The Case For The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

The American auto show season is drawing to a close. What began last fall in Los Angeles is now wrapping up in front of the biggest crowds in New York. And for the first time in years, there has been a dominant theme. In a nation that has the widest selection of new cars availale (except perhaps for Panama or Dubai, where one can import just about any car, it seems), the market appears to be ready for compact hatchbacks and electric vehicles to take the spotlight from unibody SUVs ("crossovers"). We thought the American market was ready for this shift to hatchbacks in the late 1970s, during the second OPEC oil crisis. But with peak oil on the horizon, and two dollar gallons of gasoline never to return, both manufacturers and consumers are embracing a more European / Japanese car market model by both necessity and choice.

Having said that, there is still a place for body-on-frame SUVs for those who need or want one. People still drive in the grand national parks out west. I plan to drive down sandy paths to hidden beaches in Vieques for the rest of my life. I suspect that one day, the vehicles that can traverse sand and boulders will be electric powered. But until then, big block V6 engines will have to do.

So with the retail price of gasoline now over $4.00 a gallon, what should the price of a new body-on-frame SUV be? Who in his right mind would drop $106,000 for a military officer transport, the Mercedes G Class? Yes, it is hand built in Austria, served as Pope John Paul II's "Popemobile," and has been virtually unchanged since its redesign in 1991. A toy for the rich, surely. But as Jay Z has proven, you can get almost the same look, a similar feel and superior off road capabilities in the $30,000 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. And now the Jeep Wrangler is better than ever. A body-colored hardtop gives the Wranger a boxier, more military look. The front windshield has been narrowed to a more Hummer shape. Jeep has listened to its customers. What used to be a highly unstable, unreliable vehicle, is now a beutifully boxy, sporty off roader that does exactly what the Land Rover Defender and Mercedes G can do at a fraction of the price.

In fact, considering that the Trail Rated versions have an automatic locking center differential, and the driver can disengage the sway bars for additional ground contact and articulation, the Trail Rated Wrangler is arguably the most capable off road passenger vehicle in the world.

If you're going to spend at least $2,400 in gasoline and $3,000 in insurance each year, why not get the superior product at the lower price? Most buyers don't take cost of onership into account. But consider this: in the UK, this vehicle, because it doesn't get a minimum of 30MPG on the highway, would be subject to an annual gas guzzler tax, in addition to the annual road tax. If it were a Land Rover or Mercedes, it would also be slapped with an annual luxury car tax. So if you really want a gas guzzler (or you actually need one), be thankful you live in a country that doesn't tax you annually to own one. Only in America. And Jeep is a great American original.

This year at the New York International Auto Show, Jeep unveiled the 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Mojave Edition. Aside from the two exterior lizzard graphics and two interior lizzard stitching on the improved leather seats, I think it is the most beautiful Wrangler Unlimited yet.

Going to the 2011 New York International Auto Show!

Either someone at the Auto Show made a mistake, or I'm really a novice car blogger now. Either way, I'm now on a list of invited bloggers to the New York International Auto Show. I just got my red press pass to go along with a red Hyundai lanyard, to show off my Hyundai pride.

I will be blogging both press days of the NYIAS on Wednesday April 20th and Thursday April 21st.

Live blogging probably won't be possible, but I expect to have posts and pictures up at the end of each day.

The press days at the New York auto show are fun. Cars on the floor are usually left unlocked and unobstructed, including some of the pre-production models. I will be doing a rundown of what's new and exciting for each manufacturer. If I see a car worth getting excited about, I will do a 'hands on' review. Expect some feedback for the following cars released over the last 12 months:

  • The bigger, heavier, controversial Lotus models
  • The big new Ford Explorer
  • The European Ford Focus finally in the USA
  • Fifth generation Hyndai Elantra
  • Hyundai's new FWD sports coupe, the Veloster
  • Some more face time with the Nissan Juke
  • BMW X3, now made in the USA
  • BMW 5 Gran Turismo, my favorite new German sedan
  • Fourth generation Subaru Impreza sedan and hatchback

Breaking the Cover on the New Subaru Impreza, Part II

On Thursday, Subaru officially unveiled the third generation Impreza here at the New York International Auto Show. There are two trims so far, the 2.5i and the WRX. The new design has Subaru fans like myself puzzled. We've got questions. Is this a new design direction for Subaru, or does this new face belong to the Impreza only? Does Subaru not care about a lack of uniformity in its sheet metal and grill design across its model range? Is this all part of Subaru's charm? Or will eventual ownership by Toyota wash away that charm?

When I think about it, I'm all for charm. The SVX had a unique shape, face, and interior (thanks to Giugiaro), and it was considered to be all-Subaru. So why not this new ugly duckling? It is sure to grow on me.

A couple things about the exterior design. First, the high, round rear section looks a lot like the BMW X3, which is also a favorite of mine (and also considered to be BMW's ugly duckling).

Second, it features a contradiction. Despite being taller than its predecessor, this Impreza has a lower center of gravity.

The interior is gorgeous. Word from the auto show floor is that the materials inside the car are every bit as good as the Legacy and Outback, which received an upscale cabin in 2004 (and they arrived here in 2005). I even like the light-colored steering wheel in the 2.5i model. Can't wait to drive one.