Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 2008 – Dog Car For The Off-Roading Outdoorsmen

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I was filled with excitement as we strolled on over to the Chrysler Jeep dealership. I targeted the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 2008 as one of the front runners for my perfect dog car. Many of you may not know, but beginning with the 2007 models Jeep added the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited which is a 4 door version of the venerable Jeep Wrangler. I’ve always loved the classic styling of the Jeep Wrangler, but the 2 door off-roading vehicle just seemed a tad bit too small for my liking. However, the four door just might be the perfect dog car.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 2008I must say our salesperson at Chrysler Jeep was excellent and new every aspect of this car. There’s an optional hardtop (yep with the top down this baby is a convertible). All four doors are removable and the front windshield folds down (take a look at the picture at the bottom of the page for windshield down look). The interior carpet is removable with drainage holes on the bottom floors allow you to hose out the inside of the vehicle.

I happen to think that this one of the best looking SUV’s on the market. Of course that’s just personal opinion. A couple great things I did notice about this vehicle are:

  • The style of the Wrangler almost never changes. If you compare this car to the same car made 20 years ago the style is very similar. I’m not sure you can say that about any other car/SUV.
  • It’s the only convertible SUV (maybe on the market) on my test list.
  • The rugged interior and drainage holes really suit an outdoor lifestyle and in my situation dog friendly lifestyle.
  • Historically the Jeep Wrangler has a great resale value.

So, let’s get down to the nitty gritt details on this SUV!

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 2008 Specifications

VEHICLE SPECIFICATIONS
type4 Door mid-SUV
msrp$20,580
transmissionautomatic/manual
gas mileage16mpg/21mpg
horsepower202hp @5000RPM
standard engine3.8L V6
seating5 passengers

Does It Stack Up? Dog And Human Criteria Lists

Criteria for the dogs:

  • Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 2008 Cargo SpaceSeats that fold flat or easily removable – hopefully fits a crate or two Once again I did not bring a tape measure or crate to test the backseat of the car. I did notice that the seats did not fold totally flat, but cargo space with the seats down appeared to be adequate (before purchasing I will re-evaluate and bring my crates for a full test of the back seat on this vehicle).
  • Plenty of usable cargo space relative to the size of the vehicle with wide, square backs, and little rear slope to make most of cargo area. If you take a look at the picture of this vehicle with the hardtop it almost defines the meaning of a square back. Needless to say there is a lot of cargo space in this vehicle for a mid-size SUV.
  • Dog friendly interior – Even the best dog can have accidents in the car. – I already knew this car was built for the outdoors, but before I took it for a test drive I noticed cloth carpets in all the pictures (I preferred the plastic floors you see in the Honda Element and Toyota FJ Cruiser). Fortunately the carpet interior is very easy to remove and there are drainage holes in the floor for hosing out the interior if needed. Our salesperson also mentioned that the Sahara model came with water resistant seats. We test drove the Unlimited X 4X4 with base model seats which also appeared to be very durable.
  • Door & window locks – Dogs are smart and some can open a car door. Door and window locks are an option on the Wrangler. I believe the hardcore Wrangler followers prefer the non-mechanical workings of manual windows and manual door locks.
  • All-wheel or four-wheel drive and high ground clearance – for camping or going to the mountains with your best friend (I’m talking about your dog of course). – You can opt for either the 4X2 or the 4X4

Criteria for the humans:Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 2008 With HardTop

  • Price Range: Under 30K One of the better values out of the cars on my list. The base model 4X2 comes in just under 21K, but you can go all out and get the Rubicon which will run you over 30K. Again, like the FJ Cruiser I’d probably find middle ground opting for some, but not all the options.
  • Curb Appeal – Hopefully the car is not hard on the eyes. – Okay, so out of all the vehicles on my list I think this one has the most curb appeal. Not everyone will like it’s look, but I give it a 10!
  • Fuel Economy -Unfortunately SUV’s get worse gas mileage. – 16/21 mpg’s for the 4X2 and probably slightly worse for the 4X4. This is a couple mpg’s better than the FJ Cruiser, but still when looking at SUV’s unless it’s a hybrid gas mileage is going to suffer.
  • Reliability – If you’re car is not working what good is it? This is the sore spot for the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. While I’ve heard glowing reviews from friends who own jeep wranglers I’ve also come across several comments on the internet to the opposite. Unfortunately, Jeep does not have the best reputation for reliability. To make things worse I took a look at the consumer reports review of the 2007 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited and it got below average reviews for reliability.
  • Retains Value – Cars are terrible investments, but we want it to retain some of it’s value. – I was pleasantly surprised in this category. The Jeep Wrangler ranks relatively high when it comes to resale often times appearing inside the top 10 of some lists. Check out the Vehix.com website.
  • Extras – Any miscellaneous extra goodies the car may have. – Removable doors, fold down front windshield, removable carpets, drainage holes in the floors, and a convertible.
  • Car in the City – Smooth ride? Does it have power? Handle Well? – This SUV is renowned for it’s off-road talents, but also has a reputation as a rough ride in the city. I came in with these expectations, but was again surprised by the way this vehicle handled in the city. I drove the automatic version of the car which felt a little under-powered, but I thought it was adequate. There was very little noise with the soft top up. While it didn’t feel as nice and smooth as some of the other SUV’s I felt like it was just smooth enough and just rugged enough for my liking. The soccer mom may not enjoy this car because of it’s less than luxurious ride and the outdoor enthusiast may think that Chrysler Jeep refined the car to much for their liking. However, as my dog car I thought it was just right.

Yahoo! Autos

Advantages – The Things I Like

The things I like about this vehicle are:

  • Great looks.
  • Low Price – Just under 21K.
  • Durable Interior.
  • Removable Carpets with drainage holes.
  • Removable doors and fold down front windshield.

Disadvantages – The Things I Don’t Like

Some things I didn’t like in test drive and read on the internet:

  • Jeep’s reputation of less than stellar reliability with their cars.
  • Fuel Economy at 16/21 MPG’s not as bad as the FJ Cruiser, but not good either.
  • Seats don’t fold totally flat.
  • Ho-Hum control panel.
  • City driving is a little rough.

Conclusions

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 2008 Windshield DownThis is a great vehicle and only two things stop me from immediately declaring it the winner. First, is the awful gas mileage. At 16/21 Miles Per Gallon I’ll be gassing this baby up on a regular basis. And second, the below average reliability rating Jeep and specifically the 2007 Wrangler received from Consumer Reports.

I am just a regular consumer just like everyone else and don’t get to thoroughly test drive these vehicles. I review information already on the internet and couple that with my own test drive and opinions. Hopefully this review helps you make your decision, but I’d highly recommend you do additional research on some of the other great auto review websites like Edmunds, Yahoo Autos, or DogCars.com and take this car for a test drive of your own.

Two cars down and many more to go. I have the review of the Toyota FJ Cruiser 2008 already posted. I hope you enjoyed this article and please feel free to post any comments about this vehicle in the comment section below.

If you liked this article check out my first article on the Perfect Dog Car.

What do you think about the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 2008? Do you own this vehicle?

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31 Comments

  1. Did you end up buying a car? Which one? We’re looking for two cars (one for my wife and one for myself). We both work and have to commute ~5 miles one way each day. We go camping every so often and hiking and some locations are automatically out because we can’t off road to it.

    We want one “small” car and one “small” SUV. We would love to have manual shift in both cars. We’re considering the Mazda 3 hatchback or a slightly used Subaru WRX as the small car. For the small SUV, we’re looking at the Subaru XV Crosstrek or Forester. The Jeep Wrangler is also possibly an option…

    1. Amazingly I still haven’t purchased a new car. My CRV now has 225,000 miles! The Subaru XV Crosstrek is on my shortlist too. I was at the Orange County Auto Show this past year and I really liked the 4 door Wrangler Willy with the half doors and soft top. We actually got to ride in one on the off road course. If the Wrangler Willy got 30 mpg I’d buy it tomorrow, but the fuel alone will probably end up costing me an additional $1,000 year. My frugal side just won’t allow me to get a Wrangler.

  2. Living in Alaska, I can’t imagine being without our personal Jeep, even though we rent Jeep for a living. We’ve had 6 2-door 2004 Wranglers, and 2 4-door Wranglers, all with few to no problems mechanically. Our favorite is the Rubicon, because of the additional features for off-roading: push button sway bar, etc. And my black lab loves it! We keep one rear seat folded down so she can go into the cargo area, but she basically prefers to sit in the seats like a human, with a window down.

    It cleans easily, and we’ve found heavy-duty rubber replacement mats for the floors. Can’t say I’m wild about the carpet: hair sticks. I clean the seats with upholstery foam, a wet brush and a damp towel with no problem. Love the t-tops, removable doors, fold-down windshield. Mileage is decent on the highway, about 18 mpg, but stinks around town. You need to clear it out with some highway miles to keep the mpg up.

    A Jeep is the ultimate 4-wheel drive outdoor vehicle. If you’re looking for good, basic, no-frills transportation, this is it. When you head in somewhere with a Jeep, you know you’ll be making back out.

    1. @Jeanne, thank you so much for the review. Now that the CRV has over 170K miles I’m starting to look around for a nice dog car again. The 4 door Jeep Wrangler is at the top of the list. However, we want to do our due diligence. Are there any other cars that compare to the Jeep Wrangler as a dog car?

    2. @Jeanne
      I was wondering if you know what company made your heavy-duty rubber replacement mats. I’m looking into getting a Wrangler and my bullmastiff sheds like crazy.

      Thanks,
      Jamie

  3. @Lina, Congratulations on your new Mazdaspeed 3! One of my good friends has an older model Mazdaspeed 3.

    My last care was a Mazda RX-8…too small for the doggies and I always wished that it was a hatchback. I might have to take a look at the 2010 Mazdaspeed 3.

    Anyhow, I don’t have the cash for a new car right now so my new dog car will just have to wait anyways.

    Thanks for the update and enjoy your new car.

  4. Ok so I’m back, with a new car. *drum roll*

    I bought a 2010 Mazdaspeed 3. Its a hatchback, perfect for my kid (the pup), and has 263 turbo hp for me!

    After test driving a million different cars, I chose the mazda because it is reliable (or at least known to be), I like the way the car looks like its smiling, i looooove the power it has, the price is amazing, AND with the seats in the back down, its perfect for the kid. But what about all the dog hair you ask? I had extra carpet left over from my parents remodeling their house, so I measured and cut a piece out so it covers the entire back perfectly. The dog hair sticks to the carpet and I just vacuum the carpet every 2 weeks. So far, its been perfect. Ive had 3 dogs in the back and they all love that they can just lay down.

    I am completely in love with my new car. =) Granted, its a 2 seater, but anyone that knows me knows that my pup is more important than them anyway. haha.

  5. @Yobub, thanks for leaving such great information about your experiences with Jeeps and the four door Wrangler in particular.

    That’s great to hear that you’ve had 5 reliable Jeeps. We’ve had two Jeeps a Wagoneer and a Grand Cherokee and didn’t have the same kind of luck with reliability.

    After reading your comment I think I might just be in need of two cars. A commuter car that I can use just for driving to and from work and a 4 door Jeep Wrangler. However, I don’t have the money for two cars and that’s why I can’t find a good compromise.

    By the way, I totally agree with you Wrangler top down is better looking than anything else on the road.

  6. I have the 4 door wrangler – about 2 years old. Either you are a jeep person or you are not. If you are a jeep person, you will LOVE the 4 door wrangler, for all the reasons you talk about. If you are equally considering a Prius and a Wrangler, you are not probably a Jeep person. That’s OK, I’m not knocking it, but if you aren’t a Jeep person, you will get rid of your Jeep in a year.

    Regarding reliability, this is my 5th Jeep. 2 Wranglers and 3 Grand Cherokees. The reliability has been about as good as any car I’ve owned, including 2 BMWs. I’ve had nothing but good experiences.

    Some considerations when thinking about the Wrangler for dogs:
    We have two 85lb yellow labs, 4 years old, so that is my frame of reference.
    What I love:
    My seats do fold flat. Maybe it was an early model you saw, but mine are simple to fold down and fold all the way.
    There is plenty of room, even for big dogs.
    I don’t worry about mud or hair. You can pull the carpet out and hose down the interior (and hose down the carpet).
    Mud comes off the seats pretty easily. Hair doesn’t.
    Top down driving can’t be beat. I don’t take the doors off with the dogs in the car, becuase they would both jump out. I do take the doors off without them in the car, and it’s pretty easy to do.
    High back seat pretty much keeps the dogs in the 2nd row. They *can* get out the back, but they haven’t yet.
    Dogs love trucks.

    What I hate:
    The plastic (dash, door panel) scratches really easily – much more so that my Grand Cherokees. Plan on losing some resale value becuase of the scratches.
    The carpet does hold dog hair, and so do the seats. It’s a little surprising, since Jeep markets this vehicle for outdoor enthusiasts, but this is one issue they haven’t figured out. My Grand Cherokees were like this too.
    The veichle sits really high, which is great, but I expect when my labs get older, they will have trouble jumping in.

    Other general opinions about the vehicle (4 door only):
    With the top down, this vehicle is better looking that anything else on the road.
    With the doors off, it’s a totally different feel for driving – more ike a go-cart.
    This drives and handles MUCH MUCH better thanany of the previous wranglers. The steering, longer wheelbase, and wider stance really make a difference. It still bounces more than a normal car, but that’s the trade-off for the offroad capability.
    Plenty of room for 3 in back seat.
    No automatic headlights – not a big deal, but a stupid little ommission
    No backseat heat – the heater is great, but nothing in the back seat. All the heat comes from the front seat. In the winter in Chicago, this is a problem.
    Mileage is better than I expected – 17mpg average, 20 on HWY.
    Visibility is really good.
    I’ve become addicted to the Satellie radio. When I go back to FM, I’m immediately bored.
    6cly is a little underpowered for towing. <2000 lbs is OK, but 3500lbs is optimistic.
    Putting the top down is easy once you get used to it, but a little tough if you don't do it regularly.
    Even with kids in the abck seat, there is plenty of room for weekend stuff in the back. Beach stuff, camping stuff, whatever, this will hold it.

  7. @animalangel13, I still haven’t gotten my car and I’m still hesitant about the Jeep Wrangler mainly because of the reliability concerns. Every time I see a positive comment like yours I want to revisit and test drive it again.

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