2009 Jeep Wrangler
Chevrolet Equinox LT2
72.4 in.
69.3 in.
73.9 in.
71.4 in.
184.4 in.
188 in.
116 in.
112.5 in.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4×4 is a mouthful of a moniker for a vehicle that prides itself on keeping things simple. The Wrangler competes with other midsize SUVs like the Ford Explorer and Chevy Equinox, but it’s the only one that is truly a convertible 4WD vehicle.

The 2009 Wrangler is a carryover from 2008, and Jeep has done its best to retain the vehicle’s heritage of rugged, off-road fun and utility while adding amenities and safety features. The most obvious departures from the classic Wrangler are four-door, five-person seating and full metal doors.

We were not able to take our tester off-road, but every aspect of the vehicle is geared for that, even the, well, gearing. A six-speed manual transmission translates to a lot of low-speed power in first and second gears. The first-gear ratio, 4.46, is over 25% higher than those of the Ford Explorer and Dodge Durango.

The engine delivers 237 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. A 3.21 axle ratio drives the Dana 44 rear axle. Adding the towing package bumps the ratio up to 3.73. For 2008, the axle got a stiffer, stronger housing, and larger gears.

The vehicle’s 10-in. ground clearance makes powering over obstacles easy, and skid plates protect the transmission and fuel tank. Live-axle, coilspring, gas-shock suspensions at the front and rear let occupants feel the terrain without being rattled to death.

Users can shift between high-range 4WD and rear-wheel drive at up to 55 mph. Shifting into low-range 4WD engages a set of amplifier gears for a 2.72 transfer-case ratio. Setting the differential to neutral electronically disconnects the driveshafts and lets users tow the Jeep.

Rounding out the Wrangler’s off-roading capabilities are four disc brakes. Our tester came with 18-in.-diameter, 7.5-in.-wide aluminum wheels, plus a full-size spare. Four-wheel ABS and traction control are standard. Users can open the 55 × 60-in. sunroof in the Wrangler’s signature softtop or take the top off completely. Our tester’s dual-top package included a three-piece fiberglass hardtop which can be removed by two people.

The sequential multipoint fuel injection and a sixth gear help boost the 2008/2009 model’s fuel efficiency to an EPA-estimate 19-mpg highway and 15-mpg city.

Our model came with a navigation system, Sirius satellite and AM/FM radio, an in-dash CD player, and a USB port. An onboard hard drive permits file navigation via the large central touchscreen.

Power windows and locks are standard, but seat, steering wheel, and mirror adjustment are manual.

A flat-folding rear seat with a 60/40 split gives drivers up to 82 ft3 of cargo space. With the rear seats up, cargo room drops to 46.4 ft3.

The Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4×4’s base price is $28,320. Our tester’s dual-top package ($1,585) and infotainment system ($1,275 ) bumped the price up to $32,200 after destination charges.

Jessica Shapiro