Jeep Wrangler 4 x 4: The Jeep Life

by Kristin Shaw

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The first Jeep was born in 1945, a military-grade vehicle that promised no extraneous frills and delivered solid, predictable performance. Jeep has always touted its off-road performance, and surely the first drivers of the Jeep got to experience the rugged ride of this unique vehicle. 

I have never owned a Jeep, myself, but I have watched the Jeep Life from afar, with a bit of a wistful envy.

That looks like fun.

The t-tops. The open doors. The wind brushing your body in the cab with the closest thing you can drive to a motorcycle in terms of open air, but with a steel cage surrounding your body. The cool factor is unmistakable.

Video courtesy of Jeep

Photo credit: Leigh Anne Torres, in Sedona, AZ

Photo credit: Leigh Anne Torres, in Sedona, AZ

At one time, I thought the Jeep Life was for college kids or young people in their 20s who lived near terrain that required that kind of ruggedness. But then, a few years ago one of my best friends, at 45, bought herself a brand-new, bright-yellow Jeep Wrangler 4x4. In northern Indiana, on the flattest land the eye can see for miles. She’s a hairdresser with a husband and two grown boys, not a rock climber, wild-haired surfer, or any other stereotype I might have imagined a Jeep owner to be.

When I had the opportunity to drive a Jeep Wrangler 4 x 4 for a week, I didn’t know how I was going to feel about it, but I was excited about the possibilities. When it arrived at my door, I slid into the driver’s seat and assessed the interior.

Crank windows… what?

As I ran my hand across the leather-wrapped steering wheel, the dash, and the gear shift, I felt a pang of disappointment that it wasn’t a manual. Even though I am admittedly quite rusty on the manual, the Wrangler feels like it should be old-school, in the manner of the Jeep’s humble beginnings. This is the reason Mercedes does not change the interior of the G-Wagon from year to year, opting to maintain the nostalgic feel of the analog dash.

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The Wrangler asked very little of me to drive it, and I found that it felt very much like home. I didn’t have to look far to figure out the controls, because they were intuitive and simple. What it may have lacked in whiz-bang it made up in familiar, and I never felt for a second that I was unsure about how to utilize any of the features.

Upon inspecting the T-tops, it was a fun thrill to find that even my 2nd grader could figure out how to unlatch the lightweight panels, and pulling them off and replacing them posed no challenges. Driving through Austin in the heat of June, the air conditioner continued to blast cool air as the summer air breezed across the top of my head.

See the little Jeep "Easter Egg" near my thumb? They are hidden all over Jeep vehicles.    

See the little Jeep "Easter Egg" near my thumb? They are hidden all over Jeep vehicles. 


What you might not know about Jeep as a company, however, is that they also care about people. For instance, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US recognizes technical business leaders for their career achievements at an annual Women of Color STEM Conference in Detroit. According to the company, the Women of Color Conference honors the achievements of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) professions, and ensures that the accomplishments of outstanding women in technical fields are elevated and visible to all. 

Additionally, the FCA US actively supports initiatives to increase the number of college-bound minority students in the STEM pipeline. FCA US partnered with Florida International University (FIU) to sponsor a STEM education initiative called “Engineers on Wheels.” Per their site, the program features mobile classrooms, bringing hands-on engineering and science experiments and experiences to South Florida K-12 schools, and to the community at large. FIU annually graduates the largest number of Hispanic engineers in the U.S., and is one of the country’s top institutions for graduating African-American engineers.

FACTS: We've Got 'Em

  • The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited sport starts at $31,445
  • 3.6L engine; uses regular unleaded fuel
  • Two 12V power outlets up front
  • Six-way driver's seat controls
  • 285 horsepower
  • Combined fuel economy: 20 mpg (the vehicle weighs over 2 tons, so that's about right)
  • Can tow 3500 pounds (enough for a pontoon boat and trailer, water people!)
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Article by: Kristin


Kristin ShawJeep, Wrangler, STEM