Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport: What a pleasant comeback

The Wrangler Sport variant left the Jeep Philippines range a few years ago, leaving customers choosing between the Sahara and Rubicon trims. Either they go for the premium version or the hardcore premium, the latter equipped with features ready for Moab’s tough rock climbs. However, those who want a base Wrangler that they can modify upon leaving showrooms don’t have much choice.

But now, the entry-level Sport trim is back and more equipped than ever. Even better, it now comes with the Wrangler’s updated styling (yes, there’s an update), which debuted in New York in April 2023. These changes come with a price, with a much higher starting price than before.

Is the new Wrangler Unlimited Sport worth the increased pricing? Weeks before its launch, we’ve had the chance to take a few demo units out on a long drive to Kaliraya Surf Camp in Cavinti, Laguna, for a so-called “Jeep Kamp.” Beyond the great time we had with our Kampmates, the new Wrangler Unlimited Sport stood by its pricing, enough for this author to tag this a pleasant comeback.

The design update includes a slightly larger seven-slat grille, round LED daytime running lights, and restyled taillights. Those are marginal, admittedly, but should be obvious to fans and enthusiasts.

As an entry-level Wrangler, the Sport trim doesn’t look exactly like a base model this time. It’s well-equipped with modern LED lighting, and it even comes with a set of 17-inch Gray all-aluminum wheels – yes, the base Wrangler doesn’t come with steelies anymore, with the stock rims actually looking great and not needing any upgrade. Even better, they are wrapped with 245/75 Nexen Roadian ATX all-terrain tires, which worked wonders during our drive, but more on this later. 

The Sport differentiates itself from the Sahara with its plastic fenders, black roof, and lack of stepboards. The latter is my main gripe with this variant, as it made ingress quite challenging for this high-riding SUV. The buyers will have to do some stretching first or have one installed for an extra cost.

Of note, the Sport variant is exclusively available as an Unlimited (4-door model) for now. No word yet on whether a 2-door version will become available.

The Wrangler Unlimited Sport has a typical Wrangler interior that focuses on function rather than form. The removable doors are rid of buttons, while controls are logically placed and easy to get used to. There is plenty of accessible storage as well.

The bucket seats on this base trim are upholstered in premium fabric, though they may be tougher to clean than vinyl or leather. They are also comfortable on long drives, though they could benefit from additional lumbar support for not-so-young drivers like me. 

Overall cabin space is unquestionable – for people or cargo, but tall passengers should be wary of the roll cages. The rear seats are perfect for two, but a bit of a squeeze for an additional passenger in the middle.

Despite being a base variant, the Unlimited Sport already comes with the latest tech and safety offering from Stellantis. The Uconnect 5 infotainment system is primarily seen on the huge 12.3-inch touchscreen display with crisp graphics and quick touch response. The 7-inch digital driver display is clear even under brisk sunlight, while the wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are a nice touch, but I wish Jeep paired it with wireless charging. Then again, USB-C ports for charging and media make this SUV future-proof for smartphone pairing.

For an audiophile such as myself, the Alpine premium audio system is one of the best-sounding in the cars I’ve tested, thanks to how the speakers are positioned on the roll cages. 

The Wrangler Unlimited Sport boasts advanced safety features, ensuring owners feel confident. It’s equipped with essential driver-assistive components, from Adaptive Cruise Control to Tire Pressure Monitoring and Full Speed Forward Collision Warning Plus. The 2024 model now includes supplemental side curtain airbags as standard.

The entry-level Wrangler Unlimited Sport is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four, making 268 hp and 400 Nm of torque. It’s coupled with an eight-speed automatic transmission with a transfer case for 4×4 capabilities. No differential locks for this version, though, as that’s only found on the Rubicon trim.

The Wrangler Unlimited Sport offered quite a pull on the road, even with the base engine. The transmission pushed maximum power on demand well, providing substantial torque when needed. The only downside in having a small engine with a hefty body is fuel economy, with us yielding an average of 6.5 km/l from Jeep Greenhills to Cavinti, Laguna via Rizal. Of note, this was done with spirited driving, and we spent quite a while amid heavy traffic, so the number mentioned above was expected.

What I didn’t expect was how the Wrangler Unlimited Sport performed on the twisties. Even while wearing off-road-ready rubbers, the SUV never lost traction even while being pushed to the limit. The brakes were more than adequate, while the body roll was controlled as the vehicle felt balanced; it was undeniably the best part of the drive. For a trail-rated vehicle, I’m giving it a top score in terms of handling mountain roads. I wish I could say the same when traversing heavy traffic, but that was expected from a large SUV that barely fit the narrow lanes of Ortigas Avenue.

The 2024 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport is priced at P4,790,000, quite a jump from the mid-P3-million price tag of the previous version from a few years back. But as you’ve read here, the base model isn’t quite as bare as expected, and would-be buyers will get much more for their money. It’s a pleasant comeback, indeed.

The new Jeep Wrangler 4-Door Sport has eight exterior color options: Firecracker Red, Granite Crystal, Silver Zynith, High Velocity, Hydro Blue, Sarge Green, Bright White, and Black. The first 50 buyers receive a special offer to kick off its release: a complimentary set of half-doors, perfect for diving into off-road excursions.

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