“What SUV should I buy?” It’s a question consumers ask themselves every day, but what would features editor Christian Seabaugh drive? Keep reading for the answer, and see other editors’ picks here.
“What SUV should I buy?” is an incredibly tough question. I know you know that—that’s probably how you wound up here. Much goes into the decision-making process of what SUV to buy, but for me and my family, the right SUV for us is the 2019 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited.
Before I dig too deep into why we’d buy a Wrangler Unlimited, a little about my family unit to give you a little perspective—after all, you could be just like me. Or we might have nothing in common.
If you happen to be married (or at least in a committed long-term relationship), at the very tail end of your 20s, and with dogs, odds are we have something in common. My wife and I both work full-time, rent in Los Angeles, and have two dogs—a 60-ish pound black Lab/Australian cattle dog mix and a 25-pound beagle/dachshund mix. In what little free time we have, we love to escape civilization, going on long road trips and heading off-road into the middle of nowhere with our pups.
At the very basic level, we need an SUV with four-wheel drive and room for us and our dogs. But it’s never really that simple, is it? I’d like something with four doors because it’s easier to load the dogs in back. I’d also like a decent-sized cargo area. Oh! And the back seat must have A/C vents and windows that drop all the way down into the doors to keep the dogs happy. Up front I’d like an infotainment system that’s compatible with CarPlay.
I’d also like something that’s nice to drive and relatively efficient given how many trips we take. Some sort of electrification is a huge bonus, too—the globe ain’t getting any cooler, after all. Lastly, although my wife and I would plan on buying an SUV to literally drive into the ground, it holding its value would be a huge plus.
Given what we’re looking for in an SUV, only one option really ticks all of our boxes right now: MotorTrend’s2019 SUV of the Year, the 2019 Jeep Wrangler. The four-door Wrangler comes standard with four-wheel drive, has a good-sized cargo area and a back seat that’d keep the pups happy, and is available with a mild hybrid 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 that gives the Wrangler zippy performance both around town and on long legs on the highway, thanks to its 22/24/22 mpg city/highway/combined EPA rating.
Other vehicles I’d consider would be the Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro and Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk. Despite the 4Runner checking a lot of the same boxes as the Wrangler—chiefly off-road capability, retained value, a dog-friendly back seat, and the added bonus of the power window in the tailgate—I eliminated it because it isn’t as refined as the Wrangler on the road, is less efficient, and has a disappointingly cheap interior. The Grand Cherokee Trailhawk ended up losing out because it’s not any cheaper than the Wrangler, doesn’t hold its value as well, and isn’t as efficient. The only other SUV that could possibly check all my boxes would be the Ford Bronco, but it likely won’t hit streets until late next year.
My wife and I would share our SUV, and our budget would limit us to about $40,000 on a car. But given we’d essentially be making a lifetime purchase, we’d consider splurging a bit and sacrificing for a few years for the right vehicle.
There’s no getting around the fact the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited’s are expensive. Our budget covers a Wrangler Unlimited Sport S with just two options: the 2.0-liter engine/eight-speed automatic for $3,000 and a hard top for $1,195, for a grand total of $40,435. With such a bare-bones spec, we might as well get a fun color. How about Bikini Pearl blue?
Although I have no doubt we’d be happy with a Wrangler Unlimited Sport S, in this case, it would ultimately make more sense to splurge on a lightly optioned Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon, as it comes standard (and backed by a factory warranty) with off-road features that I’d almost certainly be adding to a Wrangler Sport via the aftermarket—chiefly locking front and rear differentials, an electronically disconnecting front anti-roll bar, and more aggressive off-road tires. Given that—and the fact that we’d expect to own the Wrangler for at least 10–15 years—I’d feel comfortable splurging a bit.
For $48,230 I can get myself a Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon with the mild hybrid four-cylinder, eight-speed automatic, the Cold Weather package (remote start comes in handy in hot climates, too), and a black hard top. I’d say the extra $8,000 ensuring a lifetime of adventures to come is well spent.
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