1998 JEEP WRANGLER SPORT
Used Truck - 1998 Jeep Wrangler Sport in Hamilton, Oh
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1998 Jeep Wrangler ReviewThis car review is specific to this model, not the actual vehicle for sale.
Even better than last year.
Jeep Wrangler was completely redesigned and re-engineered last year and the result was a vast improvement over its predecessors in every respect. And this year's Wrangler is even better than last year's all-new model.
Steering responsiveness is improved with a new steering gear ratio that varies from 15:1 on center to 13:1 at the extremes of travel. The lower on-center ratio improves steering feel, while the higher ratio at the extremes of travel maintains overall maneuverability. Power steering is now standard on all Wranglers.
For the first time, cruise control is available on the Wrangler, along with the Smart Key Immobilizer theft deterrent system and a tilting driver's seat that improves access to the back. The clutch-starter interlock jumper wire has been replaced with a fuse to make it easier to use the starter without the use of the clutch for key starts in four-wheel-drive low situations.
Next-generation airbags and self-adjusting low tension three-point seatbelts with height-adjustable shoulder belts have been added.
But the newest generation Wrangler remains true to its gritty heritage, which dates back to World War II when Jeeps served with distinction around the globe. But now it's quieter, roomier and more comfortable. It rides better. It handles better. It's more capable off road.
With its round headlights and trademark fenders, the Wrangler remains a familiar face even though almost every body panel has been redesigned. No vehicle is more instantly recognizable throughout the world.
The open fenders, flip-down windshield, big grille, plastic side curtains and exposed hinges and fasteners are still there to give the Wrangler that rugged, utilitarian, no-nonsense look that has appealed to us for over five decades. But the edges have been softened ever so slightly.
The Wrangler comes with a choice of tops, both of which are easier to remove and provide better sealing than tops of years past. Purists prefer the soft top, a high-quality piece of equipment that can be configured according to the weather. Folding the top down takes only a third of the time it took before, and if a screwdriver is handy, the windshield can be flipped down for breezy, low-speed touring in the back country. The side curtains, however, can be a hassle in everyday use. And the soft top still generates a lot of racket at highway speeds.
We think the $755 optional hard top is the practical choice for real world driving, providing more security for expensive gear and better protection from weather. It comes with full-height doors and wind-up windows. Rearward visibility is aided by the rear-window defroster, wiper and washer. Wind noise is reduced. The top can be removed and stored when not in use.
Can't choose between the two tops? Jeep now offers a package that includes both hard top and soft top in matching colors.
Wrangler is available in three models. The base SE looks attractive, but its low price quickly rises when carpeting, nicer seat fabric, a rear seat, a stereo and other options are added. The SE's 4-cylinder engine is best teamed with the standard 5-speed gearbox.
We recommend those who opt for the 3-speed automatic transmission seriously consider the Sport and Sahara models, which come with the much more powerful 4.0-liter 6-cylinder engine.
The Wrangler Sport we tested is a good choice for those who want more power and a higher level of standard equipment. The 6-cylinder engine suffers lower fuel economy around town, but matches the 4-cylinder engine's 21 mpg on the highway.
For 1998, off-road capability has been further improved on 4.0-liter Wranglers by combining the Dana 44 rear axle and the new 3.73 axle ratio.
The top-of-the-line Sahara comes with more features, more style and adds more than $2,000 to the bottom line.
Regardless of model, buyers who contemplate off-road can benefit from the optional gas shock absorbers, locking rear differential, front tow hooks and heavy-duty battery and generator. Three different tire sizes are available, including huge 30x9.5x15 Goodyears designed for desert conditions. For all around use, especially snow and slush and rain, skinnier tires are a better bet. We think the best compromise are the optional P225/75R15 Goodyear Wranglers.
New colors for 1998 are Chili Pepper Red and Deep Amethyst.
If elegance can be defined in terms of neatness and simplicity, then the Wrangler comes with an elegant interior. The modular instrument panel and heating and ventilation system are big improvements over the last generation Wrangler. High-back front seats are comfortable and offer good lateral support.
This is a small sport-utility, so it's a bit short on utility. There's room for either four people or two people and their gear, but not both. For weekend excursions, the best plan is to leave the back-seat passengers behind, flip the rear seat forward--or remove it--and head for the hills. There's enough space behind the rear seat for a fly rod, a vest and a pair of waders. Flip the rear seat down and there's plenty of room for a tent, a cooler, camping gear and way too much fishing equipment. It doesn't get much better than this.
Need to haul still more stuff? The Wrangler's modest towing capacity is sufficient for those who need to pull a personal watercraft or snowmobile.
Spring runoff had carved deep gullies in the muddy trail as we slogged past Buckhorn Canyon toward Fort Misery. Phoenix sprawled, forgotten, to the south, while Whiskey Springs rose 6700 feet above Horsethief Basin to the east. The primitive road wasn't even on the Arizona map, and for good reason. A car simply would not have made it up the muddy, rutted hill climbs. A big four-wheel drive sport-utility might have gotten through, but not as easily as the Wrangler.
Yet, when we left the trail and turned south onto I-17 toward Phoenix, we were grateful for its smooth, comfortable ride quality. That's the essence of the newest generation Wrangler. It provides the ultimate in off-road capability without punishing its occupants on the long road back to civilization. It's the right choice for perilous off-road treks like California's Rubicon Trail. But it's also fun when cruising around the neighborhood. And it makes a statement about your lifestyle--or at least what you'd like your lifestyle to be.
The new Wrangler isn't a luxury car, but it's not the penalty box it used to be. Paved roads seem much smoother. Corners are handled with more dignity. The interstate feels stable at 80 mph. And wet pavement is not to be feared. At the same time, the Wrangler's off-road capability is superior to that of even the legendary Jeep CJ. It's an impressive balancing act.
Wrangler's engineers achieved this balance by designing a coil-spring suspension to replace the Jeep's 50-year-old leaf-spring suspension. And they mounted it onto a rigid new chassis that provides a stable platform for the suspension to do its job. Coil springs provide better handling on and off road and enormous suspension travel. Wrangler's Quadra-Coil suspension boasts an additional seven inches of articulation over the previous leaf spring setup.
Greater approach and departure angles mean the Wrangler can cross trenches and clamber over rocks and fallen trees that would trap the old one. Few vehicles can match the Wrangler's rock-climbing ability. At the same time, it does not feel like a utility truck when winding down a curvy road.
A cautionary note here. The Wrangler is certainly sporty, but it's not a sports car. Its handling is competent, but the basic design is essentially truck, with a high center of gravity. Hurrying this or any sport-utility vehicle around tight corners is not a good plan.
The stiff new chassis, compliant new suspension, smoother, stronger engines, and comfortable new interior add up to a dramatic improvement.
While the increased off-road capability has been greeted with enthusiasm by Jeep enthusiasts, the improved ride and handling on the road means you don't have to be a club member to enjoy driving the 1998 Wrangler.
Options As Tested
Air conditioning, AM/FM/cassette stereo, full console with cup holders, large fuel tank, aluminum wheels, heavy duty shocks, Dana rear axle, locking differential, fog lights, side steps, leather-wrapped steering wheel, tow hooks.