Purpose-built for off-roading, the 2007 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited doesn't fare quite as well on the pavement. But with four doors, you can bring plenty of company out into the wilderness, and you won't lack for amenities--the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited can be had with satellite radio, Bluetooth cell phone integration, and even an in-dash music and photo server.
For our test car, we had the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon, which comes with full off-road gear, including skid plates, heavy duty rear axle, and an electronically disconnecting front sway bar. Unlike most SUVs, the Wrangler is the real deal, able to crawl up canyons and ford rivers. The Unlimited is stretched, getting an extra set of doors in back, with more room for passengers and cargo. Because of the extra length and military styling, various people commented that it looks like a Hummer. We had to refute that comment, noting that Hummers look like the Jeep, because the Jeep came first.
Test the tech: Quarry crawl
With the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, we got the rare chance to test it on a serious off-road course. Earlier this year, as part of our local automotive journalists association, we took this Wrangler Unlimited on a highly technical area of the Hollister Hill off-road recreation area called The Quarry. This old quarry has hills covered in small-to-fist-size rocks, making for an extremely unstable surface, along with heavily rutted dirt roads with big drop-offs.
We started out by putting the Wrangler Unlimited in the 4L position with its four-wheel-drive shifter, pushing the button to disconnect the sway bar, and putting the automatic transmission shifter in its lowest range. Then we aimed the front of the car up a rock-strewn hill and started the ascent. The stock 32-inch Goodyear MTR tires bit in and held on as the Jeep made it up the hill with out a hint of backsliding.
We easily crested the top, with plenty of clearance over the lip of the hill, and had to make an immediate left turn. There, we waited for some Land Rovers to go down a nasty dirt road that had bad ruts and a sharp right turn. At one point on that road, the cars ahead of us had their rear right wheel hanging in mid-air, something we would have to put the Jeep through, too. When it was our turn, the Wrangler Unlimited crawled down the road with very little effort on our part. We didn't even feel the section where we only had three tires on terra firma. We held the high ground on the rest of the dirt road until we made it off the hill.
Our final challenge involved heading down a rocky slope. On this one, the Jeep was unperturbed as it made its way down. We merely had to control the brake and keep the automatic in its lowest range. Unlike some of the more upscale off-roaders, the Wrangler Unlimited doesn't have descent control. But what stood out for us about the experience is that, even with amateurs like us behind the wheel, the Wrangler Unlimited tackled some difficult terrain. In fact, it made it easy and relatively effortless. We had spotters and someone to tell us which settings to use, but this is a vehicle that most people could safely take into the wilderness.
In the cabin
As a tech car, the Wrangler Unlimited has a surprising amount of features going for it. Purists might think putting power windows on a Jeep makes it a tech car, but the Wrangler Unlimited can be optioned with satellite radio, Bluetooth cell phone integration, navigation, and even a music server.
Our test car had the standard sound system, with seven Infinity speakers and a 368-watt amp. It's pretty impressive for a standard system, with two tweeters poking out of the dashboard, mids in the lower dashboard and attached to the rollbar, and a big subwoofer in the cargo area. The audio from this system was good, although it sounded a little muffled. We were able to get a decent thump from the subwoofer.