The Jeep Wrangler. Phew. I don’t know that there’s ever been a more confusing, contradictory, lovely, uncomfortable, and all-around captivating car than the Wrangler. The Jeep used to be simple to understand; it’s uncomfortable, plain, fun, and cheap. It made buying a Jeep an easy thing to do. Now, they are pretending to be real SUVs with leather seats and working AC. What gives? The Wrangler’s ethos has shifted.
Is the 2022 Jeep Wrangler a good SUV?
Not really, no. Look, I drove a Wrangler every day for 11 years. I love Wranglers. But the model has fundamentally changed over the past decade. It pains me to say, but the current iteration of the Wrangler simply doesn’t make sense. As a rule, Jeeps aren’t comfortable, friendly, practical, or efficient. On paper, they are one of the worst vehicles, period. But, Jeeps have always had spirit on their side. No one cared if Elvis squibbed a note on stage; it’s Elvis; messing up becomes cool when he does it.
For years, the TJ Wranglers bopped along, trading for $10,000 with 100,xxx+ miles all day because they were fun, cheap, and pretty tough. Sure, it would suck to drive on the highway; it gets 15 mpg and might roll over if a truck passes, which it would because they were slow. None of that mattered. They were fun and cheap.
The 2022 Jeep Wrangler starts at $29,995. If you want anything cool at all, you are going to spend closer to $40,000. These numbers throw the whole equation off. Not to mention, they have only gotten softer and less reliable in the nearly $20,000 price bump. So how could THAT beat something as efficient, easy, comfortable, and practical as the 2022 Toyota RAV4?
Is the 2022 Toyota RAV4 a good SUV?
The 2022 Toyota RAV4, like the Wrangler, follows a long line of popular models. The addition of the RAV4 hybrid and the RAV4 Prime sent the model into the stratosphere. But what makes them so great?
In the SUV world, you must fill one of two slots; practicality or fun. Admittedly there is almost nothing fun about the RAV4. Sure the hybrids are peppy, and Toyota has a strong AWD system, but these aren’t off-roaders, and they aren’t racecars; they’re crossovers. Their job is to offer more room than a sedan, get better fuel economy than an SUV, and make people feel better about not buying a minivan (mistake). The RAV4 does each of these things perfectly.
2022 Toyota RAV4 has a 203-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine paired with either an eight-speed automatic transmission or the CVT. The hybrid brings that power up to 219 hp. Not bad, but still boring. It offers all the interior space plus some, comfortable suspension, better reliability, and more standard safety features than the Wrangler. On top of all of this, it nearly doubles the Wrangler’s gas mileage at 27 mpg combined. The RAV4 Hybrid wouldn’t even bother flexing its gas mileage at a Wrangler, so I’ll do it; it’s 72 mpg. It is a better vehicle, period. So, why does Edmunds have it flipped?
The Jeep Wrangler will always be great
I am fascinated with the Wrangler. I have written this article in a number of different ways over the years. The Wrangler doesn’t work like other cars. It’s more akin to supercars in that price, reliability, practicality, and anything else some dork would tell you is important simply doesn’t apply.
People buy Jeep Wrangles because of the idea of it, not the reality. A mom buys a Rubicon not necessarily because she plans to crawl Moab on the weekends but instead because it makes her feel like she could. The dad who gets the massive four-door Wrangler knows he doesn’t have the time to wheel anymore, but maybe his kids will get into it if he picks them up in the Jeep. For many Jeep owners, that’s enough.
Jeep fans like to rag on these “mall crawlers,” but I don’t. I get it. I thrashed the hell out of my 2000 Jeep Wrangler. We went muddin’, crawlin’, boggin’, and damn-near anything else to which you can add the “-in’” suffix. But more than I did any of that fun stuff, I drove it to school, the bank, the post office, friends’ houses, and road trips. But no matter where I was, I knew that I could always hop the curb, point it toward the trees, and bug the hell out. That had value to me.
The Edmunds review doesn’t offer many, if any, objective reasons as to why the 2022 Jeep Wrangler should outrank the 2022 Toyota RAV4. This ranking is pretty strange if you don’t know that Jeep feeling. But it’s not strange or wrong (I mean, technically, it is, but whatever); it’s hopeful – and I like that.