2011 Jeep Wrangler RubiconView Vehicle Profile
2007-11 Jeep Wrangler: Tread carefully in off-road icon
Older Wranglers chock-full of reliability problems.
The “death wobble” is a Jeep thing that most people fail to find appealing, yet seemingly makes the brand more storied for its fans.
Death wobble, or shimmy, is endemic to vehicles with solid front axles, such as the Jeep Wrangler. It can present itself when the vehicle hits a bump at speed and the front end lifts, setting off an imbalance that gets front-end components to shake violently, sending calamitous vibrations through the steering wheel.
Many drivers panic at the first sign of the death wobble and steer towards the shoulder of the road. Using the brakes often exacerbates the shimmy, so drivers rely on drag to bring the vehicle to a long stop. Some have to change their pants afterwards.
“If you’ve experienced it before, one looks at the next bump in the road like a landmine,” one Wrangler owner wrote online.
Reshaping the iconic Jeep — a classic that’s enjoyed seven decades of familiarity — is no easy task, but Chrysler stylists pull it off regularly. Not only did they successfully advance an ancient design, but they spawned a four-door model for the first time.
Underpinned by a stiffer, fully boxed frame, the new-for-2007 Wrangler was 14 cm. wider and rode on a wheelbase longer by 5 cm. (two-door) and 32 cm. (four-door Unlimited). While the agricultural live-axle suspension remained intact, a new feature allowed the front anti-roll bar to disconnect by remote control to improve axle articulation off-road.
Metal was banished from the interior, which sported a variety of funky shapes in reasonably durable, but hard, plastic. The back seat in the two-door offered close quarters for two and virtually no cargo space, while the expansive Unlimited featured a bench seat for three plus a useful cargo hold. Opulent features such as power door locks and windows, and a navigation system, were available for the first time.
The “Freedom” canvas top with plastic windows folded like a traditional convertible’s roof, while hardtop models featured full metal doors and roll-up glass windows that made highway jaunts more bearable.
All Wranglers used the same pushrod 3.8 L V6, good for 202 hp and 240 lb.-ft. of torque. Transmission choices included a six-speed manual gearbox and an available four-speed automatic. The standard four-wheel-drive system included low-range gearing and locking differentials, but could not be left engaged on dry pavement.
For 2010, a redesigned soft top made it easier to open and close with fewer leaks. Both the Wrangler and Unlimited got redesigned interiors for 2011.
ON THE ROAD
The Wrangler, like the YJ and TJ before it, has always been tuned for off-road adventures more so than highway marathons. You can take a Jeep out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of it.
Ride and handling have improved over the previous generation, but it still can’t approach the refinement exhibited by a contemporary SUV like the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Highway noise can be excruciating, despite the time invested shaping the Wrangler in a wind tunnel.
“If you drive off a cliff, don’t worry, the aerodynamics are so bad you’ll stop mid-air,” quipped one driver online. Acceleration (horizontally) is slothlike at 11 seconds, 0 to 96 km/h.
Its cinder-block profile doesn’t help fuel consumption. Some owners reported poor city mileage (16.5 L/100 km) and only middling highway consumption (12 L/100 km) at best.
WHAT OWNERS SAY
Jeeps trade on their sacred brand and the outdoorsy lifestyle statement that has its adherents. But as reader Mark Haak points out, there really isn’t anyplace to go off road in southern Ontario. What the Wrangler has going for it is its all-weather capability and the fact the Unlimited is the only four-door convertible on the market.
Unfortunately, there are lots of reliability concerns.
The dreaded “death wobble” can be traced to prematurely worn tie-rod ends, bushings and steering dampers, all of which have reportedly been replaced by owners, some to no avail. Chrysler finally has a technical service bulletin out on the issue.
Ill-fitting tops that allow rain to infiltrate the cabin is a common complaint, along with rusting hinges, manual transmissions that jump out of gear and engines that consume oil voraciously. Owners talk distressingly about mysterious stalling and intermittent no-start conditions.
Add to that a litany of other headaches, including short-lived clutches, leaky gaskets and seals, wonky electronics, faulty automatics, bad camshaft sensors, and water collecting in the differentials. Shop with care.
We would like to know about your ownership experience with these models: Toyota Avalon, Mercedes-Benz M-Class and Ford Fusion Hybrid. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
2007-11 Jeep Wrangler
WHAT’S BEST: Go-anywhere capability, sunny disposition, drive an icon
WHAT’S WORST: Leaky roofs, wearisome noise, reliability woes
TYPICAL GTA PRICES: 2007 — $17,000; 2010 — $23,000
Used Jeep Wrangler All Used Vehicles
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