For years, the Jeep Wrangler has been the go-to off-roader for many people. Its excellent ground clearance and outstanding approach and departure angles have made the iconic SUV well-suited for adventures off the pavement.
But some reviewers think that the Wrangler has many weaknesses, according to some reviewers. Decreased sales have compounded the Wrangler’s troubles. Are buyers taking a hard pass on the 2020 Jeep Wrangler because of these poor reviews?
Or did the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have a worse effect on its sales than at first glance? To find out, we’ll go over Consumer Reports’ review of the Wrangler and the Jeep’s U.S. sinking sales figures for 2020.
Why Consumer Reports panned the 2020 Jeep Wrangler
On Consumer Report’s list of midsize SUVs, the new Jeep Wrangler ranked 21 out of 23 with an overall score of 28 out of 100. The two vehicles that followed the Wrangler at the bottom of the ranking have not yet been tested.
The Jeep Wrangler’s road test score wiped out with 36 out of 100. Consumer Reports’ testers felt that, as a modern SUV, the Wrangler should perform much better on the highway, despite its prowess as an off-road champion. They identified several areas that should be improved for it to behave well both off-road and on the pavement.
Testers thought that this year’s Wrangler handled better than previous model years, with more responsive steering and less body roll. Yet it still couldn’t match the handling of its current rivals.
Its stiff and unforgiving ride failed to absorb road bumps. The Wrangler’s rigid suspension reduced ride comfort significantly.
Testers thought that the Wrangler was fidgety and had the short motions that would be better suited for a sports car. Unrelenting wind noise was another problem for the Jeep due to its blocky shape. Access front and rear was awkward, requiring passengers to clamber clumsily over the running board.
One area the testers were satisfied with was the Jeep Wrangler’s upgraded powertrain. They liked its 285-hp, 3.6-liter V6 engine that was mated with a smooth eight-speed automatic transmission. The Consumer Report’s tested fuel economy of 18 mpg signaled that the Wrangler isn’t a fuel-sipper but it does show improvement over last year’s model’s 17 mpg. Testers believed that the optional turbocharged 270-hp four-cylinder engine would be more frugal.
The other big strike against the 2020 Jeep Wrangler is its low predicted reliability, scoring a one out of five. The previous three model years of this Jeep — especially the 2018 and 2019 model years — scored just as low for reliability. A persistent trouble spot was body integrity.
The Wrangler fared much better in predicted owner satisfaction, scoring four out of five. Owners were happy with driving experience, comfort, and styling. They were slightly less satisfied with its value.
Pricing for the 2020 Jeep Wrangler starts at $28,295 and tops out at $42,195.
Not just tough reviews but also tanking sales for the Wrangler
A bad review from Consumers Reports is not the only problem for the Jeep Wrangler. The first quarter of 2020 was dismal for its U.S. sales, according to GoodCarBadCar.net. Only 39,667 Wranglers sold during this period as compared to 49,988 during the same quarter in 2019. This was a 20.6% drop in sales.
The Jeep Wrangler wasn’t the only midsize SUV that saw sinking sales. Its corporate sibling, the Jeep Grand Cherokee, saw a decrease in sales of 13.3% from Q1 2019 to Q1 2020.
Rivals such as the Toyota 4Runner and the Subaru Outback also experienced a decline in sales during Q1 2020. From the first quarter of 2019 to the same time period in 2020, sales of the 4Runner dropped by 14.5% and the Outback dropped by 22.0%.
A possible reason for the Jeep Wrangler’s below-par sales performance
There might be another reason behind the 2020 Jeep Wrangler‘s declining sales than just Consumer Reports’ unfavorable review. If we look closely at the first three months of this year’s sales, March shows a total of 10,103 Wranglers sold as compared to January’s 12,884 and February’s 16,680. March’s lowest sales number occurred at about the same time as the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
An additional clue emerges from GoodCarBadCar.net’s table that shows the growth rate of 2020 midsize SUVs. Seventeen out of 28 vehicles show a negative growth rate between Q1 2019 and Q1 2020. It may be too soon to tell whether the Wrangler’s slipping sales are part of a pattern triggered by the pandemic. But if buyers can’t get out to test-drive SUVs because of state and local stay-at-home directives, then it seems likely that sales would be negatively affected.
Despite Consumer Reports’ negative review of the 2020 Jeep Wrangler, many buyers still think of it as a classic off-roader. Some will sacrifice a smooth ride for legendary off-pavement capability, while others might opt for an offroader that meets Consumer Report’s more stringent expectations.
Either way, sales of the Wrangler might be negatively affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Critical reviews could contribute to its sales woes, but they just don’t have as big as an impact.