2020 vs 2021: What's the Difference?
Big changes have been happening to the Jeep Wrangler lately, and 2021's line-up certainly reflects this. What does not change is the athletic prowess that originated with the first World War II Jeep.
The 2020 Wrangler made strides with mild hybrid technology by including a mild hybrid powertrain system on its Sahara Unlimited trim level. What's more, the Sport and Sahara models both got a new Altitude variant. While the Moab was given the ax, a bunch of different special editions were inserted into the line-up.
The 2021 Wrangler adds even more changes and diversity to its line-up, starting with the all-new Wrangler 4xe plug-in hybrid. A PHEV Wrangler?! Yeah, we're excited too. This powertrain is hitting midway through the market year and brings with it two integrated electric motor-generators and a 4-cylinder engine with an 8-speed automatic transmission equipped. Its hybrid battery pack (which produces 27 kWh) is set below the rear seats so as to not take space away from the cargo area. Accord to Jeep, the 4xe plug-in hybrid is rated for 375 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. Additionally, it should get about 25 miles of pure electric range. Will Jeep lovers be lining up to get this variant? Maybe, maybe not, but we suspect it will appeal to some first-time Jeep buyers.
You also get more options on the 2021. You can equip a front-facing camera that can come in handy while going off the beaten path. There is also full-time four-wheel drive for the Rubicon. Also, take note of the new Rubicon 392 and its strong 470-horsepower V8 engine.
So, which Jeep Wrangler should you get? Is there a better alternative? We will go over that, delving into the Wrangler's trim level offerings, interior design, tech specs, and how safe and reliable it is known to be.
What Do the Various Trim Levels Offer?
Let's take a look at the expansive 2021 Jeep Wrangler line-up. It consists of two-door models (the Sport, Sport S, and Rubicon) and the four-wheel, street-tuned Sahara. You can also pick between a bunch of sub-trims, like the Altitude and Willys. All-wheel drive comes standard, as does a 3.6-liter V6 engine that puts forth a power output of 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. The eTorque mild hybrid system comes equipped on this engine, and you can opt for a 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic transmission.
Both body styles have an option for a 2.0-L turbocharged 4-cylinder that generates 270 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. The Sahara can have a turbo 3.0-L diesel V6 that's good for 260 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque. These engines solely come with the 8-speed. Also, the new Rubicon gets the 6.4-liter V8 that produces 470 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque and equips the 8-speed.
As we mentioned, the 4xe PHEV has a 4-cylinder paired with the 8-speed and a set of electric motor-generators. The 27-kWh hybrid battery pack rounds out the powertrain, which is only available on the four-door Wrangler.
Now, let's go over some of the finer details, starting with the Sport. This trim has 17-inch steel wheels, skid plates, crank windows, towing hooks, fog lights, door locks that work manually, and a 5-inch infotainment display. The Willys Sport adds black paint on the badges, grille, and wheels. It also has special hood and tailgate decals, a limited-slip rear differential, and all-weather floor mats.
The Sport S adds more creature comforts, such as air conditioning, alloy wheels, power windows and doors, tinted windows, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. You can equip the Willys Sport S and get the same features as the Willys Sport. There's also the Altitude, which adds 18-inch wheels, a three-piece black hardtop roof, black interior and exterior trim accents, and an upgraded off-roading suspension.
The four-door Sahara equips full-time 4-wheel drive, 18-inch wheels, chrome inserts on the body-colored grille, body-colored fender flares, a 7-inch infotainment system, smartphone app integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and automatic climate control. The Altitude adds the Sport S Altitude features, a headliner with the three-piece hardtop, and leather on the seats and gear shift knob. The High Altitude equips all that plus 20-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, 4G LTE WiFi hot-spot connectivity, blind spot monitoring, keyless entry, and LED headlights, taillights, and daytime running lights.
The Rubicon upgrades you to 17-inch wheels that have 33-inch off-road tires and bigger fender flares. A shorter 4.10 gear ratio is present on the heavy-duty Dana 44 front and rear axles. Extra traction is generated while off-roading due to the 4:1 low-range gearing. You also get electronic locking front and rear differentials, an electronic disconnecting stabilizer bar up front, rock rails, a soft-top roof, cloth upholstery, power windows, push button start, and automatic climate control.
Finally, the new Rubicon 392 has an upgraded suspension with a 2-inch lift and distinctive Fox shock absorbers. The hood has been re-sculpted, and there are many unique exterior stylings. There are four tailpipes with the active exhaust, and the interior sees more leather added.
Options include the LED Lighting Group, Cold Weather Group, Trailer Tow and HD Electrical Group, Advanced Safety Group, and the Sky One-Touch Power Top.
Which Trim is Right for Me?
So many choices! Which one is best? Honestly, it depends on how much off-roading you want to do and how intense you plan to go. If you want to keep it simple, stick with the Sport S since it gives you a few niceties (like air conditioning). However, if you want to go all-out, the Rubicon 392 gives you everything you need with a massive V8 equipped.
What Kind of Technology Does it Have?
Technology isn't the Wrangler's main focus, but it is remarkably current-gen. Smartphone app integration is easy, and the optional 8.4-inch Uconnect system is one of the best on the market. Its graphics are clear, menus well-constructed, and responses are rapid.
How Does It Perform?
Off-roading is the Wrangler's strong suit. Everyday driving? Not so much. The Rubicon's 33-inch tires make it an absolute powerhouse for off-roading. However, the brake pedal has a long travel, and the handling isn't geared toward regular city roads. Still, the 8-speed is a smooth shifter, and the 3.6-liter V6 is plenty strong.
Is It Safe and Reliable?
The 2021 Wrangler received 4/5 stars overall from NHTSA but was not side crash rated. The rollover risk (27.90%) is a lot higher than most SUVs, and Wranglers are known for their swaying and overturning. If you've never driven a Jeep, just look up "Jeep Wrangler death wobble." Jeeps are notorious for it.
What's the Interior Like?
The Wrangler's interior is modern and laden with intuitive layouts for the controls. There aren't many blind spots due to the slender roof pillars. The new soft-top design is easier to move than before, and finding a good driving position is fairly easy too.
What are the Alternatives to this Model?
Not feeling the Jeep? Try the Toyota 4Runner. It has many trims, including the line-topping TRD Pro, which compares well to the Rubicon. And while the new Land Rover Defender is more expensive than the Wrangler, it offers serious interior chic-ness meshed with great off-roading capabilities.
Note: All Jeep Wrangler lease prices and dollar figures above are approximate amounts. Prices are subject to change without notice.