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Brand New Jeep, Same Old Jeep.

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On: Wed, Mar 9, 2011 at 2:57PM | By: Lou Ruggieri

Brand New Jeep, Same Old Jeep.

If there is another car or truck out there that is as instantly recognizable as the Jeep Wrangler, we don’t know it. Since it was relieved from active duty for the Army and began its life as a fun-loving, do anything, and go anywhere truck, the Wrangler has had very, very few changes in the course of its 70-year nameplate run. In recent years, the Jeep went through perhaps its most dramatic changes to date, adding a sixth gear to the manual transmission and then adding an optional extra two doors to let the whole family join in the forest-romping, mud-stomping fun.

For 2011, Jeep has kept true to that mantra. The big changes aren’t so big, although Jeep owners are probably going to be pleased. With the Sahara model, you can now order your roof in the same color as the rest of the body of your Jeep instead of the ever-old, ever-new, black-colored top that has been around about as long as television. Don’t worry; it is still removable, as are the doors. How Jeep can manage that feat with such increasing safety regulations is quite the engineering accomplishment.

Inside that roof, you can now order leather seats complete with seat heaters, which may sound antithetical to a Jeep’s primary goals in life, but ask anyone who’s jumped in a car after a long day of surfing well into dusk, or hopped into a car after several hours of plowing snow, and they’re bound to find the intelligence in having a warm seat now and then. Continuing the heated theme are optional power heated side view mirrors, which again, for anyone who has ever had to reach his or her hand, with no gloves on, out the window and fight what was essentially a piece of glass bolted to a steel bar on a subzero morning can attest to the significance of this option.

The last of the big add-ons for the Wrangler is 2011 are steering wheel audio controls, and Bluetooth connectivity with U-Connect. Objectively speaking, even the most backwoods lumberjack can benefit from having two hands on the wheel at all times, and it goes to show that technology is affecting everything slowly, but surely. As an added bonus, the new Wrangler comes with better sound insulation to help make better use of those fun, new audio options.

What stays the same is essentially everything else. You can still order a Wrangler in Sport, Sahara, or Rubicon trim levels, with either two or four doors, or either a hard or soft top. With that, you can choose a six-speed manual or a glaringly outdated four-speed automatic. In terms of engines, you have your choice of either the old-standby 3.8-liter V6 (providing the usual 202 hp and 237 lb-ft of torque), or you can take one home and transplant any engine you wish, if you are technically inclined, but you get only the one V6 from the factory. No four cylinder, no big SRT8 motor, no economy-minded direct-injection. You’ll manage the very same 15/19 mpg city/highway and run to 60 mph in the 9.8 second range (more or less depending on specific model and door numbers).

Base prices for the Wrangler range from $22,795-$33,495—again depending on which trim level you have your eye on. So for good or ill, the 2011 Jeep Wrangler resembles its predecessors in more ways than one. But it seems that the Wrangler’s instantly recognizable shape is matched only by the loyalty it commands from its owners. So the fact that the brand new Wrangler is eerily similar to the same old Wranglers may actually be a pretty good thing after all.

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