Jeep. There are few automotive brands that are so instantly recognizable. Starting life as a military truck, this utility vehicle has slowly morphed from a bare-bones steel box on wheels to a capable and comfortable SUV with a proud heritage. With it being so ubiquitous, one might forget just how much the Jeep has changed over the years and why it might be worth checking your local Jeep Wrangler dealer. For 2021, the Wrangler is getting several major upgrades, including the V8 Rubicon 392 and the plug-in hybrid Wrangler 4xe.
Buyers also have no fewer than nine limited-edition models to choose from. These include a nod to the model’s past with the Willys and Willys Sport to the fun-in-the-sun Islander Edition and patriotic Freedom Edition. While the majority of these “Special Editions” consist of little more than decals and paint choices, it’s nice to know that Jeep hasn’t forgotten its past or lost its adventurous nature. Let’s take a look at what the most current generation of Jeep offers buyers and how it’s changed from the previous model first introduced all the way back in the heady days of 2007.
The Jeep JK was the model to introduce the four-door Wrangler Unlimited that has since outsold the original two-door Wrangler and will most likely continue to do so as long as it is offered. In fact, it is entirely possible that the two-door model will eventually be dropped from the lineup altogether. The current Wrangler generation (known as the JL by fans) was introduced in 2017 and used the same basic platform as the JK model it replaced.
The JL offers revised styling that Jeep fans had been crying out for since the former bodystyle had hung around for a full decade without major upgrades. The JL offers a new revised grille that houses the headlights in slightly off-canted cups with the ever-present seven bars between them. The front bumper is more complex, with tapered ends and fog lights housed within it. Unlike the two small orange dots used as turn signals on the previous model, the most current generation has them housed in the plastic wheel arches.
The tail lights are also slightly more complicated in the newer model by featuring the reverse lights not as separate bulbs but as a strip around the perimeter of the light itself. Also new for 2021 is the Freedom Top, which allows owners to remove their Jeep’s roof in three pieces for an open-air feel. Like every Jeep before it, one can fold the front windshield down and remove the doors.
Knowing when the JK was first introduced gives one the impression of its interior. The early 2000s that birthed the JK was not known for having the best quality plastics, though fortunately, the JL gets away from that. It features a simple, rugged dash that is a single flat plane stretching across the truck. The vents are round and carry forward perfectly symmetrical styling that is a major departure from the last generation.
All the controls are within easy reach and placed logically throughout the cabin. Material quality has been much refined and features high-quality stitching on the surfaces drivers and passengers come in contact with the most. It’s a thoughtful approach to the interior of what was originally a very spartan design. This shows that the modern Jeep can both be comfortable and capable, on and off the road.
The Wrangler is probably what comes to mind when you think about off-road vehicles, and that’s for a good reason. The Jeep brand has become a legend among off-roaders, a target that other carmakers have been chasing for years and have never quite managed to hit. The Wrangler was the only two-door SUV on offer in America for decades, every single competitor having long since been replaced by more practical four-door models. It is only recently that the newest generation of the Ford Bronco has challenged Jeep in this way, and it will be interesting to see how many choose this option. Will it also suffer the low take rate as the Wrangler? Only time will tell… However, a shorter wheelbase helps with off-road driving, which is what these trucks are marketed for in the first place.
Speaking of, the 2021 Wrangler features cameras mounted fore and aft and are pointed to the ground as you drive. If you find yourself wondering what’s below you as you rock crawl, you can use the camera views as a guide to help you navigate without a spotter. Like so many Jeep vehicles, the Wrangler is Trail Rated, meaning it meets a rigorous set of criteria to pass as an off-road-ready truck. Production examples are taken out to incredibly cold and hot climates to drive over rough terrain and crawl through tight winding spaces. The badge isn’t meaningless, as some car sites have surmised, and guarantees your Wrangler can take you anywhere you want to go.
Breaking the Mold for 2021
The Jeep 4xe is an all-new plug-in hybrid version of the Wrangler, offering 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. It couples a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine to an electric drive system giving drivers an incredible 49 MPGe and can even drive on battery power alone. While absolutely incredible for an SUV of its size, don’t mistake this for a fully electric vehicle. Using electric power alone will only take you 22 miles before the batteries are drained, and the gasoline engine kicks back in. If you want to travel without using gasoline in this truck, you’d better hope your destination is close by without any traffic. But while not an EV (which it was never claiming to be), the Wrangler 4xe offers buyers the extended range and the instant torque that only electric drive technology can provide.
If you care more about raw power and noise than efficiency, maybe the new Wrangler Rubicon 392 is more your speed. Using the same V8 engine as the Dodge Charger Scat Pack, it makes 470 horsepower and is the most powerful production Wrangler in history. In addition to the massive engine, the Wrangler 392 features an upgraded eight-speed transmission with heavy-duty suspension components. The hood scoop is functional, and the truck uses an adjustable dual exhaust that can be open or closed to change the volume. The interior has seats with large bolsters to keep occupants in place and copper-colored stitching on the headrests. This Jeep Wrangler is going to be one for the history books.
History In The Making
No matter what 2021 Jeep Wrangler you’re searching for, you’ve got the opportunity to own an amazing vehicle. Starting with the most basic Sport model all the way up to the most expensive Rubicon 392 model, there is a Wrangler that will be just right for you. You can haul your family, camping equipment, and a small trailer with the knowledge you’ll make it back home no matter what the trail throws at you. The 4xe and 392 models show that the Jeep brand is always striving to give buyers new experiences, while the Willys special editions continue to tie the Wrangler to its storied past. I think you’ll find the Jeep Wrangler worth a test drive if you’re in the market.