Trucks & SUVs

Long-Term Test of the 2019 Wrangler Proves Nothing

The Jeeping world is one of the most dedicated and loyal car groups in history. What once was a small, raggedy bunch of off-roaders with slight hearing damage has now exploded into a massive and diverse group of motorists who cover the gambit of the motoring world. Because of the updates and comfort improvements that Wranglers have received over the past decade, a Jeep Wrangler now can appeal to almost anyone. They still have one thing in common, though – if you ever liked Wranglers, you’ll always like Wranglers. 

A year-long test drive

Christian Seabaugh at MotorTrend reviewed his long-term loaner 2019 Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon. He chronicles a year spent with the Wrangler and all the ups and downs of driving a Wrangler daily. 

019 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is on display at the 111th Annual Chicago Auto Show
2019 Wrangler Rubicon | Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

After 14 months and 23,000 miles, the Wrangler only needed one regular service – a tire rotation and oil change appointment. He mentions the steering damper recall that happened on that model. The steering on Wranglers isn’t exactly snappy, but he says after the steering damper update, the Jeep’s steering got a little heavier and more annoying on long hauls. The Wrangler, unsurprisingly, didn’t need much of anything, all things considered. That’s kind of what they do. 

Wranglers have changed throughout the years in more ways than they haven’t. Short of the general shape (very general), the most recent Wranglers are in no way even close to the old CJs, or even the first real Wrangler, the YJ. Somehow, there is still a throughline. 

Tested Jeep Wrangler specs

The tested Wrangler had the now-discontinued mild-hybrid 270-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Seabaugh reports, the fuel efficiency was 17 mpg as opposed to the EPA’s reported 22 mpg. The turbo four-cylinder received excellent marks as far as pep and reliability go.

Again, unsurprisingly, Seabaugh’s comment on the Wrangler’s aptitude for road trips is it “wasn’t the most comfortable way to travel long distances on regular roads, but it got us there.” That is about the most Jeep-y review possible. 

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The more Jeep owners talk about their Wranglers, the clearer the picture gets. Wranglers aren’t overly comfortable or that practical in every-day life, but few people seem to care.

People understand what a Wrangler is. Wranglers have thoroughly infiltrated pop culture on every level. Although the newer JL and JK series are far more civilized than any previous model, the image on Jeeps being rough, loud, and blocky is still very present in people’s minds. To my point, that has not slowed down Wrangler sales at all; in fact, the opposite is true. Good Car Bad Car reports that Jeep Wranglers have sold an average of 200,000 units a year in the U.S. (excluding 2020) since 2015.

A way of life 

JL Wranglers are toys for someone who wants to feel young and spontaneous while also feeling like a responsible adult. Seabaugh corroborates this feeling, “Where the Wrangler really came into its own were the unplanned trips, even though they didn’t take us as far afield as we initially planned when the Jeep first arrived.”

Wranglers give us the sense that we can hop off the road at any moment. We can rely on them to get us to work or school or any other place of necessity while also understanding we can change our minds at a moment’s notice. 

This long-term test has minimal effect on anything. The bad things like fuel efficiency, lack of comfort, and heavy steering don’t matter. These complaints didn’t seem to affect the tester and likely not the readers either. Jeep Wranglers are more like a sports team than a car model; if you like them, you will always like them. If you don’t like them, you probably won’t ever like them. Short of significant design mistakes or mechanical flaws, a Wrangler will always be a Wrangler.