Elegance takes many forms. Automotively speaking, it does not have to include lush carpets, slabs of glossed timber, or streamlined bodylines. God knows, the Jeep Wrangler has none of those. But, elegance can also mean simplicity of purpose, smooth operation, and unexpected comforts. That absolutely does describe the 2019 Jeep Wrangler Sahara – the most elegant Jeep ever.
Classic Style Refined
If I blindfolded you and let you caress the Wrangler as you walked around it, you could absolutely identify it. But, it’s not as familiar as you would think. Designers improved aerodynamics with a faster windshield that can still be folded and canted grille. Headlamps bend the outer slots of Jeep’s trademark seven-slot grille as did the classic CJs. Fender vents were added to prevent hood flutter while LEDs for the big round headlamps, running lamps, foglamps, and taillights are very today.
Wrangler offers three paths to open sky, but ours had the full cloth top that’s no longer an erector set and deploys in seconds with the flip of two latches. It is tight as can be on the highway, but if you don’t like that roof, you could also choose Jeep’s “Freedom Top” with removable hard panels or, and this is my favorite, the new power top that keeps hard sides, but slides a canvas center section back beyond the rear seats. Pure elegance in operation – not sure why Jeep hadn’t thought of that before.
There’s nothing elegant about heaving oneself into a vehicle, but once there, you’ll feel stately. Heated leather seats, heated steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a large screen in the instrument cluster provided comforts. Given the Alpine auto system and overhead speaker bar, it’s a great place to thump music. Sahara trim brings stitched dash coverings and soft-touch door panels. This is a Wrangler that finally feels up to its price point inside.
And, all of the technology works with surprising elegance. Chrysler’s Uconnect touchscreen, with easy to understand icons at the bottom, easily flips through screens for audio, climate, navigation, and phone. An array of USBs and Bluetooth quickly connect devices. Safety is enhanced with a rearview camera, blind spot warning, parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, and forward collision warning. All that, and you can still quickly remove doors for a fun summer drive.
Torquey Hybrid Power
The powertrain is nothing like anything ever put in a Wrangler before, but it feels like it was created just for the Wrangler. The basic system is comprised of a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission and Chrysler’s eTorque light hybrid system. If a four-cylinder hybrid doesn’t sound hard core enough, you should know it produces 270 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque – 35 lb.-ft. more than the standard 3.6-liter V6. Better, the hybrid system allows for more precise metering of power off-road and a much smoother driving experience in city traffic. Even better, along with auto stop/start, the system achieves 22/24-MPG city/highway – not bad for an all-capable four-door brick.
From the moment the wheels turn, you’ll know this is a new generation Wrangler. Especially over washboard trails or rough city streets, the suspension soaks it up more like a Grand Cherokee than a classic Wrangler. Steering merely encourages it in the right direction, but is noticeably more direct than previous generations. Even our long wheelbase Unlimited model has tight turning, enabling it to virtually wrap around narrow trails and zip into parking spots like a sub-compact car. Ignoring fuel economy, this off-road beast is a pretty maneuverable city car.
At the Wrangler’s launch in Arizona, we banged skid plates up mountains and back down again. I dare anybody to tell me this elegant Jeep is any less capable of getting dirty, but it is a much polished soul when it comes to driving it every day. Elegance does come at a lofty price, however. Base two-door Wrangler Sports start at $27,945, but our soft-top Sahara Unlimited hits the trail for $52,210. Think of it as a Mercedes G-Wagen at a 50% discount and it sounds much better. Go forth and conquer in absolute elegance.
2019 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
- 5 passengers, 4WD SUV
- Powertrain: 2.0L T4, 8-spd auto, eTorque
- Output: 270hp/295 lb.-ft.
- Suspension f/r: Solid axles
- Wheels f/r: 18”/18” alloy
- Brakes f/r: disc/disc
- Must-have features: Style, Capability
- Fuel economy: 22/24-MPG city/hwy
- Assembly: Toledo, OH
- Base/as-tested price: $27,945/52,210