Review: 2013 Jeep Wrangler Sahara is Affordable Luxury Off-Roader

2013 jeep wrangler unlimited sahara mud snow rocky mountains

There are very few instantly recognizable vehicles on the road, but the Jeep Wrangler is surely one of them. Moreover, Jeep as a brand has transcended to define a whole category of vehicles. When somebody says “Jeep” – you immediately think a stubby and tall four wheel drive off-road vehicle. Although, Jeep’s lineup has expanded over the decades, the original spirit of a rugged military vehicle is still with us and the Wrangler. This test 2013 Jeep Wrangler is the Unlimited Sahara model. Unlimited refers to that it’s been stretched into a four door configuration, and Sahara is Wrangler speak for luxurious. So, can this Sahara model still tackle a tough off-road trail or is it geared towards the urban environment?

 STATS Starting Retail Price As Tested Price HP / Lb-Ft
2013 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara $31,295 $37,600 285/260
EPA Rating MPG As Tested MPG
Rating: BUY IT! 16/20 Combined 18 19.2

Of course, the any Wrangler is recognized world over, but the premium Sahara trim level takes this Jeep further upscale with touches like body colored hard-top, 18 inch painted wheels, available leather and cloth interior with embroidery, tire pressure monitoring system, and much more. The three-piece body colored removable hard-top makes the Wrangler look more like an SUV with a permanent roof. And there are plenty of creature comforts inside. A far cry from the original Willys Jeep. Nonetheless, the 2013 model can still shed its top and all four doors. It’s still possible to fold down the windshield after some doing. However, a windshield is a nice thing to always have, and I don’t know if many owner ever attempt this.

2013 jeep wrangler unlimited sahara

Although the door openings are relatively small, there is plenty of room once you get inside. There is huge head room throughout, and I was even able to install three child booster seats in the back row! The cargo area is also plentiful, I was able to put my five year old daughter’s bicycle in there upright without any fuss. I also noticed that all four doors require a firm slam to close properly. If you don’t , you will get the door ajar graphic in the gauge cluster. That’s just one of Wranglers many manly features. This Jeep constantly reminds you about its capable and rugged character. It’s not for everybody, but it’s very refreshing in the sea of monotonous crossovers and SUVs.

The Wrangler uses Chrysler’s main stream 3.6 liter Pentastar V6 and the 5-speed automatic that you can also find in a 2011-2013 Grand Cherokee. I tried this power-train combination in a Grand Cherokee Overland Summit on a long road trip and it surprised me with excellent fuel economy. The 5th cog is geared for highway cruising with low rpms. This is a heavy body-on-frame vehicle with curb weight starting at 4,300 lbs, so don’t expect Prius levels of economy around town. I averaged 19.2 MPG after a week of mixed driving on my standard routes. Not too bad for a capable off-roader.

2013 jeep wrangler unlimited sahara

The Wrangler Unlimited is not afraid of a twisty road. It does lean like any tall SUV should, but it’s predictable and confident. There is decent amount of feedback and weight in the steering. However, the steering column does transmit a little jitter over rough surface to remind you that you have a solid front axle. The Sahara model uses a Dana-30 axle up front and Dana-44 in rear, both without selectable lockers. You have to step up to the serious Rubicon version to get tougher axles, lockers, and other hardcore off-road goodies.

Nonetheless, the Sahara does beautifully off-road. I took it on a Rocky Mountain trail that was covered in mud and some patches of ice. This Wrangler ate it all up as the all terrain Bridgestone Duelers easily cleared the mud and had great grip on many different surfaces. I didn’t come anywhere close to the limit of this truck’s capability. I didn’t even need to use low range.

Competition? There really is nothing else like the Wrangler. You could argue that a Land Rover or a Mercedes-Benz G wagon are just as capable off-road and have military roots. But those vehicles cost twice or three times more, and they don’t offer a removable top or removable doors and a folding wind screen. Nissan Xterra and Toyota FJ Cruiser can also be cross shopped against the Wrangler.  They are very capable, but still cannot match the ultimate versatility of the Wrangler as a convertible go anywhere vehicle.

On the TFLcar scale of:

  • Buy it!
  • Lease it!
  • Rent it!
  • … or Forget it!

I give the 2013 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara a Buy It!

My test Jeep had an automatic transmission, body colored three piece top, Uconnect 430N entertainment system, Hill Descent control, and Remote Start system.  The Sahara is not the ultimate hard core version of the Wrangler, but it does a good job at blending the inherent ruggedness with luxurious appointments.  While the $37,600 as tested price looks a little high, you are getting a lot for your buck with this Jeep.

Check out what Roman thinks of this Jeep in this full TFLcar Video review:

Andre Smirnov
Andre Smirnov

Andre Smirnov is a life-long automotive enthusiast, software engineer, writer, and reporter. He has been writing and reporting at TFLcar since 2011. When not working or spending time with the family – you can find him tinkering in the garage or scouring the internet and other media for various automotive, mechanical, and computer related information.