Baseball superstar Manny Ramirez gets away with a lot -- he's been known to disappear behind Fenway's Green Monster during pitching changes to relieve himself or talk on his cell phone. The 2009 Jeep Wrangler also gets away with a lot, too. By nearly all conventional measures, it's a horrid passenger vehicle that seems to combine the worst of all worlds. It's slow yet gets poor gas mileage, it rides stiffly yet handles poorly and the cabin features an abundance of hard plastic along with doors that provide all the crash protection of a trash can.
However, the Jeep Wrangler is the vehicular equivalent of the quirky Manny being Manny -- it too is cut major slack because it's very good at what it does. Rather than being able to consistently get the big hit, the Jeep Wrangler consistently is a hit in areas where other SUVs fear to tread and with outdoorsy folks who want nothing less than the most capable off-road vehicle available. Without question, the 2009 Jeep Wrangler is for those who want to reach the most remote locations possible using something with four wheels and a roof (rather than four legs with hooves). They probably also love the macho image associated with this icon that's been around in one form or another since the 1940s.
A number of unique features contribute to the Wrangler's charm and formidable rough-terrain abilities. If you're looking for the most invigorating exposure to the great outdoors this side of a dual-sport motorcycle, this is your ride. The top goes down, the doors come off and the windshield can fold down onto the hood (albeit with great effort). Meanwhile, the 10.2 inches of ground clearance, the steep approach and departure angles and the two-door's short wheelbase make the Wrangler the go-to vehicle for serious off-roading. If the Wrangler can't get you there, then you should probably consider traveling by helicopter.
Those willing to give up a little mountain goat-like agility off the beaten path in exchange for more passenger and cargo space have the four-door Wrangler model, called the Unlimited. There is a price to pay, however, for driving the only four-door convertible SUV offered in modern times, as that manual top takes two patient and strong people Â hopefully, one who's tall and well-versed in mechanical engineering -- to lower and raise.
Even if you choose the Wrangler Unlimited, don't expect anything nearly as comfortable or quiet as other Jeeps and SUVs. Should your trail-busting requirements be somewhat less heroic, consider the Nissan Xterra or the Toyota FJ Cruiser, as they offer plenty of off-road ability and macho image without requiring one to put up with Wrangler being Wrangler.