The Jeep Wrangler is one of the most iconic and recognizable vehicles in the world. It has a rich history that dates back to the World War II era when it was born as a military vehicle that helped the Allies win the war. Since then, it has evolved into a modern and versatile SUV that can tackle any terrain and challenge while also offering comfort and convenience for everyday driving.
The Wrangler has also been a huge success for Jeep, selling over 5 million units worldwide since its debut in 1986. The five-millionth Wrangler, a 2023 Jeep Wrangler 4xe Rubicon 20th Anniversary Edition in Earl exterior paint, was sold to a customer in Camden, New Jersey, in August 2023. The lucky owner received $5,000 worth of Jeep Performance Parts by Mopar and lifetime Jeep Wave customer care benefits.
We will take a look at how the Jeep Wrangler has changed over the years, what makes it so popular and appealing to different types of customers, and what the future holds for this legendary off-roader.
The Evolution of the Wrangler
The 2024 Jeep Wrangler is the direct descendant of the original Willys MB, which Willys-Overland developed as a light reconnaissance vehicle for the U.S. Army in 1941. The Willys MB, along with its Ford counterpart, the GPW, became known as the Jeep, a name that was derived from either the military designation GP (General Purpose) or a slang term for a new recruit.
The Jeep proved to be a reliable and versatile vehicle that could handle any terrain and weather condition. It was used for various purposes, such as transporting troops and supplies, towing artillery, scouting enemy positions, and even serving as an ambulance. The Jeep also became a symbol of freedom and democracy, as it helped liberate Europe and Asia from Nazi and Japanese occupation.
After the war ended, Willys-Overland decided to capitalize on the popularity and reputation of the Jeep by creating a civilian version called the CJ (Civilian Jeep). The CJ series lasted from 1945 to 1985 and introduced several improvements and innovations over the military model, such as more powerful engines, better suspension, larger tires, and more comfortable seats. The CJ series also spawned various derivatives and models, such as the Jeepster, the Wagoneer, the Gladiator, and the Scrambler.
In 1986, Jeep introduced the first generation of the Wrangler (YJ), which replaced the CJ-7 as the brand’s main compact SUV. The Wrangler was designed to be more modern and refined than the CJ series while still retaining its off-road capability and rugged charm. The Wrangler featured a wider track, a lower center of gravity, improved handling and stability, and more safety features. It also had square headlights instead of round ones, which caused some controversy among purists.
The second generation of the Wrangler (TJ) debuted in 1997 and brought back the round headlights as well as other classic design cues from the CJ series. The TJ also introduced a major innovation: coil springs instead of leaf springs for the suspension system. This resulted in a smoother ride, better articulation, and more ground clearance. The TJ also offered more engine options, including a 4.0-liter inline-six that produced 190 horsepower.
The third generation of the Wrangler (JK) arrived in 2007 and was larger and more spacious than its predecessors. For the first time in its history, the Wrangler was available in two body styles: a two-door model and a four-door model called the Wrangler Unlimited. The JK also had more advanced features and technology, such as electronic stability control, traction control, hill start assist, hill descent control, anti-lock brakes, and an optional navigation system.
The fourth and current generation of the Wrangler (JL) was launched in 2018 and represented a significant evolution of the model. The JL was lighter, stronger, and more aerodynamic than the JK, thanks to the use of aluminum and high-strength steel in its construction. The JL also had a redesigned grille, a fold-down windshield, removable doors, and LED lights. The JL offered a range of engine choices, including a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with mild hybrid system, a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 with optional eTorque mild hybrid system, a 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6, and a 6.4-liter Hemi V8 for the Rubicon 392 model. The JL also had a plug-in hybrid variant called the Jeep Wrangler 4xe, which combined a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with two electric motors and a 17 kWh battery pack. The Wrangler 4xe could deliver up to 375 horsepower, 470 pound-feet of torque, and 21 miles of electric-only range.
The Appeal of the Wrangler
The Wrangler has been a consistent best-seller for Jeep, averaging over 200,000 units per year in the U.S. market alone. The Jeep Wrangler has also been a global success, expanding its presence in markets such as China, Japan, Australia, Europe, and South Korea.
The Wrangler appeals to a wide and diverse range of customers, from hardcore off-road enthusiasts to urban adventurers. The Wrangler offers a unique combination of attributes that make it stand out from other SUVs, such as:
- Heritage: The Jeep Wrangler is a direct descendant of the original Jeep that helped win World War II and carries on its legacy of freedom, courage, and adventure. The Wrangler also preserves the classic design elements that make it instantly recognizable, such as the seven-slot grille, the round headlights, the trapezoidal wheel arches, and the spare tire mounted on the rear door.
- Capability: The Wrangler is one of the most capable off-road vehicles in the world, thanks to its solid axles, high ground clearance, short overhangs, skid plates, tow hooks, and locking differentials. The Wrangler also has various systems and modes that enhance its performance on different terrains and conditions, such as the Command-Trac and Rock-Trac four-wheel drive systems, the Selec-Trac and Selec-Speed full-time four-wheel drive systems, the Tru-Lok and Trac-Lok limited-slip differentials, the sway bar disconnect feature, and the Off-Road+ button. The Wrangler can ford up to 30 inches of water, climb up to 44-degree slopes, and traverse up to 37-degree side slopes.
- Customization: The Jeep Wrangler is one of the most customizable vehicles in the market, offering endless possibilities for personalization and modification. The Wrangler can be configured in various ways, such as choosing between two-door and four-door models, hardtop and soft-top roofs, full doors and half doors, and different trim levels and packages. The Wrangler can also be accessorized with hundreds of parts and accessories from Jeep Performance Parts by Mopar and other aftermarket suppliers. The Wrangler can be transformed into different styles and themes, such as military-inspired, retro-inspired, or extreme off-road.
- Fun: The Wrangler is one of the most fun vehicles to drive, offering a sense of adventure and excitement that few other SUVs can match. The Wrangler can be driven with the roof off, the doors off, and the windshield down, creating a unique open-air experience that connects the driver and passengers with the environment. The Wrangler can also take the driver and passengers to places where few other vehicles can go, exploring new trails, sceneries, and destinations.
The Future of the Wrangler
The Jeep Wrangler is not resting on its laurels but rather continuing to innovate and improve for the future. The Wrangler is embracing new technologies and trends to enhance its performance, efficiency, and sustainability while maintaining its core values and identity.
Some of the future developments and plans for the Wrangler include:
- Electrification: The Wrangler already offers a plug-in hybrid option with the 4xe model, which combines a gasoline engine with two electric motors and a battery pack. The Jeep Wrangler 4xe model provides more power, torque, and efficiency than the conventional models and an electric-only mode that reduces emissions and noise. The Jeep Wrangler 4xe plug-in hybrid also enhances the car's off-road capability, as the electric motors deliver instant torque and precise control. The Wrangler is also planning to introduce a fully electric model in the near future, which will offer even more benefits in terms of performance, efficiency, and sustainability.
- Connectivity: The Wrangler is also offering more connectivity features and services that enhance its functionality and convenience. The Wrangler is equipped with the Uconnect infotainment system, which features a large touchscreen display, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, navigation system, Wi-Fi hotspot, and wireless charging. The Uconnect system also integrates with Amazon Alexa, allowing users to control various functions of the vehicle using voice commands. The Uconnect system also connects with the Jeep app on smartphones, which allows users to remotely access various information and functions of the vehicle, such as battery status, charging schedule, climate control, door lock/unlock, horn/lights activation, and vehicle location.
- Safety: The Wrangler is also offering more safety features and systems that enhance its protection and confidence on the road. The Wrangler is equipped with various advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), such as blind spot monitoring, rear cross-path detection, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, and automatic emergency braking. The Wrangler also has a 360-degree camera system that provides a bird’s-eye view of the vehicle and its surroundings, which is especially useful for off-road driving and parking maneuvers. The Wrangler also has a tire pressure monitoring system that alerts the driver when the tire pressure is low or uneven, which can affect the vehicle’s performance and safety.
- Community: The Wrangler is not just a vehicle but also a lifestyle and a culture. The Wrangler has a loyal and passionate fan base that forms a strong and supportive community. The Wrangler community organizes various events and activities, such as Jeep Jamborees, Jeep Festivals, Jeep Camps, and Jeep Clubs, where Wrangler owners and enthusiasts can meet, socialize, share experiences, and enjoy their vehicles together. The Wrangler community also has a unique way of greeting each other on the road by waving their hands or flashing their lights. This gesture, known as the Jeep Wave, signifies respect, camaraderie, and solidarity among Wrangler drivers.
The Jeep Wrangler is more than just a vehicle. It is a legend, a symbol, and an icon. It is a vehicle that has shaped history, culture, and society. It is a vehicle that offers unparalleled performance, versatility, and fun. It is a vehicle that inspires adventure, exploration, and discovery. It is a vehicle that celebrates 5 million sales and 37 years of off-road excellence. And it is a vehicle that will continue to evolve and improve in the future.