Best Wrangler for Long Road Trips

aldo98229

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You can’t find an LJ for $5,000...unless it came floating down the Mississippi River.

Most LJs I’ve seen are $15,000 to $20,000.
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spenchey

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I bought a new Wrangler JLU with no options in 2018 and in 2019 I drove it 6000 miles in 15 days and it drove great. A lot changed with the new model in 2018 and I don't have any experience with the previous JK model to compare it to.

I don't know where in Iowa you are located, but reach out to @spenchey from Motor Inn in Spirit Lake. With an affiliate discount (research tread lightly), he's been discounting new wranglers 5% below invoice.

Always available to help... reach out to me [email protected]
 
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MaggieGirl

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If you are dead set on a Wrangler for your long road trips, your choices are:
1 - In the $5K-$10K range a 2004-2006 Wrangler Unlimited LJ (long wheelbase TJ)
2 - In the $20-$35K range a 2012-2018 JKU 4 Door Wrangler 5-speed auto
3 - In the $30K-$75K range a 2018-2021 JLU 4-door automatic Wrangler

The JKU is a huge step over the LJ.

The JLU is a little step over the latter models JKU.
gato, someone else said that the 5-speed autos aren't as good as the 8-speed. Do you know anything about that?
 

aldo98229

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gato, someone else said that the 5-speed autos aren't as good as the 8-speed. Do you know anything about that?
The 2 transmissions belong to different eras.

The 5-speed was designed in the 1990s; it is a bit slow and clunky, but it is tough, reliable and durable, and the gears are well spaced.

The 8-speed is thoroughly modern: it is responsive to a tap on the throttle or the brake, quick to shift, smooth and refined, and it is reliable, tough and durable. But unlike many modern automatics that refuse to shift to maximize economy, the Chrysler 8-speed is always in the right gear. The calibration is simply excellent.
 

gato

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gato, someone else said that the 5-speed autos aren't as good as the 8-speed. Do you know anything about that?
The 5-speed auto is a Mercedes design that was put in everything up to V12 S-class Mercedes. It is absolutely bullet proof and smooth shifting.

If it were not for fuel economy reasons, there would be no need for the 8,9, 10-speed autos coming to market.

If you look at the exposed transmission cooling lines on the JL 8-speed auto and all the wire bundles going into it (including one that failed on my Jeep - see other thread), and compare that to the simple stout, clean design of the JK 5AT it would be apparent which one you would want to have off-road.

Having said that, the 8AT is obviously a much more advanced transmission with a great gear spread, which is awesome if you are changing tire sizes.

I would not let the 5AT deter you from buying a JK - that transmission is one of the best things in the post 2012 JKs. All other previous Wrangler auto transmissions were pure junk, though.
 

marcdm

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Having run, multiple CJ’s - I can confidently say that anything 1997 on up will be a huge improvement simply because of the move from the leaf spring suspension to coils at all 4 corners. That said, the longer wheelbase 4 door will provide the most comfort for long drives.

Honestly, if you are going with a used Wrangler, I would avoid anything between 2007-2011. This is when Jeep moved from its tried and true 4.0 inline 6 motor to a v6. Those first years were well underpowered for the weight. In 2012, they brought the Pentestar v6 that they still use today. It has more horsepower and is a far superior motor. Additionally, the 2012 on up JK’s redesigned the interior to provide nicer creature comforts.

I had a 2012 JK Sahara that I loved. 2012, was also when they introduced the paint match hard tops which I am also a fan of. 2” MOPAR suspension and 33” KO2’s - you’ll enjoy the comfort and versatility. Also, if you are concerned with road comfort, be SURE to stay in the C-ply tires for any aftermarket upgrade. Anything thicker will give you a more harsh ride.

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I'm researching this and seeing that "best" years are said to be 2010, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2018, 2020 - and certain models in each of those years - and these have shown up across several articles. If basically any 4-door Wrangler with a hard top and all terrain tires in those years will do well, then that's what I'll focus on. I really don't think I can afford anything newer than 2018, though I'll keep all options open.
 
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JakeK66

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Hello, I'm new to the forum, and thinking about getting another Jeep. I currently have a 1980 CJ5 which I'll be selling so I can get something more road-worthy, as in long road trips. I have no idea where to start, but I do love the looks of the Wrangler, so am thinking this is a good place to ask: which might be best for long trips (1000 miles back and forth), not as much noise on the interstate, more comfort, and a reasonable price. I don't need a ton of bells and whistles, but reliability is necessary. I will make sure it has regular maintenance. Also, which year (nothing new)? The longer wheel base of the 4 doors may be a better fit too. I won't use it off-road that much, and when I do it'll be for light off-roading, nothing heavy. Then why a Jeep? Because I do love Jeeps & because I want one. To me, that's enough of a reason. Why have something you don't love?
I was new to Jeep a couple years ago and found this to be the best for longer road trips -

4-Door (Must)
Automatic (Must)
Hard Top w/Headliner (Better but not must)
Cold Weather Package (Must if any cold weather)
Tech Package (Must if you want Apple-Carplay) - maybe standard now.

I'd also recommend getting non-offroad tires. The more offroad, the more noise on-road.

I had a 2020 Sport Altitude and it comes with the Sahara suspension/wheels/tires and brakes. It also has a hardtop standard w/headliner. Really a good value choice. I've got 2 new BMW sedans and I'd say it drove nearly as well on the highway.

Selec-trac 4WD is definitely worth it for the 4-Auto feature. I sold my Altitude for a 4XE as the values on the 4XE with the Tax-Rebates are great. The 4XE comes standard with most everything to be a great road trip car, like the selec-trac and more passing power.
 

obie2021

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These are great replies, and give me a good place to start. I'll see if anyone else has input, then I suppose my next step is to actually test drive a few. Does anyone know what year or price range I should be looking at?

I really can't afford anything new, so something a little older.

Thanks much,
Maggie

I placed a custom factory order for a 2021 Jeep Unlimited Sport-S hardtop with several add-ons including 17" tires and safety group. It's priced at $38k, which is less expensive than most USED Jeeps that I was looking at! I have to wait for it, but getting a brand new Jeep with only what I want on it will be so worth it! And I do plan to drive it cross-country as well. My current ride is a 2004 TJ Wrangler and although I love it, it's just too small.
 

JeezAJeep

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what year is the Wrangler you mentioned?
2021 Willy's
 

ArizonaJeepGuy

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Thanks for posting your question. I'm in the middle of deciding myself. It looks like a 4dr Auto hardtop would fit the bill.
Was surprised to hear people say great thing about the 2L Turbo which save you $1k.
Has anyone had issues with the power while off-road?
 

blnewt

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If it were not for fuel economy reasons, there would be no need for the 8,9, 10-speed autos coming to market.

If you look at the exposed transmission cooling lines on the JL 8-speed auto and all the wire bundles going into it (including one that failed on my Jeep - see other thread), and compare that to the simple stout, clean design of the JK 5AT it would be apparent which one you would want to have off-road.
Not just fuel economy reasons, having the proper gear to optimize the power curve of the motor it's connected to. The 8 speed is night & day vs. the 5 spd in this regard.

I certainly agree that simple is better when damage may occur.

The ZF has also proven to be a reliable AT and put in very high output motors. I would certainly recommend a good skid plate that covers the AT lines if you plan to do four wheeling in situations where obstacles may get up in that area. I have my full DIY skids ready to install and I made sure the whole oil/trans section protected all the AT lines. Once you protect that AT I would want that ZF 8AT for all my Jeep driving (offroad or on) vs. that 5 speed, it's just that much better!
 
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Scott.B

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By a Volvo and as soon as you drive it off the lot it loses 50% worth, same with bmw and others.
 

gato

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Not just fuel economy reasons, having the proper gear to optimize the power curve of the motor it's connected to. The 8 speed is night & day vs. the 5 spd in this regard.

I certainly agree that simple is better when damage may occur.

The ZF has also proven to be a reliable AT and put in very high output motors. I would certainly recommend a good skid plate that covers the AT lines if you plan to do four wheeling in situations where obstacles may get up in that area. I have my full DIY skids ready to install and I made sure the whole oil/trans section protected all the AT lines. Once you protect that AT I would want that ZF 8AT for all my Jeep driving (offroad or on) vs. that 5 speed, it's just that much better!
I have full Artec skid plates. The lines and wiring are still vulnerable from branches being wedged in there. I and many others have had "Service Shifter" and other 8AT related issues. Yes, the ZF-designed, FCA-built 8AT is a great transmission when it is all working. I still think the chances of an 8AT in the JL leaving you stranded somewhere are much higher than the Mercedes designed 5AT.

I do like the 8AT, but the 5AT is very good and proven also. There is no need for the OP to worry about the 5AT, since she will have a stock Wrangler with stock tires.
 

gato

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Thanks for posting your question. I'm in the middle of deciding myself. It looks like a 4dr Auto hardtop would fit the bill.
Was surprised to hear people say great thing about the 2L Turbo which save you $1k.
Has anyone had issues with the power while off-road?
The 2.0L, other than sounding horrible during start-up/warm up is proving to be a great engine. I had the 3.6 in my JKU and the 2.0 is performing really well in my JLU.

One main advantage of the 2.0 that no one talks about in this forum is that there is a much simpler exhaust system, with no cross-over pipes that interfere with skid plates, drive shafts and the like, or hang low in a vulnerable position.

I see no reason to pay $1K more to get a V6/Auto that comes with all the complications of the e-Torque system.
 
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