THE RIDE: Four-door, five-passenger 2007 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4X4 Sahara.
DOWN THE ROAD: All new for 2007, now the Jeep Wrangler is a four-door and open-air vehicle with both on-road handling and awe-inspiring rugged off-road capabilities. Available in five trims, the SUV performs best when you traverse through valleys, gorges, creeks or falls. At the same time, the Sahara delivers a comfortable daily ride.
TECH & PERFORMANCE: The 3.8-liter V-6 engine boasts a respectable 208 horsepower at 5200 rpm and 240 pounds-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. Mated to a 6-speed manual or a 5-speed automatic transmission, this Jeep is equipped with a power-steering system that assures the driver and passengers of an unyielding on-center feel. Suspension is handled via a live axle, track coil springs, stabilizer bars and low-pressure gas-charged shock absorbers on 16-inch wheel packages. Its towing capabilities, up to a 3,500-pound load, are decent. If venturing into an off-road situation, the Wrangler has impressive clearance credentials: an approach angle of 43.6 degrees, a ramp breakover angle of 20.3 degrees and a departure angle of 40.3 degrees.
LOOK & FEEL: A seven-slot grille, round halogen headlamps, fog lamps, upright and removable rectangular windshield, trapezoidal wheel flares and swing-away mirrors are instant giveaways that this indeed is a Jeep. The soft top gives you the option of a sunroof as well as a top-down choice. Getting in and out of the Wrangler is easy thanks to tubular side steps. The four-spoke leather steering wheel offers a firm grip for those awkward off-road situations. I liked the appearance and functionality of the instrument cluster gauges for speedometer, tachometer, odometer, trip odometer, temperature, fuel level, oil pressure and voltmeter. A sizeable center console with two cup holders has room for personal belongings. You also can use the underfloor storage space in the cargo area. The front seats recline while the rear splits 60/40, offering even more storage.
SAFETY FIRST: Dual front airbags, four-wheel antilock brakes, antiskid system with rollover sensor, traction control, electronic stability program with brake assist, remote keyless entry and three-point belts are some of the standard features.
OUT THE DOOR: $26,305, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges. The supplemental front seat side airbags for $490 are worth consideration, as are the 18-inch aluminum wheels for $165. Take the $295 limited-slip rear differential for those off-road situations.
BY THE NUMBERS; Tires, P255/75R17; wheelbase, 116 inches; length, 173.4 inches; weight, 4,294 pounds; fuel capacity, 22 gallons; highway, 19 mpg; city, 16 mpg.
WHY DIG IT: All you folks who always have looked to buy a Jeep but haven't because of space considerations now can drive away in the four-door Wrangler Unlimited. It retains the conventional appearance and rugged personality of a Jeep while also offering all the utility features found in an SUV.
Nitish S. Rele is an advertising staff writer for The Tampa Tribune.