Why Is the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Popular With Families?

2013-wrangler-unlimited
Peek into several suburban garages to read the epilogue of a common story. Two-door-Wrangler-driving dad (or mom) needs a bigger vehicle to accommodate a growing family. The answer: upgrade to the four-door Wrangler Unlimited. It makes sense that the larger version of Jeep's rugged SUV would be better suited for family duty — but not so fast, moms and dads. The Wrangler Unlimited is one of the most un-family-friendly SUVs on the market in terms of both comfort and safety.

Although its off-road prowess is second to none, on-road comfort is low on its skills list. The Wrangler Unlimited will not deliver a car full of happy campers: a weekend carting around my family made it clear that the SUV is much better suited for the mountains and mud than garages and grocery runs.

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The Unlimited's super-high step-in height makes it really tough for just about anyone to get in gracefully. In my party, smaller kids and older adults had trouble climbing in and once there, the hard, flat seats weren't comfortable for either group. The second row's bench seat lacks depth, so thigh support was another issue. It also provided less room for car seats — they were hanging off the cushion.

On the road, comfort went from bad to worse. A rough, quaky ride and booming levels of road, engine and wind noise — thanks to the hard, unabsorbing removable roof panels — provided a birthday-party-bounce-house-like atmosphere.

2013-wrangler-unlimited-groceries
Running regular errands was also tougher than in a traditional crossover. The Unlimited's two-piece liftgate is awkward to use when loading grocery bags and anything bigger. When parallel parked, the side-hinged bottom section of the tailgate is difficult to open without dinging the car behind you.

It wasn't just my family that was unimpressed. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the Unlimited scored a Good in frontal crash tests, but only Moderate in side- and rear-impact tests. Front-seat side-impact airbags are optional, and side curtain airbags aren't offered. The Jeep Grand Cherokee, by comparison, scored Good in all those areas, as did competitors like the Chevrolet Traverse and Ford Explorer.

Despite all these negatives, during my weekend test in and around Chicago and its suburbs, I lost count of how many family-filled Unlimiteds I spied tooling around the concrete jungle. So, if it's clear that the SUV doesn't provide the comfort most families need, why then is it so popular with families?

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The Wrangler itself has always been one of Jeep's best-selling nameplates, with sales consistently on the upswing. According to Jeep communications representative Patrick Hespen, the Wrangler Unlimited's popularity has eclipsed the two-door's. Hespen told us that the Unlimited accounts for approximately 60% of Wrangler sales, an unexpected outcome when Jeep originally launched the four-door version for model-year 2007. According to Hespen, the larger Wrangler attracts a very specific buyer compared to its two-door sibling, namely families.

"The audience for Unlimited models are the adventure-seeking types with families who didn't want to sacrifice off-road performance but needed a vehicle with more space for their family and gear," he said.

But why choose an Unlimited over something more family friendly? Despite the fact that, according to Hespen, around 70% of Unlimiteds are actually driven off-road, what it comes down to, he agreed, is image. "The vehicle's image is one of the top considerations when purchasing a Wrangler," he said. In short, some buyers are willing trade comfort for coolness. To my family, however, it's not a worthy trade-off.

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Often, unexpected vehicles turn out to make good family-haulers, but that's not the case with the Wrangler Unlimited. Several of brand parent Chrysler's vehicles, however, deliver solidly in that department, including Jeep's own Grand Cherokee and especially — gasp! — the Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country minivans. For the latter, however, you'll have to throw coolness completely out the window.

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By Jennifer Geiger | April 18, 2013 | Comments (53)

Comments 

Bowrider

There's nothing cool about thinking your overpriced, plastic infested Wrangler Unlimited is all the rage and as such, you haul your kids around in it. That just makes you ignorant.

Kj

I see so many great "unlimited" possibilities with this Jeep: unlimited lousy gas mileage, unlimited riding discomfort, paying unlimited monthly payments, unlimited looks from others thinking why would anyone drive such a vehicle in town, and of course an unlimited ego booster for the driver that is obviously needed due to low self-esteem. Oh yeah where can I get one of these so special unlimited Jeeps.

Skankzilla

The Wrangler should be sold as, "For Off-Road Use Only." Useless and dangerous vehicle, especially on the highway.

Doug G.

I don't think its as popular as you might think. I think there's a psychological effect in driving a car that makes you spot the car more frequently, and thus think it is more common/popular than it actually is.

Jeff

We love ours. No complains on the ride or anything like that. I mean it's no luxury car but it rides better then a lot of the cars and trucks people drove daily for decades.

Ken L.

The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited has always been for the "Uber" individuals/families. It's for the modern day MacGyvers, not soccer moms. It is also not overly ostentatious, like the Hummer H2. It serves its purposes and does it with style and class. In fact, I see quite a bit of these in the city where I live, and some of our them are highly modified. And who can blame them? Our society has changed. We are living in challenging times, coming from many fronts.

DC

Did you remove the roof? Maybe that's part of it's attraction?

attgig

This is exactly the reason why they really screwed up the Jeep Cherokee. The new Cherokee could've been the perfect bridge for families who want the Wrangler look, but could draw those who aren't willing to sacrifice the lack of comfort.

Gerard

It may not be the most comfortable and user friendly SUV out there, but all I know is I still want one!

I have a 2007 and love it. It is the perfect solution to allow me to still drive a Jeep while I have 2 little ones in the family. We also live in an area with variable weather and it's nice to know I can still drive during snow storms and not get myself or my family stuck in a ditch.

Steve

For some odd reason, I could almost see this Jeep having a hand crank sticking out the front acting as an alternative starter when your battery goes out on the trail. That orange/yellow color looks like it doubles as a rural off-road school bus during the week.

I love the negative comments. If Jeep drivers bother you that much, you really need to get a life. Enjoy driving your mini van..

JP

The JKU is more than that. Which car offers 4 doors and no roof? Which other car takes the heavy beating from kids and don't fall into pieces? Which other car has just the minimum of what you need and not a shitload of gizmos that break down? I like it a lot and even more then my previous BMW 3 series 330d (full optional) - yes the JK is less vomfortable but it's way more relaxed. It changes your attitued ;-)

Amy

I don't care what any of you say. Coolest car ever. I have the 2-door Wrangler, waited all my 55 years to get it, and enjoy every single second I am in it. If you don't get it, then please drive something else, but I LOVE MY JEEP.

boeing727boy

We're looking at the Unlimited when we replace our 02 Liberty in a few years.

akjpmama

The 4-door Wrangler actually has a more car-like entry. The previous model Wranglers (TJ), had a higher lip at the door opening. I remember many friends who tripped getting in/out of my TJ in college. I'm 5'8" and I have to sit down in the driver's seat. Sure, I have to pick up my 3 year old to put her in, but it's not like this Wrangler comes with a lift and 35" tires. Thank goodness Jeep still has a model a person can beat up and looks good with dents!

Notawhiner

Please don't dissuade soccer moms from buying Wranglers. I am going to need another Rubicon next year, and I need one that has never even been shifted into 4WD by the clueless suburbanites who buy them for the "image".

Wes

I have a 2008 with over 60k miles on it. Where ever we go my kids think we are driving in it. There friends love it. We have now modified it to run 37" tires. It's a tank. And we use it offroad. When faced with a 3,000 mile road trip there was no question which vehicle to my surprise from everyone. We get more in it. Despite the review we are more comfortable in it. It rides better than our other vehicle. It is considered safer by many off us now it sits higher and has steel bumpers and rock rails. We are ok with the noise level for all the trade off. It's a jeep thing. You truly wouldn't understand. Our other vehicle? It's the jeep grand Cherokee. We talk about getting another jeep unlimited. It's not a race car, but we don't care for that. We love our jeep. The GGIRLS ARE DREAMING ABOUT THERE JEEP WRANGLERS WHEN THEY CAN DRIVE. don't screw up a good thing JEEP!

I have noticed that you only mentioned the disadvantages of the unit. There's nothing wrong with this. We have this kind of jeep, and as I look at my family riding it, they look happy and comfortable, that's why I wonder why you said those negative feedback.

Sally

Wow. Talk about ignorant folks. I'll not respond to the negative comments as to each his own, but I'll describe some real positives. However, first and foremost, it must be recognized this is an enthusiast's car, not one to appeal to the lemmings spouting off about how it doesn't drive like a Civic. That said our family loves ours and it has kept us from having to buy 2 or more vehicles to serve all these purposes:
- it tows our 3500 lb camper with ease
- we take it to and through its namesake (the Rubicon trail)
- hauls motorcycles
- has even towed another car on a trailer
- does the requisite grocery and family hauling

All this while returning 18-21 mpg (those are HONEST hand calculated figures). I'm 6'7", my wife is 6' and even with the baby seat in the rear facing position, there was plenty of room in the front seat- and I can even sit behind the driver's seat with it in my driving position. We also have 2 100 lb Ridgebacks that ride comfortably in the back on or off road.

All while having GPS, bluetooth, AC, satellite radio, power everything, and even heated seats. Please find me another one stop shop for all we use it for.

Once you don't, please go back to writing articles about the convenience of having a vacuum built into your minivan that you required due to spending more time trying to ignore your kids, constantly occupying them with mindless drivel, as opposed to actually engaging with then. Enjoy the Lemming lifestyle and let me know when you catch up to the Jones'.

John Galt

It's amazing how easy it is to talk badly about a vehicle just because it isn't YOUR image of a "family vehicle." As a father of two, the Jeep Wrangler has been an essential part of our family and aids us in plenty of adventures and family outings.

The Wrangler Unlimited has provided us ease and comfort when it comes to outdoor offroad family trips like camping and boating, while still providing creature comforts inside, such as a great sound system, navigation, bluetooth, usb, I could go on.

It handles wonderfully compared to older wranglers with a longer and wider wheel base, is surprisingly smooth at high speeds, and handles a lot better than a civic or minivan in mud or dirt roads.

The jeep is loaded with airbags galore, has electronic stability control, off-road emergency brakes, a bullet proof body-on-frame boxed frame, so it has the modern safety features you'd expect.

No other vehicle on the road beats the awesome feeling of going down the road with the top off. The kids love it, the wife loves it, even the dogs love it. We enjoy having the openness with the outdoors while the rest of the world tries to block it out. Many late night drives were made into moonlit storybook scenes thanks to the moon and stars being above and the wind in your hair.

We have never had problems with hauling groceries due to the fold-flat rear seats. In certain situations, we have even removed the rear seats so we could hold even more, but those times are very rare and now, with a trailer, will probably never need to happen.


If your goal is to be taken seriously as some kind of "car reviewer," this article proves that you clearly aren't ready for the big leagues. If you expect to drive a Wrangler like a civic, then chastise it for not being a civic, then that's just poor writing. I highly doubt the "road, engine and wind noise" were anywhere near as bad as you'd like to exaggerate they were, nor do I believe the bounce-house-atmosphere was a result from the Jeep as much as the road, or maybe bad driver skill.

To not embrace the good points of a vehicle also shows a rather pathetic bias towards the vehicle under review. How many times did you take the top off and go for a drive for fun? How many times did you go off-road or at the least, use the 4WD? Your lack of understand how a scary 2-section tailgate functions is just amateur at best. Plenty of vehicles, including some of your beloved crossovers, have 2-section tailgates and if your answer to parallel parking is to swing out the tailgate, then you are just clearly not smart.

Bottom line; the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited is a wonderful vehicle for families that dont want to just be lumped into the boring hidden-behind-cellphones families and would rather spend quality time together. The Wrangler is a vehicle that is actually fun to drive, while still providing modern day safety and function that is getting better and better every year. Dont buy a Jeep and expect it to be a minivan, and dont complain about 16-18 MPG while you pass cars and trucks stuck in mud, snow, water, ice, etc. Cookie cutter vehicles are a dime a dozen, but a vehicle you can actually enjoy, a vehicle that has a legacy, is unique and can be a wonderful addition to any family.

Rancherinaz

Yeah !
I'm the proud owner of four Jeep vehicles .
Two Wranglers , a Cherokee and a Comanche .
250,000 miles on the pick up , 205,000 miles on the Cherokee . Both original motors that still run like new . In fact they both still look and drive like new . They are all the most solid feeling , most reliable vehicles that I've ever owned .
If I ever purchase another vehicle , it will be another Jeep . I just won't own anything else .
Rock On !

1Yellowjk

The JKU is not for everyone and that's the way Jeep owners like it. Sure it's not an 90K Ranger Rover, nor is it a leather covers, custom wood grained Caddy...what it is is a VERY capable off road vehicle for people that go off road. It is a convertable, a "truck" and the best bang for any buck off road. Hate all you want, I loved my JKU and will probably buy another. The Jeep wave will never be understood by non-jeep people and frankly we like it that way.

Waya

Obviously its not going to be the best family hauler. Get a unibody crossover like the Toyota highlander.

However, I want a capable car. I will never push the Wrangler Rubicon to its limits. I will enjoy taking the top off during spring, summer and fall. I will take the doors off, just to see what its like. I will enjoy the 6 speed manual, as jeeps are supposed to be driven. I will enjoy the fact that it looks better dirty then it does clean. I will enjoy the fact that you can just hose off the inside floor boards.

The only vehicle that lets me do half these things from the dealer lot is the wrangler. That's what its about.

Joey

I unfortunately don't own a jeep of my own YET but hopefully in the very near future(truck is nearly paid off). I have driven wranglers (2 and 4 door) that friends and family own and they are not nearly as rough on the road or hard on gas as my truck. I have an 05 chevy Colorado with the inline 5 cylinder engine, I get about 13 mpg and it rides unbelievably rough on the road. I love the offroad capability of a jeep and I love that they are 100% customizable so you can make it YOURS and not like every other vehicle on the street. I love driving and in my opinion a few bumps here and there when your driving keeps things interesting.. have you ever heard of people falling asleep at the wheel of a jeep? They are made to be enjoyed and to serve a purpose and they do it damn well. If you don't like it for what it is than why did you buy it?

Bob Koniption

I am now the owner of my fourth Jeep Wrangler. I have a 2007 unlimited four door and I love it. All I can say about the reviewer is, "You just don't get it!"

Big Sky Country

It's a darn shame to read a review on a vehicle intended for adventuresome people written by a city dweller that lives so far from the "wilds" that they wouldn't know fresh air if it smacked them in face. Don't compare the most capable turn key off road vehicle with acceptable highway capabilities with your crappy boring minivans. And, for you stupid liberals out there, don't call someone ignorant because they own one. At least I don't have to "plug my rig in" to get to work. The Wrangler Unlimited is a valid choice, it's NOT a cross-over, minivan, perfect kid hauler. But it will haul the kids, get groceries, and climb our Montana mountains with ease. Perfect all around suv and for the price, you can't beat it.

Ann Rand

I never new John Galt talked so much.

Chuck

We love ours. We have the 4 dr unlimited and we have 3 kids and no problem at all. I believe it handles and performs beautifully. I'm not sure why you think it's so ghastly uncomfortable. The leather seats are just as comfy as our Pilot. I think it's the perfect combination of ruggedness and refinement.

Austin

Jeeps are awesome all you haters I have a 2014 wrangler rubicon x 2 door and I think it's comfortable and I have the nicest car in high school but for $40,000 I better have the nicest car

Brian

The Jeep isn't for pansies.

Mark

I bought 2013 Wrangler last May and I love it. It's not my primary vehicle but it's great if you like camping or have harsh winters and need to get around. Plus there are few vehicles that have the versatility when it comes to modifications. If you're a soccer mom with a bunch of kids and stick to city driving then get yourself a minivan and leave the fun to the rest of us.

Mack

The person who wrote this review must be a moron. It's like complaining that there's no room for your kids in your new corvette or complaining about your new 35' motor home because it gets poor gas mileage and it's hard to park. To the people who have negative comments about Jeep Wrangles, use your brain when you shop for a new vehicle and buy one that suits your needs. Jeep Wranglers are popular because they fit a certain market. If A Jeep isn't your cup of tea go buy something else and don't make yourself look like a fool by complaining that it doesn't fit into a minivan mold.

Tim

Just because the JKU doesn't fit into your soccer mom minivan / crossover mold doesn't mean it's not an awesome vehicle. Some people like Corvettes. Some people like Motorcycles, Some people like pickup trucks, some people like tiny little micro cars. To each his own.... I happen to like the versatility that you get from a Wrangler. You can take off the doors, you can take off the top, You can take it straight from the showroom to places you wouldn't dare take most other vehicles. I've owned 4 Wranglers since 2001 and I'll keep owning them.

Pim Van Hemmen

Hey Big Sky Country. I love Montana, I love Jeeps and I am a Liberal. So please don't malign all liberals as Jeep haters. There's plenty of Jeep Loving and Jeep Owning Liberals out there. Let's leave the politics and name calling out of the car reviews. Jeeps are for everyone, not just for girls, and not just for conservatives. It'd be downright un-American to say that Liberals don't love Jeeps. Keep smiling Big Sky Country.

Jim

All the haters must read consumer reports. I drove a Toyota Corolla for 10 years. Let me tell you, the ride in my Sahara Unlimited is infinitlyy better than what I was driving. I test drove a Highlander. No thanks. Jeep wins hands down. Haters go home and keep driving your Prius.

Jimmyd

Well if you are looking to add a convertible vehicle to your family's weekend trips, I would highly recommend an unlimited or even the good ole 2DR. I see many people my age buying mid life crisis cars and now have three vehicles to maintain/pay for. You don't need that third car when you own a Wrangler.

Robert

What a silly and uneducated article. I own a 2012 Grand Cherokee Overland with a Hemi. We bought it for family duty and serious snow here in upstate NY. It's been a great choice and has handled all the snow thrown at it. But we needed a second car, something fun, off road capable and also SAFE when the snow gets deep. The Wrangler is an amazing machine for all of the above. Much to my surprise it's also comfortable. With the top down we have so much fun! It might not be my first choice as a 1st car, but as a second car it's fantastic! Sure Overland is the height of luxury and we like it, but it's no fun compared to the Wrangler.

bapbap

lol'd at the white trash type ignorant first few comments. Educate yourselves people, stop acting like high school dropouts.

frank fisher

When I was a kid I always dreamed I would drive a new Honda Accord, the next night I would dream about a new $40K Toyota...really? Did you dream about your minivan?


I dreamed about Jeeps...Got one when I was 19, had Jeeps my whole life, now at 57 bought a new $40K Rubicon...Why? Because I could and I LOVE it!!!

sandra

All i can say is don't be a hater...plenty of vehicles to choose from....as a first time Jeep Wrangler owner with 4 dogs we LOVE our jeep...so much fun....and never have to worry about how dirty it gets....def. not for one who enjoys boring luxury cars...get outside and let your hair down!!!!

sandra

All i can say is don't be a hater...plenty of vehicles to choose from....as a first time Jeep Wrangler owner with 4 dogs we LOVE our jeep...so much fun....and never have to worry about how dirty it gets....def. not for one who enjoys boring luxury cars...get outside and let your hair down!!!!

jake

Obviously the jeep isnt for most of you who probably stay in their air conditioning and never get outside to enjoy the world like the rest of us non tree huggers its your opinion about a certain vehicle an if you dont like it then keep it to yourself an maybe a jeep will help you when your stuck in snow or ice or a flood Inside of your minivan good luck to all you hermits.

newjeepowner

i love the adventure & FUN side of having a jeep wrangler unlimited as a family car. we want the wind in our hair & a FUN car. i have checked out all the safety features and the only one missing is REAR side-impact airbags - does anyone know if i can get these on the 2014 model?

Andrea

My family and I just traded our 2006 Dodge Ram 1500 4x4 for a 2014 Wrangler Unlimited Sahara. I was afraid our family would find it small, but after reading some of the positive reviews I cannot wait to see where it takes us. We have a minivan and wanted something else. We live in the country, have snow 8 months a year and we had the thought going into the purchase that this will be our son's Jeep when he is of age. (5 now!) Picking it up tonight!

Trent

Jeep wranglers are designed fr offroading not familys simply enough.

Aimee

I had a 2012 4 door Wrangler Unlimited and it was really fun to drive around. I admit it's not real convenient with car seats and groceries but it's a lot of fun. About a year and a half ago I was rear ended. The person hit me at 55-60 mph while I was sitting waiting to make a left turn with my turn signal on. My 1 year old daughter was in the back seat. I will tell you we took a heck of a hit and were very lucky. I had my brother in law in the passenger seat and we got hit in the side rear also. His seat and my seat broke and fell backwards on top of my daughter. She had multiple skull fractures but is ok. So I see the Jeep doesn't have the greatest safety ratings but that night I feel like it was pretty tough. I think my spare tire took a lot of the hit. It was actually a Jeep Liberty that hit us.

Alex

Stop hating on this vehicle people. All of you who are insulting the owners are ignorant. Some of us live in harsh mountainous environments and not a flat, perfectly paved city. I live in western PA which is very mountainous and has very rough weather year round. Most notably we have pretty bad snow storms. This winter my families jeep got us through the winter, to work, to sports and anywhere we needed to be. Our other cars were no where near as qualified for the terrain and weather. As a bonus too they are pretty cool looking especially if you upgrade them. So keep this in mind that they serve a purpose ans have more applications In different parts of the world. Now quit being jealous you downers!

Henry

First let me JEEP WAVE TO ALL MY JEEPERS!

Secondly what works for your family may not work for my family. Thats why i love America!I love my American made Jeep.

bill

Yeah I'm going with the guy who says that you people who are so infuriated with the wrangler should get a life. I mean seriously, get a life! If its not for you fine, but get off your high horses thinking that your minivan is the ultimate do all that is all that one needs. My family likes the trails in the sierra nevadas and the dry lake beds in the southwest. Your minivan sucks if you want to compare it as a family vehicle for my needs.

Joey fourdoor

Kind of like when you were in college and on spring break and you hopefully went to cancun Mexico and your friends (that couldn't come) were like .."how was it??.." And I could only say "you have to just go ". Same thing with the jeep. I guess from now on I'll wave to the rest of the drivers. Didn't realize they were so damn grumpy. Jeep=happiness :)

Jaco

I love my jeep!! It has to row bars how could it not be safe. It great year around with 4-wheeler drive for the winter & topless in the summer. Some people just can't handle cool & FUN! :D

Nic

I drive a Jeep Unlimited (4.5 inch lift and 35's), I cart my husband and child as well as her besties around every weekend (topless, doorless and music up preferably) No complaints, no issues.

I would rather slit my wrist vertically, and die a slow death before I had to drive a Mini Van. However, opinions are like buttholes, so sniff it, love it and get over it!
#jeepwave

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