To Jeep or not to Jeep


Rayhan Hussain

While test driving Jeeps, I had the good fortune to try out this series.

The time has come. Seniors are driving in the snow to their parking spots and many sophomores will receive their licenses. There are many different lists out on the Internet about the best car for a teen and while many of these lists are debatable, there is one car that captivates Central students like no other: The Jeep Wrangler. An icon both on these grounds and in history.

The irony is that a “Jeep” is a shorthand term for a Jeep Wrangler the icon that had descended from the GP or general purpose vehicle from WWII. A Jeep isn’t just a car, but now is a brand founded on the idea of a car that Ford and the Bantam Company made for the military. The company that everyone believes made it, Willys, was the company that produced it after World War II.

Short history lesson aside, Willys was the company that popularized the Jeep as a work vehicle from the end of WWII all the way to the early ‘60s, where under financial pressure they sold the brand to AMC. AMC was otherwise known as American Motor Corporation and under them, the Jeep CJ series was created.

The CJ series was the Jeeps everyone had and or knew someone who had one. These Jeeps were the ones that became the icon among the average American looking for a nice, dependable vehicle. They were the ones that our parents drove growing up and in doing so, set their reputation in stone as the American icon that can go anywhere whether it be the farm or church. The brand was bought by Chrysler in 1987 and the Wrangler was created from the CJ series and once again those little 4x4s cemented themselves as an icon, they were even featured in Jurassic Park.

Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Now it is our turn, I guess. The Wrangler is our generation’s “Jeep” and we as teenagers have flocked to it for our first car.

The one that I got my hands on is like none other with the neon orange ”sunset orange” paint and special Willys edition to commemorate the car’s fabled history. It was upgraded from the factory with knobby off-road tires combined with a lift kit and other miscellaneous equipment that allow it to conquer the speed bumps with ease. It sat high and going down the road I felt the tires vibrate at even the lowest speeds. This contrasted with the seats that enveloped you in some soft foam.

The upright position gave me a feeling of power accompanied to the thump of the optional Alpine audio system. The system was a $995 option, but it sounded as good as the Bang & Olufsen in my Audi A5. A good sound system is one of the most important things for a teenage driver after all.

The car was a two-door and it was really maneuverable and with the hard top, it was extremely easy to check my surroundings and blind spot. The car was good around town with all this in mind, but the moment I had to get on to 83 I was a little scared. At 55 mph the car and it’s tall off road tires give both a terrifying wobble and a tiring vibration from the knobby tread. I don’t know why this car is so popular with teens given this ride quality.

There is however hope. The Jeep Wrangler JK is dead. The Wrangler JL lives on. The Wrangler JL is the new Wrangler that was introduced last year to replace the aging JK. It is noticeably nicer on the inside with an interior from parent company Fiat that adds a splash of Italian flair to the utility. This touch of aesthetic goes a long way especially combined with a refreshed engine and a completely redesigned suspension. This makes the new JL an amazing performer lacking the faults of the JK.

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These improvements come at a price, though. Zeigler CDJR, the dealership I’ve seen on the plates of most Jeeps on Central grounds, has listed a Wrangler Sport S for $37,620. Granted they sell the Sport for $35,720, but the Sport is a really stripped out Jeep without power locks, mirrors, and all-terrain tires. The JK that preceded it was popular because they were simple trucks that weren’t expensive and had both style and substance. It appealed not for its looks and tech, but it’s dependability and simplicity.

The Jeep Wrangler, honestly, I swear every other person who can drive at Central has a Wrangler or an equivalent big SUV. It seems like a simple car, but in actuality, each Jeep is complex. Every Jeep is just a little different whether it is one that is modified, whether one is a special trim or package, whether one is an interesting color, whether it’s a manual transmission or automatic, and whether its a two door or a four.

Every Jeep at Central is always a little different from the ones next to or near it. I think that’s why people fall into the cliche of the Central Jeep. Yes, everyone has one, but yours is always a little different from theirs.  It is not a good car for a teen to drive with a high center of gravity and wobbly steering, but the idea of being unique, yet the same, personifies who we are at Central. We are one and the same, except every one of us has their own story and differences.