Jeep’s Convertible Family Car

By Casey Williams
Casey Williams
Casey Williams
September 29, 2014 Updated: September 29, 2014

There are many great convertibles on the market—the Mercedes E550, Chevy Camaro, Ford Mustang, and Mazda Miata among them. 

However, if you want to take the entire family to the beach with the top down, getting full utility from a 4-door SUV, there’s only one choice. We’re talking about the 2014 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. In fact, it’s the only 4-door convertible you can buy. 

Take equal parts Wrangler and Grand Cherokee, toss them into a martini shaker, and you get a Wrangler Unlimited—made even better with the Freedom Edition that includes a gray grill and bumpers, painted wheel well extensions, and star emblazoned graphics.

From the front, there’s no mistaking the Wrangler’s famous face with round headlamps and exposed bumpers that barely wrap around all-terrain tires and 18-inch alloys. The side view is also all Jeep, but the extra rear doors give it proper SUV proportions. 

You can get a Wrangler Unlimited with a folding soft top, but our test vehicle featured the available multi-panel removable roof system that can be evicted with the flips of latches and hefty heave-ho’s. Park the thing in Bel Air or on the beach and it becomes part of the landscape.

There’s a lot of hard plastic inside, but it’s not to save money. Nope, it’s to make it easy to wash out mud and muck. Still, a curved dash, three-spoke steering wheel covered in soft cowhide, and notched shifter feel expensive. It’s time to update the infotainment system to Chrysler’s latest design, but the touchscreen is simple enough.

Big knobs make climate control easy to adjust with gloved hands. Heated leather seats are available, but the canvas and vinyl thrones—split/fold in back—are perfect for outside endeavors. 

Four passengers fit comfortably with their entire luggage. Find another convertible for which you can claim that!

Jeeps were once slow enough to rust into the landscape, but Wrangler Unlimited’s standard 3.6 L Pentastar V6, coaxed under the downturned hood, puts pep in its step. Cruising in the left lane is no problem. 

We chose an available 5-speed automatic transmission to ease city traffic, but serious off-roaders and tractor enthusiasts will likely prefer the 6-speed manual (it’s pretty agrarian).

The engine delivers 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft torque. Towing capacity is rated 3,500 lbs., enough to tow a boat or camper. Fuel economy of 16 mpg city and 20 mpg highway is hideous, proving it takes a herd of fossils to shove bricks through air.

Fortifying its under-carriage for serious off-roading, Wrangler encompasses a stout body-on-frame design with five-link suspension, live axles, and electronic hub lockers (thankfully, no twisting in the front hubs). Underbody skid plates allow drivers to hug over the toughest terrain imaginable. 

Jeep’s Command-Trac switch-on-the-fly transfer case features ultra-low range gearing and optional limited-slip rear differential—ideal for sand, mud, or snow. While the Wrangler is no air-suspended Grand Cherokee, it has a heck of a lot more comfortable ride than older editions. It’s liveable.

Along with more interior space, the extended wheelbase helps tame the Wrangler’s twitchy and bouncy handling. Tight turning abilities off-road translate into a very manageable large vehicle when trying to find a parking spot at inner city restaurants. 

You never feel overwhelmed with the Wrangler’s size. It feels numb and the wind blows it around a lot on the highway. But, so what, it will climb mountains and do everything you think a Jeep should! Tradeoffs were made. 

They have to be made to get the Wrangler’s required capability. If you want a fast pavement slammer, check out the Grand Cherokee SRT.

In case you take some unplanned maneuvres, the Wrangler is prepared with standard electronic stability control, electronic roll mitigation, Hill Start Assist, Trailer-sway Control, and 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes.

The Wrangler Unlimited is one of the smartest decisions ever made by an automaker. Tacking on two doors and a little more wheelbase transformed the Wrangler from a weekend toy to a fun family car. 

It’s fantastic in summer, but you can also bust through snow drifts like a hot dipper in homemade ice cream. Pretenders come and go, but only Jeep has endured for over 70 years. It’s the original, and still the best—especially with the entire family aboard.

Wrangler Unlimited starts at $26,195, but came to $35,875 for our well-equipped Freedom Edition. Competitors include the Toyota FJ Cruiser, Nissan Xterra, and Land Rover LR4.

2014 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
Five-passenger, 4×4 SUV
Powertrain: 285-HP 3.6 L V6, 5-speed auto. trans.
Suspension front/rear: Independent/solid axle
Wheels: 18-inch front and rear
Brakes: 4-wheel disc/ABS
Must-have feature: Style, capability
Manufacturing: Toledo, OH
Base/as-tested price: $26,195/$35,875