An orange 2019 Jeep Wrangler is shown from the front parked in the mountains after looking at a used Jeep Wrangler for sale.

How Has the Wrangler Set the Standard for Off-Road Design?

For a lot of people out there, when you mention the Jeep Wrangler to them, the first thing that comes to mind is going off-road. This might be a little cliché, but there are also countless reasons why this is the case – for more than 80 years, the Wrangler has been making a name for itself as the premier trail vehicle. Whether you’re interested in getting a brand-new model with all the bells and whistles, or you’re looking at a used Jeep Wrangler for sale, it’s worth understanding why this vehicle stands above so many other models.

Let’s take a look at what the Jeep Wrangler has to offer and how these things have made it the gold standard when it comes to off-road design. It’s important to recognize, however, that it’s not just one or two things that have made the Wrangler the off-road choice for so many people. The Wrangler truly is the sum of its parts, and all of this comes together to create something special. So much so that many other manufacturers have looked at what the Jeep Wrangler has to offer and done their best to emulate it (or copy it, really).

Off-Road Standards: The 4×4 Systems

One of the keys to the Wrangler being the high watermark for off-road design is its impressive four-wheel drive (4×4) systems. These have changed over the years, of course, but they just keep getting better with each innovation and improvement in design. These days, there are actually three different 4×4 systems available for the Jeep Wrangler, letting you choose exactly the level of control you need. This is great since there’s a pretty wide range of off-road trails out there, and someone looking to tackle the most difficult trails needs something different from another driver who’s more casual about things.

One thing that really sets the Wrangler apart is that it comes with standard 4×4 on every model, so you don’t have to pay more for it to be a good off-road machine. You might think this should simply go without saying, but by comparison, a lot of other models out there don’t have 4×4 as a standard feature. Instead, you’ll find a midsize truck or a small SUV that has an off-road trim with 4×4 standard and other good off-road features. But if you pick any other version of that model, you’re left with a vehicle that’s not great for the trail; every Wrangler comes from the manufacturer ready to leave the road behind.

A white 2019 Jeep Wrangler is shown from the front driving at sunset.

Off-Road Standards: Impressive Engines

Although you’re not going to find performance with a Jeep Wrangler to rival something like a sports car, they still come with great engines. This is important because you need enough power and torque to handle steep inclines, hills, and rough terrain while going off-road. For years, numerous engines have been available for the Wrangler, so you can find one with exactly the kind of power you need for the trails you plan on heading to.

What I really like about the current Wrangler is that its options even include a diesel engine, something you’re not going to find on many similar vehicles. To be fair, there’s been some criticism in recent years arguing that the Wrangler’s engines lacked some “oomph.” Fortunately, it seems that Jeep has listened because the new Rubicon 392 model features a monstrous 6.4L HEMI V8 engine that lets it go from 0 to 60 in just 4.5 seconds.

Off-Road Standards: Skid Plate Protection

This should also be a given, but once again, it’s something that you don’t often find as standard on a lot of models out there. The skid plates on the underside of the Jeep Wrangler are perfect for protecting its components against damage on the trail. Much like the 4×4 system, this is something that you’ll find other models have only on select “off-road-focused” trims, rather than ensuring every version of them are right for hitting the trail. But with the Wrangler, there’s no such thing as a model that’s not designed for going off-road, so they all feature great capability.

Off-Road Standards: Lots of Room Underneath

Speaking of capability, this is also a hallmark of the Jeep Wrangler: the ability to clear obstacles and handle incredibly rough terrain. Although the specs can vary somewhat between configurations, every Jeep Wrangler offers excellent ground clearance, water fording ability, and approach, departure, and breakover angles. This is something that engineers don’t seem to even have in mind while designing a lot of other SUVs, some of which seem barely able to clear a speed bump in a parking lot. The Wrangler, on the other hand, is designed to be able to clear rocks, fallen branches, and other obstacles with ease. This is a hallmark of the Jeep design and perfectly accentuates the other off-road features of this vehicle.

Off-Road Standards: The Open-Air Design

While capability might come from a lot of the factors I’ve already mentioned, it’s important to also remember that hitting the trail should be fun. One of the ways that the Jeep Wrangler fully embraces everything about the outdoor lifestyle is its iconic open-air design. Wrangler models can have fully removable hardtop roofs, easily lowered soft tops, and – perhaps most importantly – fold-down windshields and removable doors. The way that you can open up a Wrangler is really something special that lets you feel the wind in your hair, the spray of water on your legs as you ford a creek, and experience hitting the trail in a way that few other vehicles can even come close to.

An orange 2019 Jeep Wrangler is shown parked on a rock after looking at a used Jeep Wrangler for sale.

Off-Road Standards: The Trail-Rated Badge

All of these amazing features come together in a single expression of off-road design: the Trail-Rated badge. Okay, sure, this can be seen as something of a marketing gimmick or a way to brag about off-road capability, but I really believe it’s more than that. The designers and engineers at Jeep have not only built the Wrangler with going off-road in mind, but they’ve thoroughly tested it in some of the most demanding conditions imaginable. Only once their vehicles can handle this course do they give them the Trail-Rated badge – it’s not guaranteed and really indicates that their vehicles can handle just about anything you throw at them.

Often Imitated, Never Surpassed

Of course, when you have such a bold and popular design, like the Jeep Wrangler, others are going to look to it for, let’s say, inspiration. For example, the Toyota Land Cruiser has clear design similarities to the Jeep Wrangler – especially older models that were inarguably inspired by the original Willys Jeep. The impressive Land Rover, from the UK, also has a design that you could mistake for a Wrangler at a glance – though that has diminished a bit with its increased focus on luxury.

More recently, as Ford revealed its new Bronco and Bronco Sport, a number of comparisons were unavoidable. Although the name would suggest that Ford took inspiration from the Bronco of the 1990s, it seems pretty clear that they had the Wrangler in their sights when they made it. From its round headlamps and overall boxy design to its removable doors – even the fact that it’s available as either a two-door or four-door model just like the Wrangler. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and if that’s the case, then Ford, Toyota, and others have spent decades singing Jeep’s praises.