What makes the perfect 4x4? Is it underhood power and torque? What about creature comforts? Maybe it's true four wheels turning looking for traction? Or is it the ability to shift into the ultimate in low gearing? And what about price? These same questions revolve in the judges' brains during our annual 4x4 of the Year test. This year we re-examined what our magazine stands for, who our readers are, and what that mythical ultimate vehicle would require to satisfy all of us.
We recognize that an enormous percentage of new 4x4s never make it to the dirt, but that isn't justification enough for us to water down our test. Yes, highway ride quality is important, but only when you think about it as in "would you want to drive this 4x4 across the county to visit some of the best four-wheeling places in the nation?" And more importantly, we are about being out there in the dirt, where simplicity, reliability, and ruggedness are the ace of spades, and heated seats, electro gadgetry, and DVD players are the 3 of hearts, so these underhood and above skidplate appointments are more highly regarded than those found in the cab.
So it's with great pleasure that we present the 2007 Jeep Wrangler JK Rubicon as our 4x4 of the Year. Its silhouette demands that it carry the 60-year torch that represents off-road exploration, adventure, and fun, and it does so with ease. With greater suspension control, a slightly wider, more stable track, and a value-conscience price, it even surpasses some predecessors. Unfortunately even the winner was strapped with electro-idiotic traction/stability control, but it wasn't a hindrance off road, and it could be completely shut off if desired. The Jeep Wrangler is a flashback of sorts to times when driving your 4x4 was about a real connection between driver and vehicle, where input from your hands and feet really made a difference, while feedback came through the seat of your pants, not just some light on the dash. As four-wheelers progress, they often find that less is more and so it is with the new Jeep, simple and rugged, with a pliable exterior ready for the dirt, a stout undercarriage unfazed by rock rash, and an almost monastically pure interior where you can spend quality time looking down trail.