2007 Jeep Wrangler

Rockin’ Wrangler

by Scott Corlett

2007 Jeep Wrangler

The Jeep Wrangler is the original off-road vehicle. Conceived as a general-purpose military transport, the Jeep started its climb to off-road fame when it mounted the steps of the US Capital for an audience of congressmen and photographers in 1941. Since then, the Jeep badge has been sold or merged into a lineup of automotive legends: Willys-Overland, Kaiser, American Motors, Chrysler, and finally DaimlerChrysler. Regardless of which company has owned the nameplate, Jeep purists worry prior to every model launch that corporate designers, whom they erroneously suspect have never gone further off-road than a parking lot, have finally ruined their beloved Wrangler. In the case of the fully redesigned 2007 Jeep Wrangler, it’s like the song says, don’t worry, be happy.

2007 Jeep Wrangler

We suffer so you don’t have to. In mid-August, the folks at DaimlerChrysler invited Gaywheels.com to a campout up at Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This wasn’t your average weenie roast. After a bumpy helicopter ride (think bobber on choppy water), we landed literally atop a giant boulder at a campsite halfway along the hallowed Rubicon Trail. Originally a Native American trail that ran between the Sacramento Valley and Lake Tahoe, the Rubicon is famed among off-roaders for its steep, rock-infested ascents and tight, cliffside passages. Feeling like a member of the Donner party, we stowed our pack in a tent and went straight for a drink from the well-stocked bar next to the grand piano that had been airlifted, dangling from a helicopter, into camp for our entertainment.

After a night spent huddled—alone, alas—in a sleeping bag, awaiting death by grizzly, we were awakened by the clang of a chow bell to a summer morning with an air temperature more fitting to that of a winter night. We scarfed down a breakfast of bacon and sausage that would have made Dr. Atkins proud and then checked out the real meat—the all-new 2007 Wranglers. Our city-boy ass shivering like an ADHD sufferer on crack, we walked among the array of two-door and four-door Wranglers. It might have been freezing, but the metal was HOT. This is the first time ever that Jeep has offered a four-door version of the Wrangler. When we first glimpsed the quad-door at the New York Auto Show, we predicted that it would hit big with the latte-laden Angelenos who cruise Santa Monica Boulevard. Seeing it here among the pines and boulders, we realized that the new four-door Jeep was equally at home on Sierra dirt as on L.A. blacktop.

2007 Jeep Wrangler

After listening to talks by various honchos from DaimlerChrysler, we jumped in our test vehicle—a two-door, top-of-the-line Wrangler Rubicon equipped with a six-speed manual transmission. We immediately cranked the ignition of the topless Jeep and blasted the heat. Our hands soon thawed and we shifted into first gear, pushed the button that unlocks the optional sway bar (the sway bar, when locked, provides tighter on-road handling at the expense of rock-crawling capability), put the transfer case into 4-Low, and then let up on the clutch. In part due to Jeep’s ever-capable, part-time four-wheel-drive system, the Wrangler is the off-road vehicle of choice; but, consider this, if you just want a studly, easy-on-the-wallet convertible for getting around town, the Wrangler bases for a rock-bottom $18,765.

2007 Jeep Wrangler

We inched the Wrangler out of camp onto the Rubicon Trail. Soon, we saw and felt why this route is the off-roaders’ yellow brick road. Thanks to the scraggly pines that tightly bordered the deeply rutted track, there was no going around the cocker-spaniel-sized rocks that blocked the trail. After watching the tires of a four-door Wrangler, which was in front of us in the caravan, roll over the stones, we shrugged and followed suit. Thankfully, the Wrangler’s five-link, solid-axle suspension, advanced tuned shocks, and vibration-isolating body mounts minimized the bobble-head-doll syndrome that usually accompanies such maneuvers. Before long, we ceased trying to figure out the gentlest way over boulders—listening to tunes from the available SIRIUS satellite radio, we were deliberately heading off path to hit stone.

After traveling seven miles in four hours, we reached the end of the Rubicon Trail. The temperature had warmed into the 80s and we looked and smelled like a pioneer—and we ain’t referring to the fashion variety. With a final bump, our Wrangler left the dirt behind. For 2007, not only are the Wrangler’s interior finishes more refined and its cabin roomier, but, on the two-lane highway that winds along the shore of Lake Tahoe, the new Wrangler’s ride was much more car-like than its predecessor’s—without losing any of the raw Jeep fun. As we followed the twisty road, the Wrangler’s steering was communicative and the acceleration was grooving once the 3.8-liter, 202-hp V-6 engine—the only engine offered—reached its sweet spot at 4000 rpm.

2007 Jeep Wrangler

We pulled into the parking lot of a shore-side restaurant on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe. We climbed down from the Jeep’s well-bolstered driver’s seat and stomped the dust from our hiking shoes. A handler approached with a plate topped with chilled, damp washcloths. Cleaned up a bit, we headed into the restaurant and took a seat at a table that looked out at the clear, cold water of Lake Tahoe and the green, steep Sierra mountains beyond. Sipping ice tea and still amped from our rocky drive, we wondered how we could convince the folks from Jeep to let us go another round on the Rubicon. Or even better, we thought with a sly smile, to let us drive one of these Wrangler hotties back to San Francisco.

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5 thoughts on “2007 Jeep Wrangler

  1. The 4 door is soooooooooooooo killer. The first 4 door convertible since the VW Thing. I come from a Jeep family (down to only 6 Jeeps now…), and although we’ve always been fans of the older crowd, how can you go wrong with the new Unlimited? It has a backseat you can actually get busy in when you’re older than 18!!!

  2. I am a Jeep freak and I LOVE this vehicle! I have an ’04 unlimited and I HOPE HOPE HOPE I can trade it in for an ’07 4 door without skipping out on my spring tuition.

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