-old, you imagine that driving will always be fun. For most of us, it takes years of traffic, lousy radio stations, and a less-than-desirable vehicle (or two) for that starry-eyed driving passion to wither away. Driving the 2013 Four Wheeler of the Year-winning Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Moab edition has got us thinking back to those olden days of untarnished vehicle enthusiasm. When we were 16, we would have been stoked to have a Jeep with heavy-duty bumpers, black wheels, a selectable rear locker, and sliders. Heck, even the Power Dome hood would have been a bragging right!
The all-terrain tires, giant Moab hood decals, and Gecko Pearl green paint we probably could have tolerated, but would have likely gotten us a bit of ribbing from our buddies. While the off-road-centric accessories and exterior remind us of our teenaged 4x4 want list, the interior sets the tone for a more mature time. Maybe it’s the plush seats or fancy steering wheel controls, but the inside of the Wrangler has a way of transferring your mindset from “Yeah, that puddle doesn’t look that deep” to “Sure, we can take your mother to lunch dear.” In the midst of all that refinement though, there is one item that has lost some of its luster in the Unlimited platform.
Maybe it’s the two extra doors, or the 3.73 gear ratio, or the slightly overhyped 3.6L V-6, but the six-speed manual transmission in our tester just doesn’t have the same fun factor as it does in the classic two-door Wrangler. Listen, we don’t want to see the manual go away, we just think it might be time for a stick-shift refresh. The fact that our Moab tester has an as-tested price of $41,600 also makes us believe that the manual option should be something that creates a sportier feel to the vehicle on- and off-road. Instead, we often feel as though we are rowing gears in an old 1-ton truck with some type of steel-legged cricket that starts to chirp every time the gearbox is in neutral. For a vehicle that cost as much as a fullsize truck, we expect a bit more.
Since the Moab Wrangler serves as a daily driver of sorts, we have been able to get in some serious seat time. We stand by that the ’13 JK has the best front seats ever put in a Wrangler, but one comment that we were surprised to hear from our backseat passengers is how comfy the rear is to sit. That’s something you would likely never hear from a two-door Wrangler owner. Even after taking a few trips to the North Carolina mountains with the vehicle packed with four adults, the seats front and rear continued to get plenty of thumbs up.
We have yet to reach the EPA-estimated 21 mpg highway figures, but have found that a touch over 19 mpg is easily obtainable. After spending much of this quarter on the highway, we are itching to get more wheeling time under our belts. Be sure to check back in a few months, when we will give you the rundown on how the Wrangler jived with some rugged Southeast terrain.
Report: 2 of 4
Previous reports: Dec. 2013
Base price: $31,195
Price as tested: $41,600
Four-wheel-drive system: Lever-actuated part-time, two-speed
Miles to date: 4,742
Miles since last report: 3,169
Average mpg (this report): 16.63
Test best tank (mpg): 19.50 (all highway around 70 mph w/four adults and gear)
Test worst tank (mpg): 14.89 (off-road/in-town driving mix)
This period: Oil change, $38.80
Problem areas: none
What’s Hot, What’s Not
Hot: Comfy, spacious, useable accessories inside and out
Not: Uninspiring six-speed manual, lower-than-expected fuel economy
“Twenty bags of marble rock, ten pavers, and two people fit nicely.”
“The 16-year-old me loves this Jeep.”
“There isn’t a bad place to sit.”
“Yes. 285hp is better, but I still want more.”