Last week when we were in Kauai, we decide to rent a Jeep. And since my wife, Michelle, has been thinking about trading her car and getting herself another Jeep (she misses her old '98 ZJ), we elected to rent a JK Unlimited, because that was what she is most interested in. We own an '04 LJ Unlimited, so it would be interesting to see how they compare.
First impressions where that these things are big for a Jeep. The interior room is impressive especially the rear cargo area. This thing has way more room for the rear seat passenger room and the rear cargo area is probably a third bigger than my wife's old ZJ. We threw four large suitcases and four carry on bags in the back and had room to spare. I've got some long legs (34" inseam) and even with the drivers seat slid back in a comfortable position for me, I still had alot of room for my knees in the back. The seats are more comfortable than in my LJ, and I like the addition seat cushion height adjustment. What I didn't like was the lack of storage pockets and such. Where the heck did the dash tray go to? Where am I supposed to put my sunglasses and such? The door pockets are way to small to be useful and the center console is not only to low but it has smaller storage space than my LJ. Oh, and the cup holders aren't as nice as the LJs. Another thing that bothered me was the lack of door lock cylinders on the rear doors. It's a pain to reach back past the roll bar to unlock the rear doors. If my wife got one it would have to have the power door locks.
The Hardtop is quiet and we all really like the individual removeable panels. Quick and easy to use and easy to handle. It drives way nicer than the LJ (even when it was stock), nicer handling and smoother ride. I didn't really feel the increase in size form the LJ at all during the whole week, even when we had it on the trails. The available engine power is fine, but really could use some more umph. Merging into traffic is fine, but passing or hill climbing leave the 3.8 wheeezing for more power. The automatic tranny shifts smooth and smartly, and doesn't constantly seem to be looking for the right
gear. This one had 16,000 miles on it already and there where no squeeks or rattles. The guages are good as far as visibility, though the bluish color was odd. My wife liked the compass and outside temp monitor in the gauge cluster. The auxillary swithces in the center pod are way more accessible than on my LJ, you can actually see them. Visibility is really good. I was expecting to have more limited visibilty because of the hummeresque windows, but it was just fine and maybe better over the driver shoulder than my LJ. The rear window is abit more cluttered with the overlarge rear wiper housing, but it was easy to adapt to.
We took it on some of Kauai's red dirt forest roads, and it preformed quite well. Even with the stock Wrangler STs, it handled the slippery red mud and erosion washouts with aplomb. We only had wheelspin on one steep hill coverd with about 6" of slopping clay like mud. Some of the local pig hunters where surprised that we didn't have more trouble with it.
All in all we were quite happy with our rental Unlimited, and will probably add one to the stable when it gets a little more engine. If they drop a diesel in it and don't produce a JK based truck, I'd get one for work vehicle.
Heres ahot of our LJ Unlimited and one of our rental JK Unlimited.