2008 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

by Joe LaMuraglia

2008 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

I spent a week in the NYC/NJ area visiting family and visiting friends. Jeep graciously provided a 2008 Jeep Wrangler Sahara Unlimited for me to get around.
I’ve liked the looks of the 4-door Jeep Wrangler since in launched in 2007 but I wasn’t sure if I would like living with it on the less-than-perfect roads in the Northeast. After all, Wranglers are known for their amazing off-road capability as well as their rough on-road ride.

2008 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

It had been a long time since I had spent time with a Jeep Wrangler and my last memories were of a thrilling open-air ride whose novelty wore off quickly. The on-road ride was harsh with the short wheelbase bucking over the smallest imperfections and in anything warmer than an 80-degree day causing us to take less adventurous transportation with A/C.
Better Behaved Offspring
The 2008 Jeep Wrangler may look similar to its elders but it is a wildly improved interpretation of the classic Jeep. I picked up the Wrangler in Manhattan and was immediately impressed with the amenities featured. We had the Sahara Unlimited with the optional automatic transmission, power windows(!) and Navigation system. The high seating position gave me a command view of the road and the standard A/C kept me cool as I navigated the mean streets of lower New York City.
It was no surprise that suspension easily handled the potholes and steel plates around the construction sites but I was impressed that it was equally at home when the West Side Highway smoothed out as we headed North. The Jeep rode smoothly and felt almost sporty as I weaved in and out of traffic on my way to the George Washington Bridge and onto NJ.

2008 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

What? I Can’t HEAR You!
One of the biggest criticisms I’ve read of the Jeep Unlimited, especially with the standard soft top, is that it is loud on the road. In the 6 days I had the Wrangler, I was blessed with gorgeous weather so only the drives on the bookends of my week were with the top up. It isn’t quiet by any means but it certainly isn’t intrusive and I could imagine going on a long drive with the top up. The optional 7-Speaker Infinity® Sound system with available Sirius Satellite radio takes care of any ancillary noise for me!
Who Doesn’t Like More than One Top?
Speaking of tops, and I’m not talking about your last weekend in P-Town, the Wrangler Unlimited provides several options in tops. Standard is the Sunrider™ soft top, which includes a “sun roof” in addition to the full top-down option. This is how our vehicle was configured and once it is open, it is a great experience cruising around. If you are someone that wants a quick push-button top down experience, don’t even consider this vehicle. Make sure you watch the video below to see me in action as I drop the top on the Wrangler.

2008 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

There is also a Freedom Top™ option, a three-piece modular hard top, available. This system features three panels – left and right front-passenger panels and a rear panel – providing more options for open-air driving. This would make sense if you lived in a very cold and snowy climate and wouldn’t take advantage of the soft top very often. It includes the soft top in the package and adds a rear window defroster and rear wiper to make the Wrangler for versatile for all-season driving.
Some Guts, Lots of Glory
The only engine for the 2008 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited is a 3.8-liter V-6 engine producing 202 horsepower. It is available with a standard six-speed manual gearbox or an available four-speed automatic transmission. Our Wrangler had the 4-speed automatic and combined with only 202 horsepower, it was the week link in the package in my opinion. While my confidence in merging on the highway never waned, it has good low-end grunt, I felt that it didn’t want to downshift on the open road and I found myself turning the Overdrive off a few times to keep up on the Saw Mill Parkway on the way to CT. Personally, I’d opt for the 6-speed manual with this engine. If Jeep dropped a more gutsy engine in or even the diesel from the Grand Cherokee, all power complaints would be eliminated. The lack of oomph never once wiped the smile from my face though. This vehicle is just plain fun with the top down.

The Real Life Test

I always like to spend quality time with a vehicle and use it as the real consumer would. With that in mind, I ran errands with my niece and nephew, went to the beach with my friend Matt, and put five people in the Jeep and got opinions from all seating positions as we drove down the road sans top. The overall vote was very positive. Matt, at 6’5″ found it very comfortable to and from Belmar, NJ. The teenagers loved the look and begged to drive around it in and even fully loaded with 5 people, there were no real complaints.
It is by no means a fault-less vehicle. The top is difficult to put up and down (watch the video), some of the interior plastics were cheap and felt insubstantial and in this day of $4/gal gasoline, it isn’t exactly full efficient. A two-wheel-drive Wrangler with the manual transmission gets up to 21 MPG on the highway but a 4WD with either an Automatic or Manual only gets 15/19 city/hwy. I averaged 16 MPG during the week.

Bottom Line

The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited is a niche vehicle. If you want go-anywhere capability of 4WD, four doors, seating or 5 and the option to drop the top for open air driving, you pretty much have to consider the Wrangler Unlimited.

Get more detailed information on the 2008 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited in our New Car Section

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