Why Does Everyone Keep Buying Consumer Reports’ Worst-Rated SUV?

Consumer Reports tried to warn us of the evils of the Jeep Wrangler, we just wouldn’t listen. Yet again, this ancient 4×4 earned the lowest rating out of every SUV Consumer Reports (CR) ranks. And yet again, it remains one of the automotive industry’s top sellers and commands the highest resale value of anything on the road. So how did reviewers and buyers get so out of touch?

Consumer Reports is not a fan of the Jeep Wrangler

A Jeep Wrangler navigating mud on an off-road trail.
Jeep Wrangler JL | Jeff James via Unsplash

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In its 2022 Jeep Wrangler review, Consumer Reports only gave the SUV a 30/100. That’s a worse score than any other SUV the publication tested. So why the hate?

Trigger warning for Jeep fans: Consumer Reports‘ main gripes were with the Wrangler’s stiff ride, poor fuel economy, “awkward access,” and “lots of wind noise.” The publication did name off-road ability and a “strong V6 powertrain” as high points.

Consumer Reports tried out a 2022 Jeep Wrangler. But it gave the SUV a road test score of 36/100. After polling owners of recent model year Wranglers and studying the company history, Consumer Reports gave the 2022 Wrangler a “predicted reliability” score of 2/5, or just below average.

When Jeep debuted its latest generation of the Wrangler in 2018, CR noted several trouble spots for the SUV’s reliability. These included transmission, drive system (4WD, etc), power equipment (windows, locks, etc.), suspension, in-car electronics, and body integrity. But with each subsequent year of the Wrangler “JL,” CR has received fewer reports of problems with each of these systems. By 2021, CR no longer red-flagged any of these areas. In fact, CR gave every system but suspension a green light.

Consumer Reports found owners love their Jeep Wranglers anyway

Birds-eye view of a man driving a red Jeep Wrangler with the convertible top open.
Jeep Wrangler JL | Jacob Jolibois via Unsplash

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Consumer Reports surveyed owners of recent Wranglers and concluded that the 2022 model’s “predicted owner satisfaction” score was above average. It gave the SUV a 4/5 in this category. CR drilled down that owners were happiest with their Jeeps’ styling (90/100) and driving experience (67/100).

Seventy-three percent of owners polled said they’d buy their Wrangler all over again. That’s a higher percentage than Toyota 4Runner owners. And perhaps that’s why the Jeep Wrangler has a higher resale value than the 4Runner. In fact, the Wrangler has a higher resale value than anything else on the road, including the Toyota Tacoma.

According to a recent study by iSeeCars.com, the average car loses 40.1% of its value in its first 5 years. The Wrangler Unlimited only loses 10.5% of its value and the regular two-door Wrangler drops just 9.2%.

When Car and Driver ranked the bestselling vehicles of 2022 (so far), it awarded the Wrangler its #15 spot. That puts it ahead of every single midsize SUV Consumer Reports bothered testing. With 45,551 units sold, the Wrangler also beat out the Ford Explorer, Hyundai Tucson, and Honda HR-V.

Why do Consumer Reports and auto buyers disagree?

Closeup of the gear selector and transfer case lever in a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited SUV.
2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon | Stellantis

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Consumer Reports ranks vehicles by granting a 1-5 score in 20 different categories. Then it adds up these numbers to arrive at an overall score, out of a possible 100. This system awards crossover SUVs that have “average” ratings in many categories with the highest overall scores.

Consumer Reports’ overall winners tend to offer alright handling, alright off-roading, alright fuel efficiency, and alright performance. But the engineers that design the Jeep Wrangler will not settle for “alright” off-roading. Instead, they insist on building the gnarliest factory-built off-roader around. But excellence requires sacrifices, and the Wrangler ends up with a poor rating in most other categories.

But excellence also inspires people. And this may be why the Wrangler sparks joy for so many drivers.

In the same way that sports cars, motorcycles, and heavy-duty pickup trucks have become lifestyle icons, the Wrangler represents 4×4 culture to many Jeep fans. And on weekdays people daily driving a Wrangler a Wrangler don’t bemoan the comfort and convenience they must give up. Instead, their “uncomfortable” SUV reminds them of weekend fun to come.

See the science behind the Wrangler in the video below:

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