If you are a fan of Jeep Wranglers, you probably have a favorite generation that you swear by. Some may prefer the latest JL model, which offers modern technology and comfort. Others may favor the JK model, which introduced the four-door Unlimited version and expanded the Wrangler’s appeal. However, there is one generation that stands out among the rest: the TJ model. Produced from 1997 to 2006, the TJ Wrangler is widely regarded as the best Wrangler ever made. In this article, we will explore why the TJ Wrangler is still the best Wrangler to date.
The Iconic Design of the TJ Wrangler
The first reason why the TJ Wrangler is still the best Wrangler to date is its iconic design. The TJ Wrangler retained the classic Jeep look that had been established by the original military-grade Willys MB in 1941. It had a simple and rugged appearance that reflected its off-road heritage and capabilities.
The Circular Headlights
One of the most distinctive features of the TJ Wrangler was its circular headlights, which were a welcome return after the unpopular square headlights of the YJ model. The circular headlights gave the TJ Wrangler a more friendly and familiar face, as well as a better illumination at night. They also matched the shape of the seven-slot grille, which was another trademark of Jeep vehicles.
The Removable Top and Doors
Another feature that made the TJ Wrangler iconic was its removable top and doors, which allowed owners to enjoy the open-air feeling of driving a Jeep. The TJ Wrangler had a removable soft top or hard top that could be easily taken off or put on depending on the weather and mood. It also had removable doors that could be swapped for half doors or full doors with roll-up windows. It also had a fold-down windshield that could be lowered for a more open-air experience. The TJ Wrangler was a true convertible that could transform into different configurations according to the owner’s preference.
The Tailgate-Mounted Spare Tire
A final feature that added to the charm and utility of the TJ Wrangler was its tailgate-mounted spare tire, which was a common sight on Jeep vehicles since the CJ model. The spare tire not only served as a backup in case of a flat tire, but also as a decoration that enhanced the rear view of the TJ Wrangler. It also provided some extra protection for the rear bumper and tail lights in case of a collision or impact.
The Superior Off-Road Performance of the TJ Wrangler
The second reason why the TJ Wrangler is still the best Wrangler to date is its superior off-road performance. The TJ Wrangler was built to handle any terrain and challenge with its robust chassis, strong engines, and proportions just right for technical trails.
The Solid Axles and Coil-Spring Suspension
One of the factors that contributed to the off-road performance of the TJ Wrangler was its solid front and rear axles, which provided durability and articulation. Unlike independent suspension systems, which could compromise ground clearance and stability, solid axles allowed each wheel to move independently without affecting the other wheels. This enabled the TJ Wrangler to maintain traction and balance on uneven surfaces and obstacles. Another factor that improved the off-road performance of the TJ Wrangler was its coil-spring suspension, which replaced the leaf-spring suspension of the previous models. The coil-spring suspension offered better ride comfort and handling than the leaf-spring suspension, which was stiff and bouncy. The coil-spring suspension also allowed for more suspension travel and flexibility, which increased the off-road capabilities of the TJ Wrangler.
The Part-Time Four-Wheel Drive System and Low-Range Gear Ratio
Another factor that enhanced the off-road performance of the TJ Wrangler was its part-time four-wheel drive system, which could be engaged or disengaged by a transfer case lever. Unlike full-time four-wheel drive systems, which could cause excessive wear and tear on paved roads, part-time four-wheel drive systems allowed owners to switch between two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive modes depending on the driving conditions. This gave owners more control and efficiency over their vehicle’s performance. Another factor that boosted the off-road performance of the TJ Wrangler was its low-range gear ratio, which increased torque and traction for crawling over rocks and obstacles. By shifting into low-range mode, owners could reduce their vehicle’s speed but increase its power, which was ideal for tackling steep inclines and declines.
The Optional Features for Off-Road Prowess
A final factor that made the TJ Wrangler an off-road beast was its optional features that further improved its off-road prowess. Some of these features included locking differentials, which prevented wheel spin and ensured equal power distribution to both wheels on an axle; sway bar disconnects, which allowed owners to disconnect their front sway bar for more suspension travel and articulation; and rock rails, which protected the rocker panels from damage caused by rocks and debris. The most capable version of the TJ Wrangler was the Rubicon trim, which debuted in 2003. The Rubicon trim came with heavy-duty Dana 44 axles, 4:1 low-range transfer case, air-actuated lockers, 31-inch tires, diamond-plate rocker panels, and a unique hood decal.
The Versatility and Customization Options of the TJ Wrangler
The third reason why the TJ Wrangler is still the best Wrangler to date is its versatility and customization options. The TJ Wrangler was not only a great off-roader but also a fun daily driver and weekend cruiser. It could accommodate up to four passengers in its cozy cabin, which had basic but functional features such as air conditioning, radio, and tilt steering wheel. It could carry up to 55 cubic feet of cargo in its trunk with the rear seat folded down or removed. It could tow up to 2,000 pounds with the proper equipment. It could also be personalized and modified to suit the owner’s taste and needs.
The Range of Engines to Choose From
One of the ways that owners could customize their TJ Wrangler was by choosing from different engines that were available for the model. The TJ Wrangler had a range of inline four and inline six engines to choose from, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. The inline four engines were more fuel-efficient and lighter, but less powerful and torquey. The inline six engines were more powerful and torquey, but less fuel-efficient and heavier. Some of the most popular engines for the TJ Wrangler were the 2.5-liter AMC inline four, which produced 120 horsepower and 140 pound-feet of torque; the 4.0-liter AMC inline six, which produced 190 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque; and the 2.4-liter PowerTech inline four, which produced 147 horsepower and 165 pound-feet of torque.
The Plethora of Aftermarket Parts and Accessories
Another way that owners could customize their TJ Wrangler was by adding aftermarket parts and accessories that were available for the model. The TJ Wrangler had a plethora of aftermarket parts and accessories that could enhance its appearance, performance, comfort, and functionality. Some of these parts and accessories included bumpers, winches, lights, lift kits, wheels, tires, fenders, hoods, seats, consoles, dashboards, speakers, radios, navigation systems, security systems, and more. The TJ Wrangler was a blank canvas that could be turned into a unique masterpiece.
In conclusion, the TJ Wrangler is still the best Wrangler to date because of its iconic design, superior off-road performance, and versatility and customization options. It is a timeless vehicle that combines the heritage and spirit of Jeep with the innovation and improvement of modern engineering. It is a vehicle that can do it all and look good doing it. If you are looking for a Wrangler that offers the best of both worlds, you should consider getting a TJ Wrangler. You will not regret it.