2023 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

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2023 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Review: Freedom Intensifies

The 2023 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited is a four-door version of a US off-roading icon. No other military-derived off-roader dates back further than the original Jeep, assembled under license by various manufacturers. Since it was introduced during America's late involvement in WWII, it has been a part of the automotive landscape. While it may have grown into a semi-luxurious SUV, it remains true to the original brief provided by the US military. It's unapologetically off-road biased, built on a ladder frame chassis with solid axles at the front and rear. Every other car has moved to at least an independent suspension at the front, but Jeep remains steadfast in its approach. Because of this, cars like the Ford Bronco, Toyota 4Runner, and Land Rover Defender have started making severe chinks in the Jeep's armor.

Thankfully, Jeep has made some progress toward making the Wrangler more modern. The introduction of a plug-in hybrid makes it more relevant, but the ICE models are slowly becoming outdated dinosaurs. At least Jeep offers a range of four engine options, starting with the well-known Pentastar V6 producing 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. This engine is also available in mild-hybrid format, decreasing fuel consumption slightly. The small-capacity turbocharged 2.0-liter four-pot produces 270 hp and 295 lb-ft, while the 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 develops 260 hp and a robust 442 lb-ft.

While the Wrangler might be a dinosaur in the modern world, it has a loyal customer base that will defend its honor in forums across the planet.

Read in this review:

  • Exterior Design 9 /10
  • Performance 8 /10
  • Fuel Economy 6 /10
  • Interior & Cargo 7 /10
  • Infotainment & Features 9 /10
  • Reliability 9 /10
  • Safety 7 /10
  • Value For Money 6 /10
7.6
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2023 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Changes: What’s The Difference vs The 2022 Wrangler Unlimited?

Jeep already unveiled all the model changes to its 2023 range, and no mention was made of the Wrangler. That means the Wrangler will carry on largely as is. However, 2023 will be the last year of the diesel engine, and as such, a special edition Rubicon FarOut Edition serves to say goodbye to the oil-burner.

For 2023, you can buy the Wrangler with a limited-edition Freedom Package, meant to honor servicemen and servicewomen. It comes standard with Military-themed exterior and interior design cues, including an Oscar Mike badge, as well as an American flag decal.

Pros and Cons

Iconic design
You can take the roof and doors off
Possibly the best standard off-roader in Rubicon form
Fantastic infotainment system
Highly customizable
Several engine options

Lots of road noise
The on-road handling is gnarly
Few standard safety features
Down on cargo capacity

Jeep ownership is almost cult-like

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2023 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
Sport
3.6L V6 Gas
6-Speed Manual
Four-Wheel Drive
$35,195
Willys Sport
3.6L V6 Gas
6-Speed Manual
Four-Wheel Drive
$35,195
Willys
3.6L V6 Gas
6-Speed Manual
Four-Wheel Drive
$35,195
Sport Altitude
3.6L V6 Gas
6-Speed Manual
Four-Wheel Drive
$35,195
Sport S
3.6L V6 Gas
6-Speed Manual
Four-Wheel Drive
$35,195
See All 2023 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Trims and Specs

2023 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Handling and Driving Impressions

Each Wrangler model (apart from the PHEV and 392) comes standard with Jeep's well-known 3.6-liter naturally aspirated Pentastar V6 engine. It produces 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque and is mated to a six-speed manual transmission, with the option of upgrading to an eight-speed automatic. The Pentastar V6 can also be equipped with an eTorque Stop/Start system for $250, but this particular system is unrefined and doesn't really do anything to improve fuel consumption.

Jeep also includes the obligatory small-capacity turbocharged option. In this case, it's a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-pot producing 270 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. It's also one-half of the Wrangler 4xe's hybrid model, which we review separately.

The final option is a 3.0-liter V6 turbodiesel. It produces 260 hp and a robust 442 lb-ft. That's just 28 lb-ft shy of the 6.4-liter V8's torque output in the Wrangler Rubicon 392.

The Pentastar V6 is the only powertrain available with a six-speed manual. The rest come as standard with an eight-speed automatic transmission that does a nice job of swapping cogs without creating a fuss.

The Wrangler's handling is excellent and terrible, depending on where you drive it. Off-road, it is sublime. The solid front and rear axles do precisely what you want. As one wheel is pushed upward, the wheel on the other side is pushed down. It improves articulation, which enhances grip. These solid axles are one of the main reasons why the Wrangler remains the most competent off-roader you can buy straight from the factory.

But those same solid axles and vague steering are the Wrangler's biggest downfall on the road. Solid axles date back to before the engine was invented, and they have a habit of making the car feel incredibly nervous over the tiniest bumps at speed. Even the slightest imperfection will result in the car juddering. It would have been more acceptable with a better steering setup, but the Wrangler's steering is vague and has a lot of play. It does not inspire confidence. The nose also dives when you brake hard, making the rear alarmingly light. Thankfully, electronic stability control is on hand to keep you from crashing. The Wrangler would benefit significantly from a full-time 4WD system. The current part-time system can't be used on wet tarmac or other hard surfaces. That means you must drive it in 2H, which is rear-wheel drive. Having all four wheels driven at all times would drastically improve daily living with the Wrangler. Unfortunately, permanent 4WD is only standard fitment on the 392 and the 4xe.

For years we've been able to forgive the Wrangler because it had no direct rivals. But the Ford Bronco and Land Rover Defender prove that you can have an independent front suspension setup without compromising off-road ability.

Verdict: Is The 2023 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited A Good SUV?

We hate to beat on an icon, but Jeep has been left behind. For proof, let's look at its main rivals. Ford brought the Bronco back as a hardcore off-roader with retro styling but made some compromises to make it easier to live with. The same goes for the Land Rover Defender. Landy started with a blank piece of paper and paid no attention to the furious cries of previous-generation Defender owners. The strategy worked because the new Defender is still a beast off-road, and you have somewhere to put your arm. It also falls over less.

These new rivals highlight everything wrong with the Wrangler. Why would you put yourself through a miserable daily experience if you only go off-roading maybe twice a year? If you spend every weekend driving up a mountain, ignore the last statement. Go right ahead and buy a Rubicon.

We can't deny the close relationship America has with the Wrangler. Its great-grandaddy helped win a war, but is that a good enough reason to buy one?

To us, the Wrangler is outdated compared to its main rivals. We could not live with the flaws, but there is one caveat. We really do believe this is the ultimate car if you spend every weekend playing around in the mud and crawling over rocks.

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