Best Generation of Wrangler?

JMT

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I like the 1997-2006 Wrangler:

  • It has coil springs on all 4 corners
  • It is small and nimble
  • It has electronic fuel injection
  • It shares qualities with the older YJ's and CJ's but also some newer car qualities
  • It has 2-doors and was only offered with 2-doors
  • It is easy to work on
  • It's design platform is easy to build around for great capability
  • It is rugged and super fun
  • It always has a project for you
 
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pc1p

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I could care less for YJ’s (I don’t mind their interior) ...
How much less could you care?? :)

But on a serious note, as others have said, "best" is too subjective.

The CJ-7 is classic Jeep look that defined much of what we have come to expect a Jeep to look like.

The YJ, particularly with the inclusion of the 4.0L EFI, set the standard that all other SWB 4x4's tried to match. It was both modern and dated at the same time. It also codified the model "Wrangler", which gets applied even to generations of Jeeps that came before the model designation. The YJ also revived the "lifestyle" trim packages that were common in the 70's and 80's, but began to die out during the late 80's and early 90's (think of other 4x4 trim packages such as the "Midnight Express", the "Dude", etc) - to the point that we still have many of the original "lifestyle" trim packages today (e.g. "Sahara").

The TJ kept the soul of the SWB Jeep, while adding enough modernization to help them retain their "king of the 4x4" status, while also getting many not-so-rugged folk into a Jeep (those who may not have otherwise done so). The early Wrangler models (97-99) were, what many would likely consider, the "peak" of the SWB Wrangler - improved power and efficiency, better road manners, A/C and heat that you know, actually worked, a radio that you could reach, tops that you could take through a car wash, and wipers that wiped when you needed and stayed flat and out of the way when you didn't. The 00+ models were, in my opinion, where Jeep reliability dropped as they were plagued with one issue or another (head gaskets, ECMs, etc), though the amount of negative public perception these issues had would be near impossible to measure. It's also easy to say that the LJ was also likely pivotal in the future of Jeep's success (at least with the Wrangler model).

The early JKs... well, I still remember the day when we loaded up my daughter in her expensive car seat and made our way to the local Jeep dealer, looking to add a brand new JKU 3.8L to our garage. I knew - and I mean I just knew - that my wife would see the love and joy roll over me and imagine our new, young family taking drives through the canyons and desert with the top off, soaking in the sunshine and fresh air, and that she wouldn't hesitate to plop our money down and take one home. I've never been so wrong about a test drive in my life. About 10 minutes into the drive, she said "this thing kinda sucks", to which I quickly agreed.

The later JKs are better, though still have some quirks. The biggest quirk for me is that I do not fit inside them as well as I do my TJ/LJ, and not even close to anywhere as well as I fit inside the YJ. For me, the JK was the departure away from the "soul" of a Wrangler. Not that this was a bad thing - the modern Mustang is hardly the "pony car" it was back in April of 1964. Things change and that's okay, but the JK is the big shift away from small, nimble, woods-friendly "lifestyle" vehicles to dual-purpose, family wagons.

The JLs take the JK transition a step further. They're more refined and fix many of the quirks of the JK, though at a cost (electronics issues, less interior room while having better ergonomics, stupid pricing, etc). They are indeed the most reliable and capable stock Wrangler made though and they appeal to many, which has saved Jeep (and likely saved Chrysler/Mopar, as much as being previously owned by Fiat can be considered "saved").

For my money, if you're looking for a rig to run around on 31-35"s while having good aftermarket support, relatively easy to fix and maintain, easy to modify, halfway respectable HVAC, and decent reliability, the TJ is the winner. If you want a "classic", a CJ-7 or YJ on 31-32"s fit the bill nicely. At the other end of the YJ spectrum, if you want to build a trail monster while sticking to the relatively limited "structure" of a SWB Jeep frame/body, the YJ is also a good candidate as the utilitarianism of the electronics and other controls are easy to adapt to nearly anything.
 

John Cooper

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I love my LJ, but if I could, I'd be very tempted to trade it for my old '83 Scrambler with the 4.2L and 5 speed manual (got totaled in '95). That Jeep was fun to drive. I have very little interest in anything newer than the TJ. The newer stuff is too complicated compared to TJ and earlier.

Totaled my 84 CJ8 scambler in 98. Man how I miss that Jeep!!!!!
 

TheBoogieman

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Totaled my 84 CJ8 scambler in 98. Man how I miss that Jeep!!!!!

Break out your check book. :cool:

1983-jeep-cj8-scrambler.jpg
 

John Cooper

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Break out your check book. :cool:

View attachment 392729

Wish I had a picture of mine, factory half cab, 5 speed A/C and heat that actually worked!!!!! Of course with the half cab there wasn't much space to heat and cool 🤣 🤣🤣

Tuff Country 4" springs and 2" extended shackles. 35 12.50 15 tires.
 

TJPurist

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I bought an '89 YJ Sahara ,partly because I felt sorry for it sitting under 18 inches of snow in a wrecker's resale yard. The 4.2 was handicapped by many feet of emissions vacuum lines and valves that were frequently leaking. The Peugeot transmission was a POS. Swapping out the engine and transmission for a 350 Chevy and an AX15 transmission made a world of difference. I only sold it to make room for an antique car. Love my '99 TJ.
 

suicideking

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I bought an '89 YJ Sahara ,partly because I felt sorry for it sitting under 18 inches of snow in a wrecker's resale yard. The 4.2 was handicapped by many feet of emissions vacuum lines and valves that were frequently leaking. The Peugeot transmission was a POS. Swapping out the engine and transmission for a 350 Chevy and an AX15 transmission made a world of difference. I only sold it to make room for an antique car. Love my '99 TJ.

We're going to have to change your username to YJPurist... :ROFLMAO:
 
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jeepguy03

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Depends on what you are looking for in a Jeep. I think the TJ is probably the best of all worlds since it is simpler than the newer ones, still has OBDII, and has coil springs for a better ride. I was born in 1990 and grew up lusting after the YJ and TJ. I love the simplicity and styling of the YJ, but the TJ is definitely the better one for daily driving. I still remember seeing a brand new 2000 solar yellow TJ on the lot and thinking "when I can drive... and afford one.. I'll buy one."

I'd love to eventually have an older Jeep like a CJ or Willys Jeep Pickup (my grandfather had one), but they are tough to drive on public roads. A good friend has a CJ2A that I drive around his Christmas tree farm during that season, and it's great fun, but I can't imagine trying to drive that on a busy 50mph+ road.
 

John Cooper

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A good friend has a CJ2A that I drive around his Christmas tree farm during that season, and it's great fun, but I can't imagine trying to drive that on a busy 50mph+ road.

For sure since top speed is around 45mph, at least that's all mine would do!!!! 🤣 🤣
 

Zorba

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I think the TJ is the best compromise - esp. with the coil springs. I'm too old to deal with leafs - my wife was amazed at how much nicer the TJ rides in comparison to a friend's YJ. Although I like the F.I., I could do without the computer and sensors, and wish it had a CJ/YJ style dash - but ya gotta take whatcha can get.
 

PNW_LJ

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I think the TJ is the best compromise - esp. with the coil springs. I'm too old to deal with leafs - my wife was amazed at how much nicer the TJ rides in comparison to a friend's YJ. Although I like the F.I., I could do without the computer and sensors, and wish it had a CJ/YJ style dash - but ya gotta take whatcha can get.

This exactly. A TJ with a CJ dash would have been perfect. Not sure how it would adhere to modern safety standards, but it sure would be cool.
 

oyealiz

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I bought my TJ new in 2000. Love her! I'm on my 3rd JLU. Love them! And I just bought a LJ, something I've been wanting for a long time, and I'm loving it. Can't wait to get it all set up to my liking.

Best, though? So subjective, based on what you are doing, I think. My TJ is what we'll come in to pull you out if you're stuck, and also what we take on the trails. My LJ might see some trails, too, once she's set up. My daddy would have said my 392 is just eating up the highway. LOL
 
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MikekiM

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I had a few JKs between 2008 & 2011. Had no problems with any of them. Sold both and had a WJ for a while and when I want to go back to a Wrangler chose the TJ because on any given day I see a dozen or so JKs on the road and hated the thought of being lost in the crowd. I'll take a clean stock TJ over an unfortunate (over modded) JK any day. As far as the JLs, JLUs and JTs.. those are almost exclusively soccer mom rides around here. Totally buttoned up in summer with doors and top on and AC blasting. Anyone can buy a Jeep.. Real men keep the old ones running...

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