Pros: Nearly endless variety; go-anywhere capability; the roof and doors come off; 4xe plug-in hybrid
Cons: Refinement and on-road handling laughable by modern SUV standards; iffy safety ratings
The 2023 Jeep Wrangler is entering another year with a proper direct competitor in the Ford Bronco. Thus far, Ford’s efforts at breaking into this space have spurred on Jeep to make the Wrangler even stronger. The now-deep lineup isn’t getting any larger for 2023, but it’s hard to complain when there’s a diverse variety of options for virtually any taste. There are five engine options, including the EcoDiesel, the plug-in hybrid Wrangler 4xe and the V8-powered Rubicon 392. There are, of course, two-door and four-door Unlimited body styles, plus numerous top and door options that allow you to be at one with nature when off-roading.
Then there are the trim levels/models, which inject different characters into the Wrangler. You can go basic with a manual Sport, get the most capability with the Rubicon or opt for something a little more on-road-oriented with the Sahara. Then there are special appearance-oriented versions like the Freedom Edition, Willys Sport and luxury-oriented High Altitude model. No matter the version you choose, though, the Wrangler is going to be a blast.
As for how it stacks up to the Bronco, that all depends on which trim you’re aiming to buy. Across the line, the Bronco is going to ride and handle better on account of its independent front suspension. Its interior is similarly sparse and barebones as the Wrangler’s, but just like the Jeep, you can spec out a fancy Bronco, too. Whether you end up going with the Jeep or the Ford will all be down to what specific type of off-roading you want to do, powertrain preferences and if you like one’s styling over the other. All that variety is also a big plus for the Wrangler. In today’s crazy car market, though, a lot of it could come down to which is more attainable, and due to the Bronco’s freshness to the market, Jeep is still winning that battle.
What’s new for 2023?
Cleverly named new colors Reign (purple) and Earl (gray) enter for 2023. A Wrangler Freedom edition model with an appearance package and capability upgrades like a steel front bumper and rock rails joins the lineup. Rubicon models get new 17-inch wheel options, and a new Wrangler decal featuring the American flag is available for the front fender. Beyond this, it’s the same (massive) Wrangler lineup as we had in 2022.
The 2023 Jeep Wrangler has a stylized interior to match the exterior looks. There’s no mistaking it for any other vehicle when you’re inside (OK, apart from the Gladiator). The exterior paint bleeds through onto the pillars and other parts of the interior. A tall, upright seating position provides a commanding view over the relatively short, narrow hood. You sit close to the windows and a windshield that is more raked than past Wranglers. All the controls are easily within reach.
The base Wrangler comes with a 7-inch touchscreen that features wireless Apple CarPlay and wireless Android Auto, but an 8.4-inch touchscreen with navigation is available if you want more screen real estate. There’s a disparity in materials depending on how you option it. A Sahara or Rubicon with all the leather boxes checked can start to feel half-luxurious inside, while a base Sport is a plastic and rubber paradise. Regardless of trim, though, the Wrangler’s interior is a very different place to be than most SUVs for sale today (and a great improvement over its predecessors).
There are multiple roof designs available, but all allow the Wrangler to be a convertible, albeit with varying degrees of difficulty. There are two “Sunrider” soft-tops that differ in material (the standard is vinyl and the Premium is a thicker canvas-like material) but offer the same improved functionality over the previous-generation Wrangler. They’re still very noisy and have plastic windows. The optional “3-Piece Hard Top,” available with black or body-colored pieces, improves security and visibility, and quiets things down considerably. It also provides a pair of removable panels over the front seats, but they have to be stored someplace. You can also remove the rear-quarter window panels, as you can with the Sunrider, for a freer-flowing cabin while keeping the roof in place to prevent sunburns. If you’re OK with the sun, though, there’s another option, and it may be the best of both worlds. The Sky One-Touch Power Roof is basically a giant cloth sunroof that provides the quickest and easiest way to let the air and sunshine in.
Finally, Jeep lets you do some things other manufacturers don’t with the Wrangler. The big one is that the doors (two or four) can be taken off — you can also spec the Dual Door Group option to get half-doors. Then, if you particularly enjoy the taste of bugs, the windshield can be laid flat on the hood. Remove the roof and you’re basically left with a Jeep skeleton. Features like these are just the beginning of why the Wrangler is so well loved by its fanbase.
Interior space for the Wrangler is respectable, especially if you opt for the four-door. Rear legroom is compromised in the two-door at just 35.7 inches, whereas the four-door provides a far more useful and comfortable 38.3 inches. The big annoyance is getting in and out of the two-door’s rear seats — lifting the suspension (as owners often do) makes it even worse. Once you’re back there, things are comfortable enough for short trips. However, the upright seating could become problematic for longer drives. Taller drivers may also find that the front seat doesn’t move back far enough, and some may balk at there being no power-operated driver seat available in a vehicle that can be made so expensive with options.
Cargo space for the two-door is a meager 12.9 cu-ft with the seats up and 46.9 cu-ft with them folded down. The larger four-door has 31.7 cu-ft of space with the seats up and 72.4 cu-ft when folded down, which is comparable to many two-row midsize crossovers. As we discovered in our Wrangler luggage test, the boxy design enhances versatility, but it’s also an unusually shaped area with door latches and roof pillars taking up space. The Bronco cargo area is more spacious.
Ease of loading depends on your choice of roof (soft top or hardtop). The hardtop opens up the swing door and glass area easily, while the soft top makes loading some items a pain because you’ll have to remove part of the soft top to access the whole loading area. It’s also possible for fine dust and sand to make their way through the soft top’s seals.
Settle in folks, this is going to take a while.
The standard engine is a 3.6-liter V6 good for 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual is standard and an eight-speed automatic is optional, but selecting the eight-speed automatically steps you up to the eTorque mild-hybrid system-equipped version of the V6. Fuel economy estimates for 2023 were not available at the time of this writing, but if there are any changes from 2022, they’d be tiny. All fuel economy estimates from here are from 2022. The four-door automatic Wrangler (the volume seller) was 19 mpg city, 24 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined. Differences in body style and transmission change these ratings, but not drastically so.
A 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four-cylinder is a no-cost option. It produces 270 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. The eight-speed auto is standard. Fuel economy improved to 21/24/22 with the four-cylinder. This engine also requires premium fuel.
Once one of the Wrangler’s most appealing engine upgrades, the 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 has been overshadowed a bit by new offerings, but it’s a distinctive option and certainly has upsides for those who worship at the altar of torque. It produces 260 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque. It too is automatic only. Fuel economy went up to a more appreciable 22/29/25 for 2022. This combination of power, torque and fuel economy used to make the EcoDiesel an excellent choice, but today’s sky-high diesel prices have wiped out any savings one used to enjoy at the pump.
The Wrangler 4xe is Jeep’s first electrified production off-roader. This plug-in hybrid gets 49 MPGe (mile-per-gallon equivalent). It combines the 2.0-liter turbo with an electric motor and battery pack to achieve 375 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. Those with short commutes can take advantage of its 22-mile all-electric range, provided they have somewhere to plug in. Once the battery is depleted, Jeep estimates 20 mpg combined.
On the other end of the spectrum is the Wrangler Rubicon 392. This Wrangler enjoys a 6.4-liter V8 good for 470 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. Jeep estimates a 0-60-mph time of 4.5 seconds, which is 40% quicker than a V6-powered Rubicon. A beefed up eight-speed automatic is included with a full-time Selec-Trac four-wheel-drive system. It was rated at 13 mpg city, 17 mpg highway and 14 mpg combined for ’22.
Every Wrangler has four-wheel drive, but the standard system (apart from 392 and 4xe) is operated by the driver with a floor-mounted transfer case control. The available Selec-Trac and Rock-Trac full-time four-wheel-drive systems effectively change into 4-Hi automatically when traction demands it. In this way, it’s a bit like an all-wheel-drive system, though it maintains a low range.
Generally speaking, the Wrangler remains a bit of a bear to handle. The steering is slow, and crosswinds cause it stray from its lane on the highway. Bumps and road imperfections are felt throughout your body, and the wind noise is quite tragic at higher speeds with the soft top. The hardtop isn’t exactly serene, either, and in general you’ll find a Jeep Grand Cherokee or Toyota 4Runner to be way more comfortable and refined. Compared to the Bronco? Well, that could actually be worse.On the other hand, the JL Wrangler is improved in all those areas compared to its predecessors, especially its steering, which is not only far sharper and reassuring than the vaguely spooky Wranglers of the past, but actually better than the 4Runner‘s (but not the Bronco). This Jeep is definitely better than previous Wranglers for daily driving duty, but we still wouldn’t recommend that someone purchase one for that sole purpose.
Acceleration is perfectly adequate from the base V6 engines, and there’s very little hunting and pecking as the automatic gearbox picks the proper ratio. The six-speed manual is fine, with a reasonable clutch pedal that’s not too hard or long to make using it a pain. Far from it. There’s just enough power to spin the rear tires from a standing start with the V6, but know that the much heavier four-door model will be considerably slower than the two-door Wrangler. As for the turbocharged four-cylinder, it may enjoy a tiny fuel economy advantage, but the real reason to get it is acceleration. The thrust still won’t blow you away, but the turbo does represent a performance upgrade. The diesel’s abundant torque makes it feel like you’re packing a monster under the hood. It unfortunately sounds a bit like a monster too, even if it’s smooth and refined for a diesel.
Things really get interesting with the high-output 4xe plug-in hybrid and the V8-powered Rubicon 392. Both weigh about the same and are offered in limited varieties, but go about their missions in very different ways. The frugal 4xe offers much of the 392’s acceleration, but without its fantastic V8 soundtrack. In exchange, you get great mileage (for a Wrangler, of course) and the smug satisfaction of knowing that you’re more likely to make an environmental impact by driving through it, rather than polluting it. Please tread lightly.
With the Xtreme Recon package, the Wrangler boasts the best approach, departure and breakover angles in the dedicated 4×4 space – including the Sasquatch-package Ford Bronco.
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Pricing for the 2023 Wrangler starts at $31,890, including a $1,595 destination charge. The four-door Wrangler Unlimited starts at $35,760. The 2023 Wrangler 4xe, which is four-door only, starts at $56,360, but thay’s before at least $7,500 in tax credits. The Rubicon 392 starts at $81,590.
The basic Wrangler is a two-door Sport with a manual transmission. Few vehicles on the road today have as little standard equipment as the Wrangler. It has manual locks, manual windows, manual mirrors and the base 17-inch wheels are steel. As you step up through the trim levels, there is a dizzying number of options available, from powertrains and 4×4 systems, to fancy creature comforts like a heated steering wheel and adaptive cruise control.
There are five core Wrangler trim levels: the base Sport, Sport S, Sahara, Rubicon, Rubicon 392 and Wrangler 4xe. There are then versions that are technically packages, but bring their own looks, equipment and capability, including the Freedom Edition, Willys and Willys Sport, and the High Altitude. There were even more for 2022, and we suspect more will eventually be added for 2023.
In terms of serious mechanical additions, the Rubicons provide the big-ticket items, including locking differentials, skid plates, 33-inch tires and electronic disconnecting sway bars. The Xtreme Recon package adds factory 35” tires and a slightly shorter rear axle ratio, a 1.5-inch lift and beadlock-capable wheels to the Willys, Rubicon or Rubicon 392.
There isn’t much to speak of when it comes to active safety tech for the Wrangler, but adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning with automatic braking are at least available on the automatic-equipped Sahara or Rubicon. Blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert are also available as an option.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the four-door Wrangler the best-possible rating of “Good” for its performance in the Moderate Overlap Front, Side and Roof Strength crash tests. It got the second-worst “Marginal” rating in the Small Overlap Front crash test, however, in part because it tipped onto its side after striking the crash barrier. Needless to say, that’s not ideal. The IIHS just re-tested the Wrangler to see if Jeep had fixed this issue, but the vehicle flipped again. The headlight ratings are also subpar, deemed to be either “Marginal” or “Poor” depending on equipment. At least the available forward collision avoidance system received top marks.