Wrangler vs Wrangler Unlimited – 2021 Guide

Cory
| Last Updated: March 16, 2021

In the market for a new Jeep and trying to determine the difference between a Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited?

We’re here to help, and with this 2021 guide, hopefully, distinguish the two, and help to make the right decision an easy one.

Photo credit: napletonorlando.com

TL;DR: Wrangler vs Wrangler Unlimited

Wrangler

Wrangler Unlimited

Pros

Pros

  • Fuel efficient base engine

  • Great entry-level MSRP

  • Small stature helps get into tight areas

  • Jeep’s famous off-road capabilities
  • Comfortable 5-person seating capacity

  • Lots of cargo space

  • Better 3,500lb towing capacity

  • Decent off-road capabilities

Cons

Cons

  • Limited interior cargo space

  • Not very comfortable for rear passengers

  • Below average towing capacity (2,000 lb)
  • Not quite as 'agile'

  • More expensive

Best For

Best For

Someone looking for a decent daily driver with excellent off-road capabilities

Someone looking for a family-sized SUV with outstanding off-road capabilities

Photo credit: cjponyparts.com

Relevant Specs: Wrangler vs Wrangler Unlimited

Specs

Wrangler

Wrangler Unlimited

MSRP

$29,810 - $40,210

$33,310 - $50,765

Doors

2 Door

4 Door

Seats

4-person seating capacity

5-person seating capacity

Engine(s)

3.6L V6

2.0L I-4Turbo

3.6L V6

2.0L I-4Turbo

3.0L EcoDiesel V6

6.4L V8

Horsepower

3.6L V6: 285 hp

2.0L Turbo I4: 270 hp

3.6L V6: 285 hp

2.0L Turbo I4: 270 hp

3.0L EcoDiesel V6: 260 hp

6.4L V8: 470 hp

Torque

3.6L V6: 260 lb-ft

2.0L Turbo I4: 295 lb-ft

3.6L V6: 260 lb-ft

2.0L Turbo I4: 295 lb-ft

3.0L EcoDiesel V6: 443 lb-ft

6.4L V8: 470 lb-ft

MPG

3.6L V6: 18 City/23 Hwy

2.0L Turbo I4: 22 City/24 Hwy

3.6L V6: 19 City/22 Hwy

2.0L Turbo I4: 21 City/22 Hwy

3.0L EcoDiesel: 22 City/29 Hwy

6.4L V8: Not Yet Determined

Cargo Space

Seats Upright: 12.9 cubic feet

Seats Folded: 31.7 cubic feet

Seats Upright: 31.7 cubic feet

Seats Folded: 72.4 cubic feet

Cabin Space

45 cubic feet

103.3 cubic feet

Towing Capacity

2000lbs

3500lbs

MSRP: Everyone is price conscious these days, as they should be. It’s important to get the right price for the right vehicle. The MSRP of the Wrangler or the Wrangler Unlimited is indicative of the vehicle. While both have many similar features and trim levels. The Unlimited is a bigger version, and the price reflects that.

Doors: The door configuration is (obviously) the biggest thing that sets these two Jeeps apart and is probably the number one thing that will determine which one is right for you. With similar trim levels in each, the Wrangler comes with two doors, while the Wrangler Unlimited is the four-door version.

Seats: The size of these two Jeeps is what separates the seating capacity. While the Wrangler is considered a four-seater Jeep, the rear seat can be tight for average-size adults. Adults can sit in the back, it’s just not very practical, especially on longer drivers, making the Wrangler better suited for just a couple of people. The Wrangler Unlimited on the other hand has a seating capacity of five, and its bigger size is much better suited for more passengers.

Engine(s): The smaller Wrangler comes with two available engines, a V6 or a Turbocharged in-line 4 cylinder.  Because the Wrangler unlimited is a bigger vehicle, not only does it have the same engines available in the Wrangler, but also comes with an EcoDiesel V6 borrowed from a Ram, and the soon to be released powerhouse V8, a wide range of engines to suit anyone’s needs.

Horsepower: Horsepower is a reference to how much power an engine produces and directly reflects performance. Horsepower relates to speed. If you’re looking to get up to a certain speed quickly, horsepower is what does that. This is especially important when looking for a daily driver, and it is important to know that for a larger, heavier vehicle like the Wrangler Unlimited to perform the same way as something smaller, it’s going to require more horsepower.

Photo credit: ocauto.com

Torque: Torque, on the other hand, is a measure of rotational force and is viewed as the strength of the vehicle. Torque is the measurement you want to take into consideration when planning to use your Jeep off-road, or for towing and hauling. While the base engines in both the Wrangler and the Wrangler Unlimited are comparable, the newer Unlimited offers a diesel 6 cylinder and a bigger 8 cylinder, both of which offer increasingly more torque than the two engines that were available in the Wrangler.

MPG: This is one of the biggest factors people consider when buying any vehicle, especially if using it as a daily driver. How many times have you heard someone ask, ‘What kind of mileage does it get?’ If you haven’t been asked that, you most certainly will be when you buy a new vehicle. SUVs are not synonymous with good fuel mileage, but there’s no doubt that they have made great strides in improving, and that shows in both the Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited. 

Cargo Space: You may not have any intentions of loading your Jeep to the roof with goodies and gear, most people don’t, but if you intend on carrying something in it, at some point, cargo capacity is an important thing to keep in mind. Measured as an overall capacity in cubic feet, a few inches could be the difference between being able to carry something and not. While not always the case, a good general rule is the bigger the vehicle, the more cargo space you will have.

Cabin Space: Cabin space goes hand in hand with seating capacity. While two vehicles might have the same seating capacity, the comfort level of those passengers could be entirely different based on the cabin space. Less cabin space will mean a more cramped and less comfortable ride. Consider more cabin space if you plan on frequently having passengers.

Photo credit: jimcloverdodge.com

Towing Capacity: When comparing the Wrangler to the Wrangler Unlimited, towing capacity can be more important than many people think. While many people will never tow a trailer, some only consider their towing needs after they have purchased the vehicle and realize they need it. Whether you may be towing a single Jet-Ski or a small camper trailer, it’s important for safety reasons to know just how capable your new Jeep is.

Key Differences Between Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited

The Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited at their core are the same vehicle. They share much of the same styling, interior design, with very subtle differences, and Jeep’s famous off-road capabilities. Despite the similarities, there is a key difference: The Wrangler Unlimited is the four-door version of the Wrangler. Because of this the Unlimited is bigger and offers not just more passenger space, but increased cargo space, better towing capacity, and a wider variety of engine options.

Advantages of a Wrangler

  • The shorter length gives better approach and departure angles for off-roading.

  • Lower MSRP in all trim levels when compared to Wrangler Unlimited.

  • When similarly equipped, the Wrangler will get slightly better fuel economy.
  • Photo credit: jimgloverdodge.com


    Advantages of a Wrangler Unlimited

  • Larger stature means more passenger and cargo space.

  • Increased towing capacity with optional engines.

  • Available EcoDiesel engine provides better fuel mileage compared to base engines in Wrangler.

  • Photo credit: jimgloverdodge.com

    Use-Case Comparison: Wrangler vs Wrangler Unlimited

    While the Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited share much of what makes Jeep products great, they can be quite different in other aspects.

    Jeep has incorporated its world-famous off-road capabilities into both, and both have models and trim levels that take advantage of that, so buyers should not have any concern if they intend to use either off-road. The two do separate themselves, with the Wrangler Unlimited the larger version of the Wrangler.

    Off-Road Capability

    The Wrangler and the Wrangler Unlimited are both incredible off-road vehicles. Pick an enthusiast’s brain and they will come up with several reasons why either one is a great option. Some love the two-door Wrangler for no other reason than they are slightly smaller, helping to get into tighter spaces when off-roading, while others love the extra room the Unlimited provides to carry all sorts of off-roading gear.

    Where the Wrangler Unlimited differentiates itself from the Wrangler is in its overall length. With the major difference between the two vehicles being that the Unlimited is a four-door, the extra length (188 inches compared to 166 inches) has an impact on things like the breakover angle.

    Towing / Hauling

    The Wrangler Unlimited is far more capable than the Wrangler when it comes to towing and hauling. But of course, that stands to reason, when the Unlimited is a larger, more powerful SUV (depending on engine options). 

    That is not to say that the Wrangler can’t tow, because it can, and it does it quite well, but its smaller size coupled with the smaller engines means that its max towing capacity is much lower than that of the Wrangler Unlimited.

    That lower towing capacity isn’t necessarily a bad thing but is something that has to be taken into consideration when determining exact towing needs.

    Photo credit: carsguide.com.au

    Road Trips

    When it comes to packing up the gear and hitting the open road, the Wrangler Unlimited easily outshines the Wrangler. While the Wrangler is considered a four-seater, the back seat is cramped, and a long road trip with passengers in the back is not going to be a pleasant one; for them anyway.

    The larger stature of the Wrangler Unlimited not only provides passengers with a much more comfortable ride but considerably more cargo space as well, meaning you can comfortably carry both passengers and gear no problem. 

    Daily Driver

    One of the biggest factors that people consider when buying something they will be using as a daily driver is fuel economy. Whether commuting or driving from spot to spot in the city, most people want to know that they aren’t going to be spending a lot of money on fuel to do so.

    Both the Wrangler and the Wrangler unlimited are good daily driver options, but if comparing fuel economy with the two base engines in either, the Wrangler’s smaller stature makes it slightly better on fuel.

    With that being said, the optional EcoDiesel available in Unlimited gives a boost to that fuel economy. What may be a deciding factor is whether or not your daily driving needs mean carrying passengers, at which point the Wrangler Unlimited would be the way to go. 

    Final Thoughts: Wrangler vs Wrangler Unlimited

    Personal needs and wants are going to be the deciding factor when it comes to choosing between the Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited. Some people might like the smaller, more compact Wrangler while others might prefer the capacity the larger Unlimited offers. That choice is more personal preference than anything else.

    While both vehicles will perform well in any situation they are put in, the difference between things like cargo capacity, or towing capacity will be big determining factors depending on how either is intended to be used. With that being said, there are areas where one outshines the other, and below are our picks for which one stood out in some important categories.

    Off-Road Capability:  Wrangler | Wrangler Unlimited

    Towing / Hauling:  Wrangler | Wrangler Unlimited

    Road Trips:  Wrangler | Wrangler Unlimited

    Daily Driver:  Wrangler | Wrangler Unlimited

    People Also Ask

    We’ve covered a lot for you to make an informed decision when you head out to shop for your next Jeep. With that being said, there are sometimes still some questions. Here are some of the most frequent questions we get asked.

    Where is the Jeep Wrangler Made?

    The Jeep Wrangler is American made, being built in Toledo, Ohio.

    Where Are Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Made?

    The Wrangler Unlimited is also made in Toledo, Ohio.

    How Many Miles Can a Jeep Wrangler Last?

    How long your Jeep Wrangler will last is relative to how well it is taken care of. With that being said, it’s not unheard of for Wranglers to last between 200,000 miles and 400,000 miles.

    Cory

    Cory epitomizes the 'function over form' debate. His XJ Cherokee has taken many a beating due to his lust for climbing the tallest ledges he can find and is armored to the max. Welded on sliders, tube fenders, and no bumpers allow him to achieve some pretty crazy approaches. We regularly tease him that there's more rust than paint on his rig, but that’s his style. Cory's favorite new mod is a larger winch he bought off a buddy after his Smitty cooked itself, trying to yank his buddy out of a ravine.