1997 Jeep Wrangler

By November 10, 1999
1997 Jeep Wrangler

Spring runoff had carved deep gullies in the muddy trail as we slogged past Buckhorn Canyon toward Fort Misery. Phoenix sprawled, forgotten, to the south, while Whiskey Springs rose 6700 feet above Horsethief Basin to the east. The primitive road wasn't even on the Arizona map, and for good reason. A car simply would not have made it up the muddy, rutted hill climbs. A big four-wheel drive sport-utility, such as a Jeep Grand Cherokee or even a two-door GMC Yukon might have gotten through, But very few sport-utilities would have tackled this primitive track as easily as the new Jeep Wrangler.

Yet, when we left the trail and turned south onto I-17 toward Phoenix, we were grateful for its smooth, comfortable ride quality. That's the essence of the new Wrangler. It provides the ultimate in off-road capability without punishing its occupants on the long road back to civilization. It's the right choice for perilous off-road treks like California's Rubicon Trail. But it's also fun for just bopping around the neighborhood. And it makes a statement about your lifestyle–or at least what you'd like your lifestyle to be.

Introduced in mid-'96 as a '97 model, the Wrangler has been completely redesigned and re-engineered. It's vastly improved over its predecessors in every respect. Yet it remains true to its gritty World War II heritage, when Jeeps served with distinction around the world.

Since then, the little Jeep has become synonymous with off-road capability. When the ads say “There's Only One Jeep,” this is the one.

The last generation of the Wrangler–the YJ, distinguished by its square headlights–sacrificed off-road capability for improved road manners. This angered off-road enthusiasts who donned T-shirts that read, “Real Jeeps have round headlights.”

The people at Jeep didn't like those T-shirts. So they made a host of improvements without compromising the Wrangler's original purpose. They were successful. The 1997 Jeep Wrangler is the best it's ever been. It's quieter. It's more comfortable. It's roomier. It rides better. It handles better. It's more capable off road. It even has round headlights.