Jeep has achieved great success with its Wrangler line of compact off-road SUVs. Wrangler was introduced in 1986 and has a long history behind it. First perceived as a natural evolution from the military vehicle due to its rugged design, this SUV has grown over the years to meet the changing needs of customers. It became a thoroughly modern vehicle that many choose for their off-road adventures as well as daily driving.
The Wrangler was actually updated from its rugged off-road capable design to be more comfortable and safer to drive on the road. It was probably the very thing that helped the lineup live and thrive for four generations.
If we are to look at the details, the Jeep Wrangler started using a long wheelbase and carries the name Wrangler Unlimited since 2004. These long versions with two doors were produced specifically between 2004 and 2006. Surprisingly (back in the day) achieved almost an iconic status.
During the second generation of the Jeep Wrangler or TJ, this elongated SUV version received the LJ suffix to its name. Little did Jeep know at the time that this particular limited edition model would become a legend sought by many almost 20 years later.
But why was the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited LJ welcomed with open, happy arms? More importantly, what makes this SUV so special that people are racing to get it even years after its big debut?
The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited ‘LJ’ offered a better mix of capabilities than any other Jeep
Back in the day, the “Long Jeep”, or the popularly abbreviated LJ, brought something unexpected – increased comfort and versatility. True, the idea of the extended wheelbase was not new – the CJ-7 used it in the 80s for cargo purposes. However, the extra passenger space and comfort came with the LJ.
The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited boasted 10 inches of space between the front and rear axles. It also extended an additional 15 inches in overall length. All this means that second-row passengers got about two inches more space than usual. Storage space also increased by about a foot.
At its core, the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited remained an admirable off-road vehicle but became a more modern ride with added space, comfort and versatility. It was no longer just an option for adventurers who wanted to ride over rough terrain. Families can also conveniently choose the Unlimited LJ and use it as both an off-roader and a commuter. Well, as long as climbing behind reclining front seats was acceptable to customers.
This kind of off-road and on-road balance was exactly what Jeep aimed to achieve with the Wrangler Unlimited, as expressed in a 2004 press release:
“We expanded the Jeep Wrangler lineup by staying true to legendary 4×4 capability, but combining it with more usable space, more balanced on-road ride comfort and quietness for a new Jeep Wrangler buyer.”
The perfectly sized Jeep Wrangler Unlimited ‘LJ’ is an outstanding all-terrain vehicle
While the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited LJ used the same 4-liter inline-six engine and 4-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmission as other models, its longer wheelbase was an advantage in several segments. Along with the increased comfort, the LJ proved to be even more effective off-road. Weighing one more than the other models and extending in width and length, the SUV smoothly sailed over rough terrain.
In addition, the LJ had a well-balanced center of gravity when equipped with larger tires. Hitting tracks of varying difficulty was not an unfamiliar concept to it. So, looking at it from the side, the LJ became a package suitable for most buyers, not just those looking for the rough design.
The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited ‘LJ’ is ageless and fun to drive
Last but not least, the 2004-2006 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited LJ remained an exciting ride. Beautifully designed inside and out, even with its sharp edges and lines, the LJ was (and still is) an excellent choice for everyone. You can take it literally anywhere, from the country to the city, and enjoy every part of the driving experience. It’s no wonder why so many people seek it even 18 years after its debut.
In fact, the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited LJ aged so gracefully that it’s a real pleasure to see it on sale, let alone buy it. But of course all its possibilities and features affect the price. The holy grail of Jeep SUVs has a high starting cost, and you can expect to pay at least $10,000 for one with a lot of miles on the clock. The 2006 units with fewer miles reach as high as $25,000.
Now, considering that the new 2022 Jeep Wrangler has an MSRP of $29,995, the price of the LJ seems completely out of place. But still, we are talking about a perfectly balanced SUV that has gained classic status over the years.