Ensconced in the driver's seat, you face a new four-spoke steering wheel and a cluster of simple analog gauges. The materials inside don't set any standards for quality, but they're adequate for the Wrangler's adventure-gear mission and the general style is clean and attractive. All 2007 Wrangler trims--X, Sahara, and Rubicon--are available with a choice of soft top (which can be folded back like a sunroof or fully down) or three-piece modular hard top (which offers myriad roof configurations).
Luxury conveniences abound. New for 2007 is an optional harman/kardon navigation/audio system with 6.5-inch touchscreen and an available 20-gig hard drive that can store MP3s, JPEG photos, and other digital data (transferable via a USB 2.0 port). Sirius Satellite Radio is back (standard on Rubicon), and all Wranglers come with an aux jack for MP3 players. Also of note, the 2007 is the first-ever Wrangler to offer power windows and door locks (when the doors are removed, the electric cables detach via a snap connector).
The four-cylinder engine has been dropped--as has the trusty 4.0-liter PowerTech inline-six. For 2007, all Wranglers are motivated by an overhead-valve 3.8-liter V-6 developing 205 horsepower (a 15-horse increase) and 240 pound-feet of torque (up from 235). The six-speed manual and four-speed automatic transmissions continue. A new "fly-by-wire" electronic throttle provides improved engine control; in low range, the throttle-response curve changes for especially precise power modulation. Fuel economy has increased slightly, to an EPA city/highway estimate of 17/19 mpg.
Wrangler devotees can breathe easy: The Wrangler has grown in size and sophistication, but it hasn't lost its legendary off-road capability (at least not the full-monty Rubicons we drove). Approach, breakover, and departure angles remain best in class, the live axles are still there front and rear, the tires are beefy 17-inchers (for 2007, the Sahara model will offer first-ever 18s). Yet the new Rubicon is also pumped up with an enhanced, Off-Road Rock-Trac two-speed transfer case (with ultra-low 4.0:1 low range), electronic front and rear lockers, revised suspension geometry, a driver-actuated electronically disconnecting front anti-roll bar (enabling a 28-percent increase in wheel travel), and Brake Lock Differentials--which can brake a spinning wheel to maintain and even side-to-side torque split.
The Wrangler's size increase means it's not the off-road scalpel it once was (the JK seemed a little big on some of the valley's narrowest trails), but for 99 percent of driving situations buyers will unquestionably prefer the JK's superior ride and bulldog-solid stance. They'll also appreciate the new, anvil-like fully boxed frame; Jeep claims it's 100-percent stiffer in bending and 50-percent stiffer in torsion than the TJ's.