At the 2004 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Jeep revealed a brawny, tank-like concept known as the Rescue. This oversized Wrangler was a direct response to Hummer, and signaled Jeep’s intention to hang on to its status as the premier ‘go anywhere’ brand. Well, for 2007 the production version of the Rescue has arrived as the 4-door Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. But will the Unlimited have enough moxy to keep off-road extremists in Jeep’s corner?
The 2007 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited is the first four-door version of the brand’s signature offroader, whose open body work maintains kinship to the legendary World War II Willys military Jeep. While the Unlimited is the only production four-door convertible on the planet, it’s still unmistakably a Wrangler. It wears classic styling cues; round headlights, seven-slot grille, exposed door hinges, and of course its boxy form.
Even with its stretched 116-inch wheelbase, that’s 20.6 inches longer than the 2-door, you know you’re looking at a Wrangler. And, like all fun-loving Wranglers, the Unlimited has multiple configurations, in X, Sahara, and Rubicon trim. Sixteen and 17-inch rims are standard. Our Sahara came equipped with the optional 18-inch painted cast aluminum wheels with stout 255/70 on and off-road tires.
The sole engine is Jeep’s new 3.8-liter pushrod V-6 with electronic throttle. Ratings are 202 horsepower and 237 pound-feet of torque. Out of its element, and on our track, the Unlimited trotted from 0 to 60 in yeoman 10.8 seconds. The V6 is smoother and quieter than its inline-6 predecessor, and the I5 in the Hummer H3.
Government fuel economy ratings for our Unlimited 4X4 are 16 city/19 highway. Our tester did a spot-on combined loop of 18 miles-per-gallon on regular gas. A standard six-speed manual transmission or optional four-speed automatic, feeds the upgraded part-time hi-low four-wheel drive transfer cases. Wheel spin is controlled by available limited slip rear, and front and rear locking differentials. Jeep’s Brake Lock Differential algorithm is also a part of the available Electronic Stability Control.
For serious off-roading, ESP can be partially disengaged, while maintaining the Brake Lock Differential function. We tried a fully-outfitted Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon on the most fitting of routes—California’s formidable Rubicon trail. A five-link coil suspension, and enhanced Dana solid axles, form the basis of Jeep’s off-road prowess.
Skid plates diligently guard the underbody, which has best in class ground clearance, as well as bolder-friendly approach and departure angles. On the Rubicon the front stabilizer bar can also be disengage, greatly improving off-road axle articulation.
We drove a number of Wrangler Unlimiteds at the press preview, both off-road and on-road, and for the most part handling was typically Jeep. Numb steering, but very agile, with a steering damper allowing for a reasonably fast ratio while reducing the fear of kickback.
But, if you drive off-road often, always check for suspension wear and integrity. Our veteran test vehicle arrived with loose suspension components that reduced on-center steering feel and response significantly. The Unlimited’s braking is by way of ABS with Brake Assist. Still stops from 60 averaged a long 141 feet. The pedal was soft, but stability was excellent.
Inside, find an unexpectedly spacious 5-seat cabin, another first for Wrangler, with the kind of updated but still utilitarian styling that fits perfectly. Gaining access to the split rear bench seat is easy. The back doors are sufficiently long with easy to manage step-in height. Another surprise? There is more leg room here than a Jeep Commander.
A foldable Sunrider soft top with sunroof feature is standard. Available is this 3-piece hard-plastic Freedom Top. The two front sections can be removed in about a minute. The Freedom Top includes a glass hatch that works well with the traditional spare-tire-carrying door. Inside is a 46.4 cubic feet cargo bay with underfloor storage. Fold the second row seats flat for a huge 83 cubic feet of space.
Base pricing ranges from $20,410 for a 4X2 Wrangler Unlimited X, to the total 4X4 experience Rubicon at $28,895. That’s about a thousand dollars less than the least expensive Hummer H3. Our well-equipped mid-grade Sahara stickered at $30,850.
So, does a bigger Wrangler make a better Wrangler? For Jeep enthusiasts, the Unlimited expands the fun-loving nature of Wrangler into a party animal.
And, we think this four-door utility will also appeal to those that want the “go anywhere” off-road mystique, while still looking responsible. That’s a hum-dinger of a goal, and we think the 2007 Wrangler Unlimited is there.
Engine: 3.8-Liter Pushrod V-6
Torque: 237 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 10.8 Seconds
60-0 MPH: 141 Feet
EPA: 16 MPG City/ 19 MPG Highway
Mixed Loop: 18 MPG