San Francisco: At a time when SUVs are becoming more like cars with each passing year, it's
refreshing to drive one that hasn't lost touch with its off-road roots. With a classic
American attitude, the 2004 Jeep Wrangler still looks like it could be carrying home the
heroes of World War II.
Likewise, its Army-bred heritage is still evident in
its great off-road capability. Since it was designed for intense off-road use, the
Wrangler's cabin is simple and rugged. Even the most expensive models come with a basic
vinyl cover that has zip-out windows and no noise insulation.
Driving the 2004 Jeep Wrangler feels like piloting a mountain
goat - a capable, noisy, bumpy, unrefined beast that's more at home in the wilderness than
in the city. It stands in stark contrast to the cushy, modern SUVs that seem like sissies
with their quiet cabins and spongy rides. But this Jeep is drastically different from the
The Wrangler stands out because it's remained virtually
unchanged since being designed for the U.S. military several decades ago with a rugged
simplicity that makes it one of the most competent off-road vehicles in the world. Sure,
there are newfangled gizmos like a CD player and cruise control, but the basic look, feel
and purpose have "Uncle Sam" stamped all over it.
Every piece on the Wrangler was designed with one goal -
traveling over trails, streams, and boulders - giving you the confidence to go anywhere
you please, even on icy or muddy roads. For folks who love the outdoors, few vehicles can
go as far as this one.
But it also has a serious problem: an awful ride on the
highway. If I'm not good in this life, Satan will surely put me behind the wheel of a
Wrangler and send me driving down the eternal freeway. It's that bad.
Because the Wrangler has such incredibly rugged underpinnings
covered by a thin vinyl top, it's a lot like driving a tent at 70 mph. Its off-road
suspension is skittish and bouncy, its interior has all the noise insulation of a
motorcycle, and its body has the aerodynamics of a refrigerator. After a few hours, it's a
If you use the Jeep for its intended purpose, though, the
experience is heavenly, especially with the brawny Rubicon edition ($25,085) that comes
with additional protective skid plates and an ultra-heavy-duty drivetrain. It was tested
on some of the toughest trails in the world to ensure durability in extreme conditions,
and it comes with a beefed-up transfer case along with tougher Dana axels and
differentials. Other versions of the Wrangler include the basic SE ($16,270), X ($19,335),
Sport ($21,320), and Sahara ($24,910).
Inside, even the expensive Rubicon edition has a very basic,
simple cabin. Only the windshield is glass, and every other side is covered in clear
plastic and black vinyl that can obscure visibility. Stop at a Burger King drive-thru and
you can't roll down the window, either - it has to be unzipped and flopped over.
Removing the top takes some skill and time, since it's an
elaborate masterpiece of zippers and Velcro, but the result can be fun. Few drives are as
thrilling as one in a topless Jeep on a sunny day. Plus, there's a lot to be said for the
Jeep's classic, youthful style. Its body is unmistakably American, a sort of roadgoing
Bruce Springsteen with a rough-cut attitude and raw charisma. No complaints here.
While we can't recommend it to people who don't regularly
drive in the wilderness, the Wrangler is an enticing vehicle for buyers who want or need
extreme off-road capability. It may not be as comfortable and refined as those wimpy SUVs,
but it can whoop 'em on the trails. Why buy it? With incredible off-road capability and
traditional American style, this legendary Jeep seems to get better with age. By Derek Price ©
AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Jeep Home Page
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Download the Microsoft Word version here: 2004 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
Column Name: Legendary Wrangler has capability & charm
Topic: 2004 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
Word Count: 711
Photo Caption: 2004 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
Photo Credits: Jeep Internet Media
Series #: 2004 - 07
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