Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon is easier to live with, still a capable off-road go-anywhere SUV

When you think of the Jeep Wrangler, you know you will have an SUV that can just about go anywhere. But it wasn’t always easy to live with as a daily driver. It was loud inside and there weren’t many creature comforts in the sparse interior.

The 2019 Wrangler Unlimited is looking to change the way you look at the rough-and-ready SUV.

The Wrangler Unlimited is a more family-friendly Jeep with four doors and seating for five. As much as I’m smitten by the two-door Wrangler, I admit the Unlimited makes sense for a family with small children.

While the 2019 Wrangler Unlimited has undergone a very big makeover, outside the Jeep still looks mostly like a Jeep. The turn signals have moved to the fenders and not under the headlights. About 25% of Jeep owners I polled didn’t like it.

The 2019 Wrangler Unlimited is easier to drive, too. No, it’s not hushed and whisper quiet on the highway but it’s manageable, even with the soft top down. I could carry on a conversation at normal levels on roads with 70 mph speed limits.

Another big change is a new turbo four-cylinder engine —  a $1,000 option — that works very well, but it can only be had with an 8-speed automatic which is an added $2,000. Luckily, a V6 and manual is standard but the four banger gives you a bit better fuel economy — about 22 mpg for my week and nearly 350 miles on a full tank.

The Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon might be very happy off road but it proved good on the highways, save for aggressive tires that probably added a bit of noise at speed. This new Wrangler is settled and not hunting around on the road and the winds didn’t seem to upset it either. You don’t have to work as much, making for an easier road trip machine.

2019 is the year of safety tech in the Wrangler. From Adaptive Cruise control, Forward Collision warning and the ability brake and even stop the vehicle is a big step and a $795 option. There is even Blind Spot and Cross Traffic detection which is helpful in the blind spots when the top is up.

The front windshield is also tilted back a bit more and not straight up. Don’t worry you and the provided tools can still fold the windshield and take the doors off. The Wrangler is still a throwback with a lot of ground clearance and parts of that famous heavy duty suspension on display. The optional steel bumpers give the Wrangler the off-road look you want even though it might never see rocks and mud.

The inside is also a nicer in 2019. Yes, much of that has to do with testing the Rubicon, one of the upper trim levels, with a price of $56,755 after nearly $15,000 in options. That extra cash buys you a nicer place to sit with leather seats, steering wheel, parking brake handle and shifter knob. Even the door panels are a higher quality. It would be a shame to get them muddy and dirty out on the trail.

The other interior materials on this Rubicon model are several steps ahead of previous generations of Jeep Wranglers. While this isn’t a luxury vehicle by any means, it could attract some other people that thought the Wrangler was too bare bones before.

There are several choices for tops with the Wrangler. Those include a few different soft tops, a hard top and even a power top, a first for the Jeep Wrangler. My tester came with the optional Sunrider soft top. It’s less of a pain than in the past. Only the rear plastic window and the plastic windows behind the rear doors slide out and store. The top then slides on a track back and mostly out of the way. The process can take a few minutes or more to complete.

Leather seats and nicer interior materials. A big step up for the Wrangler.
Cargo space is a plus with the Unlimited. The off-road ability is legendary, controls can be daunting at first sight.

That spare wheel is still on the back tail gate and the rear light clusters are new LED lighting but have more or less the same look as before.

The Wrangler Unlimited has new tech inside like a large 8.4” touchscreen with the easy-to-use Uconnect system with NAV plus a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot. The premium sound system with 9 speakers is audible even when the top is down.

The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited was never for everybody but for 2019 it is for more people than ever. It’s less sacrifice to own a Wrangler these days especially with a more up-to-date interior, improved on-road performance and new technology. Look for more Wranglers to hit the street.

Mike Parris is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association. The vehicles are provided by DriveShop, FMI, NAVS DC or Motus One for the purpose of this review.

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