Every Generation Of Jeep Wrangler, Ranked Worst To Best

When most people think of the Jeep brand, the model that comes to mind is the Wrangler and not one of the brand's other models like the Grand Cherokee, Compass, or Renegade. The Wrangler was introduced as a replacement for the CJ-7 when Chrysler bought the Jeep brand along with the rest of AMC's holdings in 1987. 

The CJ-7 was the last in a long line of CJs that began with the  CJ-2A, which was produced from 1945 through 1949. That model sprung from the Quad that Willys Overland built for the U.S. Army during World War II. The Wrangler is nearing its 40th birthday and has seen the gradual implementation of features like fuel injection, airbags, and quick-release modular hardtop panels over its four generations.  With its evolution, the Wrangler has also seen dramatic changes in the available powertrains and the current model has a tenuous connection to the first-generation YJ model. Here is our ranking of the four distinct Jeep Wrangler generations based on reliability, comfort, and available features. 

4. JK (2007-2017)

To some Jeep enthusiasts, the JK model designation used for the third-generation Wrangler made between 2007 and 2017 stands for "just kidding." That's not to say the third-gen Wrangler was a complete joke, but it did have issues that weren't seen in the previous two generations. The JK's new 'Freedom panel' modular top system was prone to leaks where the front doors and overhead panels met. There was no rubber weatherstripping on the body side around the door openings, so gaps opened up above and around the doors when the roof panels became misaligned due to vibration.

The JK era also saw the end of the line for Jeep's legendary 4.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine. This motor ranked eighth on MillionByte's list of the auto industry's most reliable inline sixes ever and was replaced in 2007 by a 3.8 liter V6 that doesn't enjoy nearly as favorable a reputation as the 4.0. The 3.8's torque peak also came at a higher rpm range, making it less suited for off-road use. Motor Trend cites several design issues with the 3.8 liter V6, including excessive oil consumption, a crack-prone exhaust manifold, and substandard piston rings. These issues often limited the JK engine's operating life to about 100,000 miles, which is about the point where the 4.0 was just getting broken in.

The 2017 model was the subject of five separate recalls, and the NHTSA logged nearly 250 complaints from owners, including issues with the engine, steering, and seat belts.