Great write-up of your experience. If you like the freedom panels removed, look into the Bestop Sunrider. You can the open and close at will.I ordered this Jeep on Ground Hog's Day, 2022. The first estimated delivery date on the Jeep Tracker was 8 July 2022. Once it was shipped, that changed to 28 July 2022. I picked it up on the 28th.
Here are some initial (many of them naive I am sure) observations:
I went with River Oaks Jeep because they are conveniently located, they have not abandoned the central city for the distant suburbs, and their owner is a local philanthropist. I can take the bus to and from them when I drop the Jeep off for service. They currently sell sold orders at list price and would not budge, even for FCA Affiliate Rewards. However, they also do not do anything slimy, whereas some of my other options in the city made me uncomfortable, to be charitable. Despite a subsequent price increase, they honored the price of the vehicle when I ordered it, even though a small problem cropped up at delivery. (Pro Tip: Place an order in the name of the entity that will be on the title. In my case, this was a family trust.) My sales guy, Jonathan Hagger, had talked me out of ordering several options that he did not think that I would need, and he was right about every one of them. When I went to pay for the Jeep, I asked about extended warranties. The finance guy quoted me prices for a MaxCare policy that are much higher than those from dealers on this forum, but he was not the least bit pushy and invited me to call him back when I was ready to buy the extended warranty. He pointed out that, given how few miles a year that I drive, a lower mileage policy would be a better deal than the one that i first asked about.
I wanted a Wrangler because it is one of the few vehicles that is still available with a manual transmission and, given where I live 60 miles inland from the Gulf Coast and our experience in Hurricane Harvey, has the ability to traverse mildly flooded streets. I have been driving manual (we used to say standard) transmissions for over fifty years. I have not stalled a vehicle so many times in one day as I have with this Jeep since I was 16 years old on my learner's permit. I think that it is a combination of almost no feedback in the clutch pedal when the clutch starts to engage and the throttle on the 3.6L engine, which I'm still learning after spending the past 18 years driving an engine with appreciable turbo lag. After 100 miles and a week of practice, though, I'm starting to get the hang of it, as Jonathan said that I would. He mentioned that they sell very few Saharas with manual transmissions.
I really like the shifter, and the synchronizers work very well. The 3.6L engine has plenty of power for city driving and robust acceleration when merging onto an easy freeway on-ramp. The view over my right shoulder to the right and rear is great, especially with the headrests of the back seats folded down. The view over my left shoulder of the lane to my left is totally obstructed by the B pillar. I'm glad that I ordered the Jeep with the safety package, which includes the blindspot detection of cars in the adjacent lane. I've now also installed some stick-on blindspot mirrors. This is my first vehicle with a backup camera. I like it, and I like the Park Sense option that I also ordered as I like to back into my parking spaces at home and at work.
This is my first truck-like vehicle. It is probably obvious to most on this forum, but it took me a while to figure out that the easiest way to get into the Jeep is to put my outboard foot on the side rail, grab the handle on the A-pillar or the B-pillar with my inboard hand, and swing my inboard leg in and plunk my behind down on the seat. Getting out is made a little easier by the optional grab handles. I ordered them and expected them to be installed, but they came in a plastic bag with no installation instructions. I have a T-25 bit that fit the very nice little ratchet wrench that came with the Jeep. The rear handles were easy to install, but I had to remove the Freedom Panels in order to get the wrench onto the screws to install the front ones. My wife thinks that the Jeep is pretty cool with the Freedom Panels off, so we might be doing more of that than I had first anticipated. I was pleasantly surprised by the relatively low cost of adding the Jeep to our automobile insurance policy.