2021 Jeep Wrangler

By November 16, 2020

Like all Jeeps since 1950, the 2021 Jeep Wrangler SUV is boxy and cool. It’s the master of off-road capability, still popular after all these years.

Not much has changed with the Wrangler for 2021.

The base powertrain is the most common, and it’s quite good. A 3.6-liter V-6 making 285 horsepower is mated to a 6-speed manual transmission or 8-speed automatic. The upgrade engine is much smaller: the 2.0-liter turbo-4 makes 270 hp but more torque, and is available in every Wrangler, even the full-tilt off-road Rubicon, where it performs well. The manual gearbox is no longer offered with the turbo-4.

There’s a third engine, a 3.0-liter turbodiesel that offers a humongous 442 pound-feet of torque. It’s only available in four-door Wranglers with the 8-speed automatic.

The seats are cushy enough, and the back seat is limited in space. The cargo capacity is limited only by your imagination and aerodynamics, as long as you take the roof off, and Wranglers can tow up to 3,500 pounds.

A four-door Wrangler with the V-6 and 8-speed automatic is EPA-rated at 19 mpg city, 28 highway, 21 combined; with the 6-speed manual transmission, that drops to 17/23/19 mpg.

With the 2.0-liter turbo-4 it improves to 21/24/22 mpg. The two-door models get 1 mpg more.

Diesel-powered Wranglers, which only come with four doors and the automatic, are rated at 22/29/25 mpg.

The IIHS rated the Wrangler “Good” in most of its crash tests, except the driver-side small overlap test, where it received a “Marginal” score. The NHTSA reported a four-star score for front crash safety and a three-star score in the rollover test. Automatic emergency braking is available on all models except the Sport.

Model Lineup

The Wrangler comes as Sport, Sport S, Sahara, and Rubicon, with two or four doors.

The base two-door Sport costs about $30,000 and comes with hand-crank windows, no air conditioning, and a radio. Also cloth seats, a 5.0-inch infotainment display, and 17-inch steel wheels.

The Sport S adds power windows, alloy wheels, and air conditioning. An options package brings a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility; with that package the price is about $36,000.

For more than $40,000, the four-door-only Sahara adds 18-inch wheels, dual-zone air conditioning, better cloth upholstery, and 7.0-inch touchscreen. The many options include an 8.4-inch touchscreen and leather upholstery.

The hardcore, off-road Rubicon starts at more than $43,000 for a four-door version. It comes with beefy off-road gear including heavy-duty shocks,, 17-inch wheels with knobby tires, a 7.0-inch touchscreen, and enough optional equipment to drive the price above a breathtaking $60,000.

Exterior

The body style of the 2021 Wrangler hasn’t changed since it was lightly restyled a couple years ago. At that time it got new taillights, new headlights, and new fenders.

Interior

Inside the Wrangler, a low, wide dash and high front seats afford good forward vision. The front seats are supportive and comfortable, although less comfortable than a base Jeep Cherokee.

The two-door Wranglers make it difficult to reach the back seat, where passengers have 35.7 inches of leg room. The four-doors have more than 38 inches of leg room, and enough space for two to sit in comfort, though three may fit.

Behind the second row, both Wranglers offer 31.7 cubic feet of cargo space.

Driving Impressions

The 3.6-liter V-6 makes 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. The engine is refined and reasonably fuel-efficient, but peak torque doesn’t arrive until a very high 4,800 rpm.

The 2.0-liter turbo-4 with 270 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque solves that, with its more user-friendly powerband. It peaks at 3,000 rpm. That really pays off when driving over trails. Meanwhile, its lesser horsepower isn’t missed on the highway.

The 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 is the torque king by a mile, with 442 lb-ft at just 1,400 rpm. It costs about $4,000 more than a V-6. The turbodiesel is exceptionally smooth and refined, and it’s a bit more fuel-efficient, but may take up to seven years to pay back its upfront cost in fuel savings, with average annual mileage.

A 6-speed manual transmission is available on Wranglers with the 3.6-liter V-6. The transmission’s throws are pretty long, and it’s not very fuel-efficient.

Meanwhile, the 8-speed automatic is impressive in every application; its shifts are seamless, and its brain knows the right gear to be in at all times, including off-roading.

The Wrangler’s ladder frame construction is a blessing off-road. Wranglers can crawl, lumber, clamber, climb, scramble, or shimmy to the top of just about anything. On the pavement, it’s less favorable. The ride can be rough, and the steering is vague, especially on two-door models.

The Rubicon travels to the edge of our imagination with a tough suspension, locking differentials, disconnecting sway bars, and approach and departure angles of nearly right angles. A two-door Rubicon could run to the ends of the world on its 33-inch tires, so long as it’s not on pavement.

Final Word

The 2021 Jeep Wrangler has off-road heritage by the yard. It’s less capable as a family crossover vehicle—but especially in Rubicon trim, it’s ready for any adventure, anywhere. We’d take that version, remove the top, and head out on the trail.

 

—by Sam Moses with driving impressions by The Car Connection

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