Lately it’s been Ford Bronco this, Ford Bronco that. If it’s not the Raptor, it’s the Everglades. What about the Jeep Wrangler? Is there any news there, you ask? Why yes, there is. And while it might not be anything particularly big—no Rubicon 392—the new-for-2022 Wrangler High Tide offers a taste of the aftermarket lifestyle (big tires, lift kit, custom top, trick windshield) straight from the dealer, warranty and Everything. The initial 500 models are called “Beach,” and that tells you what you need to know about the High Tide’s ambitions: You drive it to the beach. Maybe you drive it on the beach. Let’s not overthink this.
The High Tide package is built on Jeep’s Wrangler Unlimited Sport model with the 285-hp 3.6-liter V-6 and eight-speed automatic, meaning it doesn’t get limited-slip differentials, a disconnecting anti-roll bar or any of the Wrangler’s many other powertrains. However, the High Tide includes the Xtreme Recon package, which brings 35-inch BFGoodrich All Terrain T/A KO2 tires on 17-inch beadlock-capable wheels, stuffed under extended fenders with the help of a 1.5-inch suspension lift. The axles get 4.56:1 final drive, the rear end gets a limited-slip differential, and there are a few other Mopar accessories, including a redesigned hinge gate on the rear-mounted spare tire—basically an exoskeleton supporting the huge spare tire mount. That detail is reminiscent of a complaint we once heard from a Stellantis engineer to the effect of: “You spend a million dollars to properly engineer a one-inch lift, and then people go out and install a six-inch lift that was developed in two weeks by some guys in a garage.” Regardless of the loads in the Xtreme Recon package – and we’ll get to them – at least you know it’s safe and you won’t be cutting a driveshaft because someone forgot to consider the angle of a U-joint.
Beyond the lift, the High Tide gives you the option of switching back and forth between the standard rigid “Freedom panels” on its three-piece body-colored hardtop or a Sunrider Flip-Top, a bolt-on fabric section that can be opened or closed manually by front-seat passengers in seconds— a bit like having a Miata top over the front buckets. Its other notable feature is a windshield reinforced with Corning Gorilla Glass, which addresses the Wrangler’s tendency to collect rock chips and cracks on its very upright, very flat windshield. Gorilla Glass is common in the electronics world, where it provides improved resistance to e.g. phone screens, but it’s still relatively exotic in the automotive industry (McLaren Senna’s lower door windows, roof and rear window were made of it). If you just want that windshield without all the High Tide accessories, it’s a $495 option on select Wranglers and Gladiators and can be retrofitted on older models, all the way back to 2007 Wranglers. In the event that a High Tide driver manages to chip a windshield, the glass is covered by a two-year warranty. But it’s tough stuff—Corning built a pneumatic ice cannon just to see what kind of shocks it can take.
To prevent the High Tide from requiring kickstands, the lifted suspension is stiff—much stiffer, apparently, than even a Rubicon model on 33-inch tires. With a track four inches wider than that of a standard Wrangler Sport and 2.5 inches wider than a Rubicon, the High Tide feels stable, if not particularly happy, in corners. Its 0.69g of lateral grip is probably about as hard as you’d want to ride in this buggy. Likewise, its 7.7-second run to 60 mph feels quick enough, especially given the lackluster stopping distance from 70 mph: 211 feet, the same distance we recorded from the nearly 10,000-pound GMC Hummer EV. (Given that the Wrangler put down faint gray skid marks along the brake test, its ABS keeping things right on the verge of lockup, it’s clear that its long stops are more the fault of the chubby tires than the brakes themselves.) We failed to record a 100 mph stop because the Jeep quite sensibly prevents high tides from going that fast. Top speed is limited to 97 mph, where it’s easy to imagine what it’s like to be an astronaut hurtling through the atmosphere in a re-entry capsule.
And that’s with the Sunrider roof closed. With it open, even at a relatively benign 70 mph, the tires, engine and especially the wind conspire to produce an interior noise level of 103 decibels. How high is it? Loud enough that we have to refer to the 1992 “Federal Agency Review of Selected Airport Noise Analysis Issues,” which reported that an F-16 fighter jet flying overhead at 1,000 feet at 403 mph spikes at 101 decibels. Serious hearing damage is possible during eight hours of exposure to 100-decibel sound levels, so it’s fortunate that when the roof is closed, the sound is reduced to an acceptable 74 decibels at 70 mph.
As you might have guessed, going fast isn’t really High Tide’s forte. But rolling around town with the top back on a sunny day? Now we’re talking. Ditto any type of off-road endeavor that offers a large footprint and plenty of ground clearance – the Xtreme Recon pack is optimized for mud, deep water and sand. If the tide is less than 33.6 inches up your doors, this Wrangler can ford it. It also has a monster 12.9 inches of ground clearance, which actually understates how tall it is—maybe loosen those hip flexors before swinging a leg up in the cabin.
Opting for the High Tide Quick Order Package 25D adds $11,895 to the price of a Wrangler Unlimited Sport, plus another $4,000 for the mandatory eight-speed automatic and 3.6-liter eTorque V-6 that the High Tide requires. Which sounds like a lot of money, and it is. But anyone who’s gone the aftermarket route knows you can easily spend a similar amount to get the same monster Jeep results, but without factory development and support. Through that lens, the High Tide’s effective base price of $51,535 looks like a pretty good deal. But that’s still not the least expensive route to a Wrangler with the Xtreme Recon package and 35-inch tires—that would be the Willys trim, which comes in at $45,695 to start. And, as anyone in Normandy would say, a Willys works just fine on the beach.
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