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Wrangler JK Buying Guide

Introduced in 2007, the Jeep Wrangler JK is the most popular Wrangler ever produced. In addition, the JK lineup consists of the most capable and family friendly open top Jeeps on both the streets and the trails. If you are considering a new or used Wrangler JK, be an educated shopper. To help get you up to speed, we have compiled this summary of specifications, features and benefits between the different Wrangler JK body styles, trim levels and model years.


2 Door or 4 Door (Unlimited)

This is usually the easiest decision to make. Unlike the older TJ Unlimited, the 2007+ Wrangler JK Unlimited offers something never before available in an open top Jeep, 4 doors. The addition of rear doors has opened up a whole new demographic of Wrangler owners. The JK Unlimited is now a viable SUV alternative in scenarios where a 2 door Wrangler just wouldn’t be ideal. Getting in and out of the rear seat in a 2 door Jeep is not very easy. Getting a child out of a car seat is a completely different challenge. Even for Jeepers without children, the Unlimited is much more practical when bringing a few friends for a day on the trails or a night on the town.


Cargo Space

The biggest difference in cargo space between the JK and JK Unlimited is noticed when the rear seats are in use. The 2-Door Wrangler JK has 12.8 cubic feet vs. 31.5 cubic feet of space in the JK Unlimited. However, fold the rear seats down and the two-door Jeep Wrangler has 56.5 cubic feet of space. In comparison, the Unlimited has 70.6 cubic feet with them folded down. Obviously, neither Wrangler has the cargo capabilities of a mini-van or Suburban, but if you need a little extra, the Unlimited is the way to go.


Wheelbase

Besides the improvement in rear seat access and cargo space, the extended wheelbase (+10.6”) of the Unlimited also offers other advantages on and off-road. The 2-Door JK has a 95.4" wheelbase compared to 116" for the JK Unlimited. Keep in mind that most JK owners will spend well over 90% of their time on paved roads. On road, the Unlimited’s longer wheelbase is noticeably more stable. The higher the speed, the more pronounced the difference. Think road trip!


Off road, the Unlimited JK has a few other distinct advantages. When ascending or descending steep grades, longer wheelbase vehicles are considerably more stable. When traversing mud or water, the longer wheelbase increases the likelihood that the front wheels will be able to get traction before the rear wheels lose it.


The 2 door JK does have a few advantages. Being smaller, it can sometimes get into places where the Unlimited can’t both on and off-road. The shorter wheelbase also decreases the turning radius to 34.3 feet, compared to the Unlimited at 40.1 feet. Off-road, the shorter wheelbase provides a superior break-over angle, 25.8 degrees vs 21 degrees and better RTI (Ramp Travel Index) scores. In reality, most Wrangler owners will never get their vehicle in an off-road situation where the two door’s advantages will come into play.


Towing Capacities

Neither the 2 nor 4 door Wranglers are designed to tow very much, but the Unlimited can handle almost double the load with a tow package.

  • Wrangler JK – Up to 2,000 pounds
  • Wrangler JK Unlimited – Up to 3,500 pounds

Fuel Capacity and Efficiency

If you are looking to get 30+ MPG, you are looking at the wrong vehicle. We have been building JK’s since they were introduced, so these numbers are from our experience. Both 2 and 4 door JK’s generally average well under 20 MPG, and that is with stock tires. Because of the weight difference (about 250lbs) you can expect less than an extra 1 MPG from the 2 door in most circumstances. However, the Unlimited has a larger tank (22.5 gallon vs 18.6 gallon), so it will still go further between fill ups.


Model Year

Once you determine 2 or 4 doors, you should decide what year(s) will best fit your budget and plans. Although there are differences between every model year, some differences are worth highlighting. For instance, Jeep has not offered a choice of engines in US destined Wrangler JK’s. The production year determines what engine the Wrangler has.


2007 – 2011 | New 3.8 Liter V6 – 202 HP and 237 lb-ft Torque


For 15 Years, the 4.0 liter inline six cylinder proved itself to be an excellent engine, so the new V6 had big shoes to fill. To many Jeep enthusiasts, it fell way short. Although on paper, it had a bit more power, it was not noticeable in the much heavier JK. In addition, the new “fly by wire” throttle made it feel even less responsive. Although the 3.8 is not a “bad” engine, 2007 to 2011 models are still considered less desirable.


2012 – 2016 | 3.6 Liter Pentastar V6 – 285 HP and 260 lb-ft Torque


With over 40% more horsepower, Pentastar equipped JK’s can now keep up with their 4.0L predecessors. In addition to the new engine, automatic 2012+ Wranglers have the same 5 speed transmission found in many Hemi equipped Mopar vehicles. If you happen to be considering a Hemi swap for your Wrangler, this transmission can handle it!


Current Top Options

  • Soft Top
  • Hard Top – Textured Black or Body Match Painted
  • Dual Top

Current Trim Packages

  • Sport
  • Sport S
  • Sahara
  • Rubicon

2 Wheel Drive Wranglers!

2007 to 2009 Wrangler Unlimiteds (4-door) were available in two wheel drive. Be careful when you are shopping around for a used Wrangler. There is no easy way to convert a 2WD to 4WD.


Dana 35 Rear Axle

Some early model 2007 2-door JK's came from the factory with a non c-clip Dana 35 axle. This rear axle is notoriously weak when adding larger tires to your build. Avoid this axle if you plan to take your Jeep JK offroad; look for the plastic fill plug on the rear differential. Dana-44 axles will have the metal screw-in type, while Dana-35 axles have the plastic version.


Major Differences in Trim Packages:


Sport
  • The Most Base Model - Almost All Options Are Added by Request
  • Dana 30 Front, Dana 44 Rear (Not a Rubicon 44 Rear)
  • 3.21 Gearing, 3.73 Available
  • 2.72:1 Transfer Case
  • 16” Wheels - 225/75R16 Tires
  • A/C Available, not Standard

Sport S
  • Dana 30 Front, Dana 44 Rear (Not a Rubicon 44 Rear)
  • 3.21 Gearing, 3.73 Available
  • 2.72:1 Transfer Case
  • 17” Wheels - P225/75R17 Tires
  • A/C Standard
  • Optional Side Steps

Sahara
  • Dana 30 Front, Dana 44 Rear (Not a Rubicon 44 Rear) Limited Slip Available
  • Upgraded Trim: Body Matched Fenders, Front and Rear Bumper Appliques
  • Side Steps Standard
  • A/C Standard
  • 3.21 Gearing, 3.73 Available
  • 2.72:1 Transfer Case
  • 18” Wheels - P255/70R18 Tires

Rubicon
  • The Top of the Line JK - The Most Off-Road Capable Off the Lot
  • Dana 44 Front and Dana 44 Tru-Lok Limited Slip Rear Axle
  • 32 Spline Axle Shafts, All other Trim Packages Come 30 Spline
  • 3.73 Gearing, 4.10 Available (3.73 Standard with Auto, 4.10 Standard with Manual)
  • 4:1 Low Range Rock-Trac Transfer Case
  • Electronic Sway Bar Disconnects
  • Body Matched Fenders and Hard Top Available
  • 17” Wheels, BFG P255/75R17 Mud Terrain Tires