New Car Review: 2013 Jeep Wrangler Sahara

Front 3/4 view of 2013 Jeep Wrangler Sahara

Times change.

Vehicles change.

People change.

35 years ago I came thisclose to buying a Jeep Wrangler.  It was known then as the Jeep CJ.  There was the CJ5 (6-cylinder) and CJ7 (V8).  As useful as it could have been (I was living in Reno, Nevada and considering the purchase during an especially snowy winter), the CJ7 was noisy, crude, thirsty and expensive.  The CJ5 was the first two and only a little less of the second two.

I bought a Toyota Corolla SR5 Liftback instead.  It was the right move at the time.

But after five days at the wheel of the Jeep Wrangler Sahara 4X4 (Chrysler needed it back two days early for an event, but I'm sure they'll find some way of making it up to me...may I suggest a long-term test of a Wrangler Sahara Unlimited?), the once unthinkable is making a lot of sense to me.  Is it me or is it the Jeep?

Side view of 2013 Jeep Wrangler Sahara

Actually, we've both changed, matured, grown and polished off some of the rough edges.  I am less noisy, crude, thirsty and expensive than I was in my 20s.

The Wrangler, as we've noted here a few times over the years, has managed the difficult task of substantial refinement without sacrificing purposeful design, character and utility.  It's still a Jeep...wait, no....it's still the Jeep (the Compass, Patriot, Cherokee and Grand Cherokee are models made by Jeep, but the Wrangler is the Jeep)...and yet, it's comfortable enough to use as a daily driver, able to get out of its own way, and gets quite decent mileage (EPA estimated 17 city/21 highway)...while still being able to, in one of my most loved phrases penned by David E. Davis, Jr., climb a tree if you're brave enough.

You can get into a Wrangler for as little as $22,395 for the Sport model, but step up to the Sahara at $27,795 and you'll get deep-tint sunscreen windows, air conditioning, power heated mirrors, remote keyless entry, power door locks, power windows, automatic headlamps, a security alarm, body-colored fender flares, tubular side steps, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a heavy-duty suspension with gas shocks.

The 3.6-liter Chrysler Pentastar engine is smooth, responsive and packs more than enough power...285 horses worth.

Interior view of 2013 Jeep Wrangler Sahara

Think like a Chrysler press fleet supervisor and you'll start checking the option boxes next.  Ours had leather-trimmed bucket seats, the front ones heated ($1,100); Customer Preferred Package 24G, which includes the Connectivity Group brining Uconnect, voice command, Bluetooth, tire pressure monitoring, an electronic vehicle information center, and a remote USB port ($495); slush mats to replace the standard floor mats ($75); A 5-speed automatic transmission ($1,125); Anti-spin differential rear axle ($295); an upgrade of the air conditioning to automatic temperature control with air filtration ($155); a body-color 3-piece hard top, a deluxe Sunrider soft top, a storage bag, rear window defroster and rear window wiper/washer ($1,795); the Uconnect audio upgrade with satellite radio, DVD, MP3, a 40-gig hard drive, SiriusXM TravelLink, a 6.5 inch touchscreen display and navigation ($1,035) and a remote start system ($495).

Add $995 destination charges and you're at $35,360.  Not cheap and a lot of stuff...but I wouldn't change a thing if I was ordering it.  First, the average new car price this year is $30,478, so this is a shade less than $5,000 above the average. And it's way more fun and more capable than the average car.  Second, the Wrangler is something you're likely to keep forever.  Which makes it an excellent long-term buy.

I've made the point before.  There are really only two pure iconic designs left, the Porsche 911 and the Jeep Wrangler (and we can argue the Porsche...park this year's 911 next to a '69 and let's talk).  Neither car is for everyone.  But if you have a use for the Jeep, every reason not to buy one has been removed.  And yes, I can see myself owning one someday.