Is the Jeep Wrangler Really the Best 4×4 SUV You Can Buy?

When people think of some vehicles, they’re reminded of a certain time period, place, or type of driving experience. A convertible evokes fantasies of beach drives on warm summer days, a big pickup truck is a country lover’s dream drive, and off-roading in a 4×4 happens in none other than a Jeep Wrangler. But just because this iconic vehicle most often comes to mind doesn’t mean the Jeep Wrangler is the best of its kind. 

The Jeep Wrangler is the king of off-road vehicles

The Jeep Wrangler is the first 4×4 many people imagine when they think of the best off-roading vehicle. A great off-roader has four-wheel-drive, and since 2011, all Jeep Wranglers have come standard with this drivetrain. Not all Jeeps need it, but if you’re planning on hitting rougher terrain, you’ll want it. The Rubicon is the best trim level for 4×4’ing and has made Jeep Wrangler the king of off-road vehicles since it debuted in 2003.

The Rubicon is built to be stronger and more powerful, capable of off-roading on all terrains with its more robust materials and design. It has upgraded performance suspension to help with comfort and stability on trails. It also offers extra safety features meant to protect you on the rougher terrains. It still has style on the inside, though, so don’t let its rough exterior fool you. And the 2021 model is getting even more speed and technology.

Where the Jeep Wrangler falls short

RELATED: Does Anyone Regret Buying a Jeep Wrangler?

It’s true: The Jeep Wrangler stands among the best 4×4 SUVs out there. However, it does have some shortcomings. Common complaints about the Wrangler include its “death wobble,” but some consumers know to expect such things in an off-roading vehicle, and users still love their Jeeps. 

For 2020, though, Consumer Reports ripped the Wrangler to shreds. The SUV bombed the road test and got the lowest rating in its category, which is unheard-of for the popular Jeep model. And the 2021 version landed last on U.S. News‘ list of top 4×4 SUVs with a score of 6.9/10 despite the site’s acknowledgment that the Wrangler is typically at the top of its class.

Its overall score certainly leaves something to be desired. On its compact SUV list, U.S. News placed the Jeep Wrangler in the bottom third, saying that “while it’s an outstanding off-roader, it doesn’t have the upscale interior of many rivals, and it earns the worst-possible predicted reliability rating.”

Does anyone do it better than Jeep?

Though the Wrangler gets compared to other SUVs that aren’t necessarily meant for off-roading in the same way, such as the Kia Telluride and Toyota 4Runner, some SUVs top the Jeep. On U.S. News’ list, the 4Runner edged out the Wrangler slightly. A brand-new Land Rover, the Defender, also bested the Wrangler, which is hard for a new model to do. U.S. News called the Defender a “modern, high-tech take on an off-roader.” The price certainly gives that impression.

Land Rover had another 4×4 on the list, with the Range Rover in the #5 spot, as did Toyota with the Land Cruiser in the #4 spot. The Jeep Grand Cherokee came in third, but U.S. News admitted that it wasn’t as iconic or capable as the Wrangler, leaving readers to wonder how the scores were tallied. The only brand to have three on the list aside from Toyota (#2, Sequoia) was Jeep. The Cherokee took the top spot on the list, proving that maybe no one does it better than Jeep after all. 

Will the Jeep Wrangler stay on top?

With the release of U.S. News’ list, Jeep might see the Wrangler fall and a new king take over. But with its steady history as a trusted 4×4 SUV, that’s unlikely. Jeep embodies off-roading in a way that no other brand does.