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2007 JEEP WRANGLER

By Michael Cohn

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2007 Jeep Wrangler Debuts in Detroit!
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2007 Jeep WranglerThe moment we've all been waiting for is finally here. Jeep has debuted the all-new 2007 Jeep Wrangler in Detroit at the North American International Auto Show.

There hasn't been a more nervous bunch of Jeep enthusiasts since the outgoing TJ's debut in 1996. At that time, Jeep took a big step by going to newer automotive technologies and designs, such as coil springs - at all corners! CJ and YJ owners cringed as their blessed leaf springs went the way of the dodo. I was one of the early owners of that new TJ (I got mine in June of 1996) and I can tell you from experience, the "old school" Jeepers did not take too kindly to the newfangled Wrangler. But that would all change, and change fast, as we built our TJ's up and proved that they could go anywhere the older Jeeps could go - better, and more comfortably, with a few more bells and whistles.

Over time the TJ evolved, but in very tiny steps, until 2003, when the Rubicon was born. The TJ has endeared itself to the Jeep community over the past ten years and has built a huge following that few other automotive models can match. But now this...change again.

Jeepers fear change. Changes usually mean corporate bean counters in Detroit taking away the very things we love so much about our Wranglers. One of the biggest worries over the last couple years was whether or not Wrangler would lose its solid axles. Thankfully, it has not. Dana 30 and 35 axles are still standard on the Wrangler X and Sahara models, while the Rubicon retains its Dana 44's. The new Wrangler is wider, however, so it stands to reason that the axle shafts will be longer and, thus, incompatible with the TJ's. We'll let you know once we confirm this.

The 2007 Wrangler has so many new things going on that one really has to sit and study all of the materials from Jeep to really digest it. One thing's for sure, though - this new Jeep is going to give the aftermarket a headache at first, because practically nothing made for the TJ will work on this guy. No rockers, bumpers, suspensions, interior goodies, engine goodies - nothing.

As you look over the photos you'll immediately notice the larger appearance. You're not seeing things. The new Wrangler is more than five inches wider (3.5" wider in track) and 5.1 inches longer overall, with 2 inches of that being wheelbase (95.4" total). Combine actual size with a brawnier body and top shape and the Wrangler - well - just looks bigger.

Inside, that extra size translates to an increase of nearly 5 cubic feet up front, with 5.1 inches more shoulder room and 4.6 inches more hip room So us XL-sized guys should feel a lot more comfortable and those of you wanting to add aftermarket racing-style seats should have a little easier time finding ones that fit. The extra size continues to the rear seat where there is an inch more leg room, 3.9 inches more shoulder room and 1.6 inches more hip room. Sounds minor, but if you've ever sat in the back of a TJ you'll know this is significant. Finally, there are two more inches of space behind the rear seat, which nearly doubles the cargo capacity compared to a standard 2006 Wrangler.

OK, so the other burning questions for enthusiasts are still not answered, so let's move on to some of those.

What Models Will There Be?
There will be Wrangler X, Sahara and Rubicon models. Gone are the SE and Sport Models and Unlimiteds. Stay tuned probably later this year for a four door Wrangler.

What's the Drivetrain?
Let's start at the front. Gone is the venerable but old-fashioned 4.0L and there is no more four-cylinder. All Wranglers will be equipped with a new 3.8L overhead valve V-6 (yes, you read that right), which produces 205 hp and 240lb.-ft of torque. This new engine is lighter, shorter and has higher torque at high RPM's above 3400.

Moving back, Wrangler maintains the same 42RLE four-speed automatic and NSG 370 manual, six-speed transmissions.

Gone is the NV231 Command-Trac transfer case. Wrangler X and Saharas will get a NV241 Command-Trac while the Rubicons retain the NV2410R Rock-Trac transfer case. Both cases are part-time 4WD. The NV241 has a 2.72:1 low-range, while the 2410R has a 4.0:1 low-range - both the same as the 2006 models.

As was mentioned, earlier, the Wrangler still has solid axles. Hallelujah! The gear ratios for the axles are 3.21 standard and 4.10 Optional (std. on Rubicon) for manual-equipped models, while all automatics get 4.10 gears.

Brakes, ESP, and Other Safety Stuff
All Wranglers now get four wheel anti-lock 16" disk brakes with both on and off-road calibrated modes. In addition, Brake Assist is added to sense panic stops and apply maximum braking power. This works in conjunction with the ABS to help bring the Jeep to a safe stop. ESP (Electronic Stability Control) also steps in during emergency maneuvers to help control over and understeering ESP features three modes – “full on,” “full off” and “partial on.” Even with Wrangler's wider and longer stance, it is still apt to roll-over under extreme on-road conditions. Electronic Roll Mitigation monitors the vehicle and can intervene if necessary and adjust engine torque and braking to the appropriate wheel(s) to reduce the vehicle's lateral force.

This stuff all sounds like some serious new-fangled gobbledygook for the down-home Wrangler, and it is. While these features are becoming more and more prevalent in other cars, trucks and SUV's, they are just now finding their way into the Wrangler. Like it or not, safety is a big concern for the industry and this is a fact of life for us now. We'll know better once we drive it how these features work for us in our daily driving and off-road trailriding.

Airbags and Occupant Classification System (OCS) remain, of course. OCS senses the size and weight of the front passenger to determine automatically whether or not air bags should be activated in the event of a crash.

Side-impact door beams comply with the latest collision regulations and the doors are still removable, which obviously, means those beams also get removed since they are inside the doors. Speaking of safety regulations, the fuel tank no longer lives behind the rear axle. It now resides between the frame rail and driveline in order to comply with new rear-impact rules.

Wheels and Tires
Gone are the 15 inch wheels of old. For 2007, Wrangler gets 16, 17 or 18 inch wheels, depending on the model and package selections. On those wheels come the following tire sizes:
- 29.28" x 8.86" x 16" (P225/75R16) Goodyear Wrangler ST on Wrangler X
- 30.46" x 9.65" x 16" (P245/75R16) Goodyear Wrangler SRA on Wrangler X (optional)
- 32.05" x 10.03" x 17" (P255/75R17) Goodyear Wrangler SRA on Sahara
- 32.05" x 10.03" x 18" (P255/70R18) Bridgestone Dueler 693 on Sahara (optional)
- 32.05" x 10.03" x 17" (P255/75R17) BF Goodrich Mud Terrain on Rubico

Topping It All Off
Topping off the new Wrangler is a new Sunrider soft top and an all-new modular hard top. The hard top is particularly interesting, in that you can take sections out targa-top style, make it a hard bikini top, or take it off completely. It should prove to be very popular and should be easier to remove and store. The new top, combined with a new curved windshield (yes, it still folds down) and other sound-dampening enables the new Wrangler to be up to 20% quieter inside.

Conclusion
I'm pretty excited about the new Wrangler. I like the evolution of the appearance and design and feel that Jeep has kept everything in tact that needed to be kept, while still advancing the Wrangler into the 21st century (is it really 2006 already?) and complying with the latest Government regulations and safety initiatives.

With a 100% stiffer frame, thanks to the Dodge Boys, an electronically-controlled swaybar disconnect, larger tires, longer wheelbase and wider stance, this new Wrangler should be every bit as capable or more so than the outgoing model. Sure, there are more bells and whistles, and yes, it looks a lot different. But at heart, and underneath where it really counts, it's still a Wrangler.

And just wait until the aftermarket gets a hold of it!

Be sure to read all of the Jeep press materials and check out the photo gallery!