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A Jeep With Oldfangled Values

Personal Business: Autos


When you step into Chrysler's Jeep Wrangler, one thing becomes clear: John Wayne lives. The granddaddy of sport-utility vehicles still embodies the spirit of the World War II general-purpose (GP) military vehicle: practicality, versatility, hardiness, and simplicity. At $10,925 for the S model and $18,780 for a fully loaded Renegade, it's a handy set of wheels to have around.

At a time when manufacturers are striving for car-like performance in their off-road vehicles, Chrysler has kept the Jeep heritage alive with the S, Base, Sport, Sahara, and Renegade. The doors and top still come off, the fold-and-tumble optional rear seats provide ample cargo space, and the gauges, lined four in a row above the radio, are big enough to see while hurtling over the toughest terrain.

POWER NOTHING. All models still provide that bouncy ride and boxy look characteristic of the original Jeep. And they've held on to the sense of fun evoked by Eugene the Jeep, the high-spirited character from the comic strip Popeye for whom they were named.

The Wrangler remains largely untouched by technology. Other than optional power steering and brakes, it comes with power nothing. You even have to wrestle with bungee-like cords clamped on the sides of the hood to open it. The sound system costs $270 extra--and it's nothing but a bare-bones AM-FM stereo radio.

A five-speed manual transmission is standard on all models. The S and Base have a 2.5-liter, 123-horsepower engine, with optional four-wheel drive. The other models boast a 4-liter, 180-horsepower engine that lets you shift from two- to four-wheel drive on the fly. It is all part of the adventurous image that has allowed Jeep to hold a commanding lead in the market.Greg Bowens EDITED BY AMY DUNKIN

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