2010 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited a fun family car

2010 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 2010 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Photo Credit: Chrysler

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The 2010 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara has a V-6 engine that is plenty powerful. This Jeep isn't made for massive acceleration on the highway; where it really shines is off-road. It also performs well with city driving. If you're a serious off-roader you'll want to skip the four-door Wrangler Unlimited and go for the two-door Wrangler.

The base model, the Wrangler Unlimited Sport, starts at $23,410. The Sahara trim level starts at $28,905, but my test car cost $37,080. The $8,175 price difference comes from a variety of options packages. I liked my test car's Mopar Chrome Edition package ($1,035), which added a chrome exhaust tip, fuel filler door, taillamp guards and side steps, which added a little flash to this usually quiet vehicle. In addition to all the bling, there was yet another chrome package that added a chrome grille and side mirrors. That was another $485.

EXTERIOR

The Wrangler Unlimited is definitely a fun vehicle to look at, and I like to think that other people wished they had as fun a car as I did. Well, for a week anyway. This SUV has a distinctive look, with squared-off edges, and I loved the Rescue Green Metallic paint of my test SUV. It was bright and fun without being overly trendy or weird.

However, the Wrangler Unlimited isn't the easiest SUV to live with because it takes effort to make it work well. The doors don't prop open because they're only held on to the body with nylon straps, so watch where you park this SUV if your kids like to throw car doors open.

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It's also hard for shorter ones to climb in with ease. Yes, my Wrangler Unlimited had the standard tubular side steps, aka running boards, but let's face it, the Jeep is made to have some serious ground clearance of at least 10.2 inches. Three-year-olds will struggle to get in this SUV. My kids, who are 6 and 8, actually had the hardest time pushing the button on the outside door handle. Once they mastered it, they liked everything about the Wrangler Unlimited.

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It was so good that the kids never complained one iota about going anywhere. They hopped in as soon as I asked them to and were excited to go. That's worth something, isn't it?

One more thing that contributed to their vehicular bliss was the Wrangler Unlimited's Freedom Top. The Freedom Top is a set of three roof panels that you can remove to bring the outside in. There are two panels over the front seat and one large panel over the back seat and cargo area. I liked the versatility of the panels; they let in more light and air than a sunroof but didn't take too long to remove or replace when the elements got too crazy. This feature helped the Jeep shine as a premier fun machine.

In addition to the Freedom Top, my test Jeep came with a soft-top, which was redesigned for the 2010 model year and supposedly easier to remove than before. I didn't remove the soft-top because I didn't have a Torx wrench.

In addition to the removable roof, the doors are also removable, and the windshield can be folded down. While I didn't get to removing and folding, I did note that it would be easy to do. It's pretty amazing how versatile the Jeep is, and I wish I'd had it for a longer test to completely transform it.

The Wrangler Unlimited has a 205-horsepower, 3.8-liter V-6 engine. A six-speed manual is standard. My test SUV had the available four-speed automatic ($825). The Wrangler Unlimited takes regular gas and gets 15/19 mpg city/highway with either transmission.

SENSE AND STYLE

Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Great (for older kids)

Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Groove-On

INTERIOR

The Wrangler Unlimited is rugged, with an extra side of rugged, and its interior is sturdy and can take a beating. If you can't get those Freedom Top panels on in time to beat the rain, a little won't hurt the interior. Likewise, melted chocolate and spilled drinks wiped off with ease. Not that I actually experienced this -- ahem -- I'm just saying that if somebody happened to make a mess in the Jeep, there'd be few worries.

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The seating is stiff, but I didn't mind because this is a Jeep and should feel like it's rough and tough. Besides, I got so distracted by the fun drive and the amazing sound system blasting my favorite tunes that I didn't pay much attention to the seats. However, over the course of my test week I could see how a person might tire of them.

The Wrangler Unlimited has some lockable storage, which would be handy when the soft-top has been removed. The center console locks and you can get a couple items in there like a wallet, a cell phone or whatever. If you're carrying a lot of valuables I recommend you leave the doors and the soft-top on.

As for other interior amenities, this SUV has two front cupholders and two rear cupholders that sit on the floor on the back of the center console. This location wasn't a big deal for my big kids, but smaller kids could become bummed out when they can't reach them.

You also might be bummed out at the cargo space in the Wrangler Unlimited. You'll have to be conscientious of what you put back there. Don't be surprised if you have to pare down a little. There's a 60/40-split folding backseat if you need some extra cargo room.

IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT

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Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample

Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample

SAFETY

The Wrangler Unlimited has two sets of lower LATCH anchors in the outboard seats. The outer LATCH anchors were easy to use, but the inner anchors in both positions sat right behind the seat belt buckles, which made them difficult to use.

The good news for me was my kids' booster seats fit safely and securely in the backseat. For those of you with younger kids, beware. The rear seats are angled, making convertible child-safety seats tricky to fit properly because as the bench is narrow and the fixed rear head restraints don't accommodate the back of the convertible seat very well. A rear-facing infant seat was a tight fit.

Jeep has made all kinds of safety features standard in the 2010 Wrangler Unlimited, but there are some features that are not. For example, it has standard front airbags, but side-impact airbags for the front row are optional ($490). Side curtain airbags are not available in the Jeep, which is not surprising when you consider that the Wrangler Unlimited's top is removable.

The Wrangler Unlimited's standard safety features include four-wheel-disc antilock brakes with brake assist, all-speed traction control and electronic stability control with rollover mitigation technology that pulses individual brakes to prevent impending rollovers.

It should be noted that in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests, the Wrangler Unlimited received a Marginal score in side-impact and rear crash protection tests. Vehicles are scored using a Good, Acceptable, Marginal and Poor grading system. The Wrangler Unlimited scored Good in the frontal-offset tests. The SUV hasn't been tested using the agency's new roof-strength tests. As a mom, I paused at these scores. You'll have to decide for yourself if the fun factor outweighs the crash-test results.

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