Car Life Nation

When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

An orange 2019 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is shown from the front while driving over a rock.

My Love For The Jeep Wrangler, As Told By Noel

I grew up with a family of truck lovers. My dad has always had big, heavy-duty farm trucks and work trucks. Mom refuses to drive a car, owning two trucks throughout my entire 27 years of life—a blue/green 1992 Chevy Silverado and a maroon 2004 GMC Sierra that she still drives today. Naturally, when I turned 16, I thought I wanted to drive a truck like my parents always did. Maybe a Chevy Colorado or a GMC Canyon. But when we arrived at the dealership on my birthday just to “look around,” in my dad’s words, there were two red two-door Jeep Wranglers sitting there that caught his eye. And the rest is history.

How I Fell In Love with the 2012 Wrangler Sport

“Why don’t you give the Wrangler a test drive,” Dad said. Despite being pretty dead set on looking at trucks, one of the Wranglers had some pretty sick black wheels. So, I decided to give it a go. The beefed-up model was actually a used trade-in that someone had slightly modified. It was nice, but as non-smokers, we weren’t fans of the cigarette-stained scent. We quickly moved over to the brand-new 2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport model that actually had a lower price tag than the used model. The first thing I noticed was that the seat could rise up higher, which is a great selling point when you’re 4’11”. Thanks to its boxy style, the mirrors were easy to see out of, and I could feel that—like a truck—I was sitting high off the ground. This one was worth taking on a test drive.

After we got back from that drive, I knew all I needed to know. When it was time for me to get a vehicle, it was going to be a Jeep Wrangler. What I didn’t know is that dad came to the dealership with an ulterior motive—to surprise me with a reliable, safe vehicle to drive—and we had already found it. The same vehicle I test drove that day ended up being the model I drove for the next decade. I passed my driver’s test in it, took it back and forth to college for six years, and even watched it survive getting pelted by a giant Beech tree during an ice storm with little to no damage. I drove it all over the farm and tested its limits (which were minimal). I eventually installed subwoofers and added black and red wheels with red under glow lighting to really make it feel like my own. Everybody knew me by my little red Jeep.

By 2021, as time moved forward, despite the Sport’s durability and lack of mechanical issues, I started pushing that 150,000-mile mark. I had graduated college, started working, and was becoming independent from my parents. These occurrences made me realize it was about time for me to buy a vehicle on my own. I first debated trading the Wrangler in for a new one, but the memories I had attached to it were immense. Do I just keep it and use it on the farm? Convert it into an off-road-only ride?

The decision felt impossible until I realized something—my little cousin (and best friend) would soon be turning 16. He and I were merely ten years apart in age and inseparable, and he always followed in my footsteps. It only made sense that he’d inherited the ol’ red Wrangler. So, after expressing my hope to his parents, I handed it down to him, and he’s since become just as enthusiastic about Wranglers as I am. He even lets me drive it on occasion, for old times’ sake.

A grey 2022 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Willys is shown from the front at an angle.

Getting to Know the 2021 Jeep Wrangler Willys

At this point, the decision was final: I was going to buy a new Wrangler. But should I upgrade trims? Go back for another trusty yet cheaper Sport model? I wasn’t entirely sure. I searched local dealerships, custom built my own ideas on Jeep’s website, but I just couldn’t decide. What I knew for sure was my budget and my color option—it had to be Sarge Green this time. As I grew older, the outdoorsy aspect around Jeeping became much more prominent to me, and this color fit right in line with that. I like something I can take to state parks and “4WD-only” cabins. I love the photogenic aspect of Wranglers, too. Let’s face it; they just look better in the wild than other vehicles do. It may be superficial, but it’s true.

When I visited the dealership, I got an awesome salesperson. He was all about finding me exactly what I wanted, even though they didn’t have it on the lot. He worked hard to track down a variety of Sarge Green Wranglers, but it was the Willys trim that really caught my eye. I sorted through all the options and decided on one particular Willys model that could be at the dealership in a few days. While I was still there, I went ahead and test drove a two-door 2021 Rubicon just to get a feel for what I was ordering—and it blew me away. It was just like my Sport Wrangler, but smoother, more high-tech, and best of all? It had much better fuel economy ratings. They had me sold.

I knew off-the-bat from my experience with automotive writing that the Willys pays homage to Jeep history, but what I didn’t yet realize was how much more off-road-capable this model was going to be compared to my 2012 Sport. First off, there are the mud tires. I don’t care how “impractical” people may say they are. I still average 24 MPG with them, they look cooler, and best of all, they can really climb some murky places that are even hard for the trucks to handle. The 2021 Willys also felt a lot more “heavy-duty” in comparison to my old Jeep, largely thanks to rock rails, that underbody skid plate, and the fact that it sits up even higher than my OG model.

The leather-wrapped steering wheel is comfortable, giving the Willys a more luxurious feel, and the front roof inserts are much lighter, which is a huge perk for me since I’m not the strongest person around. It’s essentially everything I loved about the 2012 Sport, plus upgrades to the few factors that bothered me before, like rougher suspension and lower fuel economy that comes along with an aged 2012 model.

A silver 2023 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe is shown from the rear at an angle.

Stickin’ with the Wrangler for the Long Haul

I can’t imagine my life without the Wrangler. It’s not just about getting from point A to point B to me, it’s about the experience. Practical drivers may give Jeep enthusiasts a hard time because we’re paying a little more, and we’re all much more heavily involved in our vehicles, at least compared to the average SUV driver. But it really is a lifestyle thing. Oh, it’s too cold to break out the ATV? Let’s just take the Wrangler up on the farm. Got some larger items to haul up on the ridgetop? We’ve got the Wrangler to make it happen. It’s winter, and Dad needs a ride from the barn when he drops off his tractor? Ol’ Willy is there to help.

My goal is to keep the Willys as long as I can. Once it’s paid off, I’d like to go a while without another monthly vehicle payment. That said, the whole 4xe platform has definitely caught my eye, especially now that the Willys trim is included in the lineup. My problem now is that I’m a sucker for two-doors, and I don’t think I could ever transition to the four-door Unlimited style. As the electric and hybrid world progresses, maybe Jeep will find a way to implement this capability for two-door models. If we ever see that day, who knows what innovations may convince me to trade my ‘21 Willys in. In the meantime, though, I don’t plan on Willy going anywhere.

Regardless of which year or trim I own, the Wrangler will always be my daily driver.

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