Definitely a more refined Jeep.
Still holds a rugged image.
A lot quieter at highway speeds than expected (I can only vouch for the hardtop).
Decently comfortable ride (can get a little wobbly in headwinds; this may also be due to the tiny tires fitted from the factory).
Very comfortable seats.
Extremely off road capable, even with tiny 29 inch GY Wrangler ST tires.
Manual everything (as a Jeep should be :) ).
Only gripe would have to be rear seat access.
Forgiving clutch (mastered standard transmission in two days).
Long throws give a cool retro feel.
Great, torquey and smooth engine, which is able to climb steep hills even in 6th gear (3.73 gears).
Easy to live with (daily driver).
Will take you just about anywhere!
Lots of aftermarket parts!
Overall smile factor!
Freedom Top has a modular "t-top" design.
Decent sound system (this is the base model).
Quality soft touch materials on the interior.
After owning a WJ Grand Cherokee for 12 years, I had no reservations when it came to buying another Jeep product. When I went into the showroom, the salesman showed me a glitzy Sahara model; this wasn't my cup of tea. In my opinion, a Jeep should be a plain and simple mode of transportation. Something that can carry you to the ends of the earth and back. This simple and rugged character, which I longed for, was ever present in the basic Sport model. From the black fenders to the steel wheels, she looked as if she was the one for me.
Upon my entrance into the cabin, I was pleasantly impressed with the blend of quality materials and classic Jeep design elements, such as the upright dash and straightforward layout. The seats were soft yet supportive (a rare find these days), with manual adjustments that were simple to operate. The back seats, although small, aren't terrible. I've had passengers for 3 hour journeys sit in the back without too much complaining. There is a lot of elbow room, thanks to the space between the edge of the seat and the window of the hardtop.
The one thing which still bugs me to this day about the interior, is the fact that it was designed with the higher end models in mind, as opposed to the more basic. Don't get me wrong, the styled vents and rounded edges look great, but are a bit out of place on my unit with roll up windows and no A/C. In the middle of the dash there is a hole (storage compartment) where the power window switches are supposed to be. In order to make the hole look a little more useful, Jeep added a nice touch by adding a removable liner for the bottom of the compartment. The soft touch materials feel solid, but seem to attract a fair bit of dust. Rotary knobs are large, easy to operate and silky smooth. The radio is also very straightforward.
Another gripe I have with the interior is the shifter/boot assembly. It just doesn't look as if would belong in a Jeep. I find that the pre-restyle (07-11) models had an overall nicer unit. In the midst of all of this refining, you can still remove the doors and fold down the windshield; Jeep hasn't strayed too far from their roots :).
The exterior is classic Jeep. Round headlights, seven slot grille, exposed hinges and wide fenders give off the look of an icon, although more refined than a TJ or a CJ. I wish the front fenders would extend further down. When driving in muddy conditions, the rear fender becomes caked in mud due to the slinging action caused by the front tires. The front fenders cover just enough of the side/door to keep the "Jeep" and "Wrangler" logos clean; talk about clever marketing :)
Performance is what you'd probably expect from dual solid axles and recirculating ball steering. It is a little numb, but hey, it's an off road machine. Braking is more than adequate thanks to disc brakes on all four corners. The shifter is precise with crisp engagements and a long throw that is sure to give you the feeling of driving an offroad utilitarian vehicle. The new Pentastar engine is smooth, torquey and well refined. It is also remarkably quiet on the highway.
For something with removable doors, the car in general is very quiet. Chrysler knew what they were doing with the sound insulation! The only notable sound to enter the cabin is the whirring of wind coming around the near vertical windshield. The suspension, although bouncy (due in part to short wheelbase) soaks up bumps nicely. In general, this is a great car for those who love adventure, and it's endowed with fairly civilized road manners.
Many buy Jeeps for their appearance. For myself, this isn't the case. I was slightly skeptical about the performance of the 225/75r16 tires. After finding a decent trail with washed out "crevasses", I set to work. In 4H, the jeep performed admirably, with the sure footedness of a mountain goat. Climbing steep hills was never a problem. On slippery terrain, the brake-lock differential worked like a charm (when it senses a different speed between the two wheels on each axle, and it applies the brakes according through a trick ABS system to even out their speed. In essence, mimicking the effect of a locking diff.). I've ridden quads and side by sides for many years, and I could not believe how capable this thing was! It seemed to do better or at least as good as any ATV! Fording rivers is never a problem thanks to the trick intake system, whose outlet sits up high and to the back of the engine bay.
A notable annoyance would have to be the traction control. Before going off road, make sure to switch it off; it turns on in the most random moments, limiting the engine's power. What I find most annoying is that it re-engages whenever you restart the motor.
Thanks to the recent upgrades and refinements, this Jeep is much easier to live with on a daily basis! Although the clutch is a little heavy for city driving, the car itself is pleasantly well suited for daily driving duties!
It may be more refined, but don't purchase unless you really want a Jeep! For someone who is more into its appearance, the overall roughness may be overwhelming. Yes, there is a more "civilized" version available known as the Sahara, but even that is still very rugged and far from the refinements of say a crossover. Try to find the 3.73 gears, especially if you plan on adding larger tires; sure you can swap them later on, but it's not going to cost you $75 (cost of the gears) to get that done.
Feel free to contact me with your questions, I will continually update as the miles roll on :)