|Positives: Strong and efficient powertrain, great on-road driving manners, interior is comfortable, infotainment is finally up to speed, great Jeep looks.|
|Negatives: On-road ride is firmer, ingress/egress in row two isn't great, diesel engine and required automatic transmission costs and additional $6k.|
|Bottom Line: The new Jeep diesel is a great option for those who want near-effortless torque in off-road conditions, as well as better mileage. The EcoDiesel is a pricey option, but we're happy it exists. Barring the mediocre safety results, the JL Wrangler Unlimited is an attractive SUV choice for those who love off-roading.|
The JL Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited definitely drive way better than their predecessors, especially on pavement. Off-road prowess in the 4-door is still crazy-impressive, despite the fact that the breakover angle is reduced as a result of the longer wheelbase. Oh, and the tow rating remains at 3,500 pounds, despite the addition of the diesel engine, something to think about when buying.
Ride Quality: The difference between the diesel and gas versions in this regard is significant. Jeep made the ride firmer, and you feel it. It never seemed unpleasant and wasn't out of character for Jeep.
Acceleration: The diesel is torquey, and you feel it off the line. 0-60 comes in a bout 6.7 seconds, which is about two-tenths of a second faster than the gas version. While that's not a significant difference, but the diesel feels punchier off the line.The 8-speed transmission shifts well, too.
Braking: The diesel Unlimited is almost 400 pounds heavier than the gas version, and stopping distances are much longer, as a result. 60-to comes in 198 feet, 22 longer than the gas version.
Steering: The steering is far better than its predecessor's with good effort and precision.
Handling: We're surprised by how well the body roll is managed, even though the lateral g's are only 0.64. The added weight is managed by the beefed-up suspension.
While you won't find a giant 12-inch touchscreen in a Wrangler, the quantum leap from the last-generation system to Uconnect 4 is like going from dial-up internet to high-speed data transmission. It looks good, operates well, and generally makes controlling systems far better than before without detracting from the look of the Jeep's interior.
Infotainment System: The optional Uconnnect 8.4-inch screen with nav has great graphics, responsive controls, and a crisp look even in sunlight.
Controls: All HVAC controls are well-laid out buttons and knobs, and the on-screen controls for infotainment are lined up at the base of the screen.
Not to be distracted by bright red paint on a Jeep (not our favorite), we were still able to see how much the JL Wrangler has evolved in terms of looks while still keeping the classic Jeep ethos intact.
Front: The grille's inclusion of the headlight contour gives it a more modern look. The fascia now has LED halo daytime running lights and fender-mounted LED turn signals that come standard.
Rear: The biggest change are the offset taillights that protrude from the body in order to house the blind spot monitor. They don't play well with off-road objects like branches, and brush, so beware.
Profile: The Wrangler Unlimited has good proportions from front to back, and it looks even more rugged with the soft top.
Cabin: The flat dash remains, just as it should, and the minimalist layout is great.
The seats are pretty good all around, and it still feels like a Jeep inside, which is important for the model. Most crossovers are more comfortable, but the Wrangler Unlimited feels great off-road. You know what you're doing and where you are, even though it's not ideal for long road trips due to its lack of cushiness.
Front Seats: The seats have a good balance between firmness and softness, and bolstering is decent.
Rear Seats: Legroom and headroom are good, but tall folks might have trouble getting in and out due to the narrowness of the door opening.
NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): You can definitely hear the diesel mill, but Jeep added sound deadening, thankfully. The soft top definitely adds wind noise at highway speeds.
Visibility: The pillars are thick, and the view out the back and rear sides are compromised. The rear-mounted spare tire also occludes the rear view.
Climate: The climate system has no trouble moving cold and hot air quickly, and the heated seats don't take much time to get going.
The Wrangler gets some demerits in crash testing that don't come as a total shock. There are some good standard and optional safety tech features, which is a comfort.
IIHS Rating: The Jeep Wrangler, on which the Wrangler Unlimited is based, did not get top scores. It suffered due to a "marginal" rating for the Small overlap front: driver-side test and received "marginal" and "poor" headlight ratings.
NHTSA Rating: The 2021 Wrangler received four overall stars from the feds with 3/5 for rollover resistance and 4/5 stars for front crash testing.
Standard Tech: ParkView rear backup camera is now standard on the Wrangler Unlimited.
Optional Tech: Our tester came with the Jeep Active Safety Group that includes ParkSense Rear Park Assist System and Blind Spot and Cross Path Detection. It was also outfitted with the Advance Safety Group that includes Adaptive Cruise Control, Advanced Brake Assist, and Full-Speed Forward Collision Warn Plus
We'll never say Wrangler roofs are easy to remove and install, but it's nice to have some great options like the new Freedom top and the requisite soft top. The interior isn't huge, but there are some convenient storage options and a decent amount of cargo room. And what's not to love about that side-hinged Wrangler tailgate?
Storage Space: Door pockets and storage options are good, but the rubberized bin at the top of the dash wins for best storage feature. It's moderately deep and very long, so it can keep small items in place without them sliding around when you take a turn.
Cargo Room: The Unlimited has 31.7 cubic feet behind the second row and 72.4 cubic feet with the second row seats folded flat. The body-on-frame Toyota 4Runner has 89 cubes, way bigger.
Here's another area where the EcoDiesel shines. Not only is it torquey, but it adds another level of efficiency for the Wrangler Unlimited. Sure, it's a few hundred pounds heavier, but the EPA estimate for combined driving jumps from 20 in the gas to 25 in the diesel.
Observed: 23.1 mpg
Distance Driven: 87 miles
The upgraded audio system came with the Infotainment System Group for $1,295 is pretty good. It won't blow your socks off, but it works very well for the big off-roader. Bass and clarity are pretty good, and there's no distortion that we could notice.