Air rushes through the hair and bounces up and down the seat as the Jeep Wrangler forces its way into the water-lined pit; mud flies as the engine revs up, tires spin through the dirt; friends who stand and shout encouragement, willing to zip up if the unthinkable happens. That’s what owning a real Jeep should be about, and there’s no better Jeep to do it than the Wrangler.
We are a unique group of people who love to venture into the great unknown and put our skills to the test, and the competence of the Wrangler we have chosen for the task. We don’t need to be told that a mud hole should be bounced, or that the snow bank ahead should be climbed. Landslides that stop a normal group of four-wheel enthusiasts are just another piece of terrain for us to conquer.
For Jeep owners, it’s seriously that kind of attitude that has done Jeep a famous name. Even if off-road driving isn’t for some, a Wrangler is ready to roll when needed. As with all makes and models, there are good and bad. The following will outline five of the best and five of the worst over the years.
10/10 Best: 2021 Jeep Wrangler
The 2021 Jeep Wrangler combines the best of both worlds. Jeep worlds, then. It looks like a WWII model, but it has the upgrades expected in today’s market. It has updated powertrain options, ranging from a turbocharged four-cylinder to a beastly V8 that leaves no doubt that the Wrangler belongs screaming through a bumper-deep mud pit. A hybrid version can also be selected to ensure long-range capabilities when going on a long journey.
The reliability rating this year is higher than most of the recent years, and as usual, customer satisfaction is on the higher end of the spectrum. The main problems that arise are complaints about braking and noise. True Jeep Wrangler owners expect the ride to be tough, the sound to be loud and real, and who needs instant brakes. We need more gas. More power. More terrain types to conquer.
9/10 Best: 2019 Jeep Wrangler
The 2019 Jeep Wrangler was a completely modern design for them. Not so much the exterior, but what’s inside. This is the year of higher technology for Jeep. An infotainment center was added to the mix. Small enough to be out of the way, but big enough to be used. Electric power and heated seats were offered, and forward collision warning systems were added.
This year was the technological move for the automaker, making it one of the most high-tech vehicles on the road, without making any significant changes to the appearance that the Wrangler is so famous for. It also became known as a luxury SUV, mainly due to the sound system that offered an alpine system that could pump out enough bass to please most listeners.
8/10 Best: 2018 Jeep Wrangler
Wrangler owners are their own breed of people. They’ve all thrown their votes into the pot and voted the 2018 Jeep Wrangler as the best overall year yet. From the outside, it may seem like the same old SUV, with the same old parts.
The fact is that this year had a complete remake to increase the consumer base. It was made more comfortable and accessible, got improved handling and enough tech gadgets to keep it up to date. The JL badge was given to the new version of the Wrangler this year, denoting it from the previous models that had a JK name.
7/10 Best: 2015 Jeep Wrangler
The 2015 Jeep Wrangler was the year the climate control complaints were fixed forever. Sure, there have been some issues with the controls since then, but this is the first year they’ve made a change to more control over cabin temperatures.
As with most other Wranglers, the reliability rating is low, but customer satisfaction was high. The main complaints are ABS issues and of course noise and ride comfort. It may be too early to tell, but it seems that those filing complaints are not real Jeep owners because we know these problems exist, we embrace them and shoot for the stars. To the top of the mountain anyway.
6/10 Best: 2011 Jeep Wrangler
2011 was when Jeep started making the Wrangler more passenger-friendly. The ride was stabilized, better than previous years, by upgrading the suspension system and adding some extra padding to the seats. This started the movement towards comfort, which has increased slightly every year since.
Offroad 2011 Jeep Wrangler is a beast to be reckoned with. You’d expect the off-road ‘king’ to be able to maneuver through any terrain without a problem, and since it had a separate lever for 4H and 4L, it’s easy to get through the roughest areas.
5/10 Bad: 2022 Jeep Wrangler
The latest Wrangler appears on this list because when run through Consumer Reports’ tests, it scored just 36 out of 100 and an overall rating of 28. Not great for a new ride with a hefty price tag. Customer satisfaction is estimated to be high, which is not surprising since most consumers who buy Jeeps understand that they have some problems.
Problems that can easily be solved by doing as Jeep owners do. Add parts and upgrades that match our lifestyle. For the author, it’s terrain mastery. The bigger the tires and the better the powertrain, the happier we are. When it comes to the 2022 Jeep Wrangler, however, it would be a better idea to save your money and see what next year’s version brings, or buy a used year like the ones listed above.
4/10 Bad: 2012 Jeep Wrangler
The 2012 Jeep Wrangler was voted by past and current owners as one of the worst years of Wrangler to own. It has the normal problems of a rough ride and loud noises in the cabin when driving. These things can be forgiven if the rest of the ride is of high quality, which in this case it is not.
Year to date this year is the absolute worst ever. It had engine problems, major and minor, and consumers have reported having to shell out a decent amount of money to replace it. It also had some serious transmission issues, so if it’s in the future to replace the original options with a bigger, more powerful V8, this year would be a good option. If not, avoid it and get one of the better versions.
3/10 Bad: 2008 Jeep Wrangler
The 2008 version of the Wrangler was one of the very few years that had an overall owner satisfaction rating of one. This is almost unheard of because Jeep aficionados don’t mind giving up unimportant things, like highway comfort and cabin noise. This year, however, had some serious problems with the airbags, making it an unsafe choice when it comes to getting an SUV.
The 2008 Jeep Wrangler is one to avoid as it has the same issues as the previous year, which can be seen below, meaning Jeep chose not to address some of the reported issues. The “Death Wobble” continued to cause accidents, and the failure of the TIPM made it an expensive investment.
2/10 Bad: 2007 Jeep Wrangler
This Wrangler followed the design of the previous year, which was close to the original Army Jeeps that had all been taken out of service. It looked great and was supposed to perform as well as the old Willy’s did, but this year was a failure due to a major problem. Stability.
The 1987 Jeep Wrangler had a high center of gravity, so the company lowered the height of the chassis in hopes of preventing rollovers. The attempt failed. The 1987 Jeep would roll up on top, like an overweight turtle, on or off the trail. The 1987 Wrangler is a great collector’s item, but not one intended for everyday use.
1/10 Final thoughts
Jeep owners are a breed of their own. We don’t follow the beaten path; we prefer to make our own. It is a sign of who we are, at work and at play. We work hard, we play hard and we don’t back down from a path marked as dangerous. After all, they are called jeep tracks for a reason.
We don’t care about the low reliability ratings that almost all Jeep Wranglers since 2000 have. We install upgrades, repair broken parts, change tires, all on the fly. We own a Jeep Wrangler and will not be intimidated by anything.