With age comes refinement and wisdom, and that is what we experienced in the 2017 Jeep Wrangler. For the 75th model year of the iconic 4WD Fiat-Chrysler released a Hard Rock edition for the top of the line Rubicon. We spent a week with a 4 door (Unlimited) model and it was thoroughly impressive. We have several Jeeps in the collection downstairs including a 1963 Station Wagon and a 2007 Wrangler Unlimited. A new Wrangler will arrive next year, so this will be the grand finale of the JK series. The Hard Rock edition arrives with body and chassis upgrades, taking cues from the aftermarket.
At first glance, we were struck by the aggressive looks of the latest model. Taking cues from the aftermarket, the front bumper is steel with provisions for a winch. Rock sliders under the doors serve double duty as convenient step bars, and a Power Dome hood looks ready for battle. Two tone 17″ wheels are wrapped in 32″ BFG Mud Terrain tires, which are a decent compromise between asphalt agility and traction on the trails. Although Florida has no shortage of muddy situations, our offroad evaluation was limited to the grassy knoll in front of our HQ.
On the streets of St. Petersburg, the Wrangler proved to be more comfortable than any of its predecessors. It does feel heavier due to thick skid plates and a ton of options. This is where the modern Jeep remains relevant in the modern era. Some of us view the plethora of content as pandering to a diverse market, and straying away from the core ideology. Hardcore Jeepers would probably laugh at the idea of power locks and heated leather seats, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. Being able to disconnect the sway bar electronically is nice, but why involve a complicated system in lieu of removing two bolts? Other superfluous parts include power locks, nine speaker audio, trailer sway dampening, and hill descent control.
To make up for the additional weight, the standard 3.73 differentials are swapped in favor of a 4.10 in locking Dana 44 axles. What has not changed is the 3.6 liter V6. While most late model V6 engines are rated above 300 hp, the Wrangler must make due with 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. The transfer case has a 4:1 low range which makes up for the deficit with a great crawl ratio, but acceleration on the street is less than stellar. On the other hand, Wrangler owners are not interested in quarter mile times so the V6 is perfectly adequate. For $47,620 you will receive the most well appointed Jeep ever built.