- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 13, 2004

The Jeep Wrangler has a heritage that reaches back to World War II. The original MB Jeep became enshrined in GIs’ hearts for decades. Today Wrangler owners express the same ardent affection for their vehicles. However, some have voiced their desires for a few changes, just to update their favorites for a more modern world.

The guys and gals at Jeep take each request seriously. They took owners’ suggestions and put them into a new Wrangler model, the Unlimited. This is a Wrangler that offers more room for both passengers and cargo.

Stretching the wheelbase by 10 inches and adding an additional five inches to the rear of the Unlimited, they have solved two of the main worries of traveling in a standard Wrangler.

Granted, two inches of increased legroom for rear passengers doesn’t seem like a big deal, but if you are the one assigned to sit back there, two inches means a great deal. You also get a whole lot more cargo storage behind the rear seat. This increased space translates to an ability to get you and three friends and all your gear to that remote campsite.

You might think that stretching the Unlimited frame would limit its capability during more aggressive off-road driving. But you’d be wrong. I was able to tackle every trail, ford every stream and climb every boulder-strewn hill that the regular short-wheelbase Wrangler could. In some cases I think the extra length gave me an advantage.

That, as expected, certainly was the case out on the highway. The extra inches in the wheelbase distribute the effects of uneven surfaces, pot holes and expansion joints found on most roads. This extra length also reduces the bucking that short-wheelbase vehicles normally suffer. This uncomfortable movement is something that auto manufacturers fret over. In the Unlimited, Jeep engineers have nearly eliminated its occurrence.

The Jeep Wrangler is an activity vehicle that also projects an image of its owner as carefree and adventurous.

Jeep continues to power this Wrangler with the wonderfully reliable 4.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine.

It truly is a trouble-free and capable engine. And when you are trudging through the outback, there is one important thing to keep in mind: the vehicle you’re in has to get you back to civilization. The Unlimited can do the job.

One of the very cool features incorporated into the Unlimited is the easier-to-operate collapsible top. Not only is the top much easier to fold up or down, it has a unique second mode. If you choose not to fold the top all the way down, you can still let the sun shine in.

This newly designed Sunrider top offers a front section that can quickly fold back with just a flick of two latches.

Much like a conventional sun roof, this design makes open-air motoring so much easier. Surprisingly this top is very quiet, and in some conditions much more so than a conventional sunroof.

It is difficult to think that there is an alternative to the versatile and capable Jeep Wrangler. Having spent a day driving the Unlimited through more than its share of foul off-road conditions, I can heartily say the Wrangler Unlimited is a perfect addition to the Wrangler family.

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