This is my review of my '11 JKU I took delivery of in September of this year.
2011 JKU Sport, Flame Red, 6 spd, 24s option package (tinted windows, pwr locks/ mirrors/ windows, heated mirrors, alloy wheels) factory step bars, soft top, U-Connect w/ bluetooth & EVIC (non-nav/ touchscreen)
Got at the only Jeep dealer in Wilmington, NC. Jeep was built in May of '11 and delivered to original dealer in Greensboro, NC in June of '11.
Has had 1st oil change service and is (as I type this) having the top skin replaced due to the fabric pulling through the screws on the number 2 bow (the one behind/ above the rear seat.)
When I decided I wanted a Jeep for real, I began to research it. I found this and other sites and read about the problems, the leaks, the likes, the dislikes. Yet I still wanted one. I did something that I recommend anyone who has never owned a Jeep in their life or their experience is limited to the occasional drive in a buddy's: I rented one for a week. I got mine from Enterprise. They aren't usually listed online and won't be available from an airport location. I have a good relationship with one of the branches here in town as I usually rent a large truck for work an average of at least once a year for four or more weeks. The Jeep I rented was a '10 base model with hard top and auto. That's it. Not other options. Roll up windows, manual mirrors, etc. I knew I wanted a soft top and I knew I wanted a 6 spd and I knew that the '11 interior was decades ahead of the '10. I wanted to see if I could enjoy a Jeep as a daily driver, after working 14+ hours a day on set in the heat or on the beach in the heat (the beach is fun, but not when you are on it all day filming, chasing extras and keeping the public out of the shots.) Finally, the Jeep had to pass the bosses: wife and 7 year old daughter. Obviously since I am reviewing, the rental passed all criteria!
I wanted a manual and originally wanted mango tango. Local dealer didn't have one in stock. Found one in VA. That's a long way away and this was just after Irene came through. I was versed on leakage issues and wanted to avoid a vehicle that had been through a hurricane. Not only that, but the Jeep had been built in October of 2010. Why had nobody bought it for almost 11 months? I didn't want a vehicle that ben exposed to southern hear for almost a year (BTW: thanks to info and links in the 2012 info thread I was able to find out the build dates and delivery dates of any Wrangler I was looking at.) I found a mango in Charlotte and also found a flame red in Greensboro. I liked the looks of the Flame Red as it had the factory tube sep rails. I felt it made it look more upscale, complete. Still think that. The mango in CLT had a build date of April and the one in Greensboro had a May build date. I went with the later date.
Used Tread Lightly and had no issues. Only got 1% below invoice, they wouldn't budge on that. Got great deal on '07 Hyundai Tucson SE 4WD. I leased (I know, I know but I did it for business/ tax purposes, heck, may even buy it at the end of the lease... Who am I kidding? The new hotness Wrangler will be out by then...) Entire deal was set up on the phone and via email. I was working on a show at the time (an HBO show about a former pro baseball player...) and had very little time to deal with everything. We ended up filming at a location next to the dealership when the Jeep came in and over the course of two lunches/ two days had my Tucson appraised, inspected the Jeep, signed the paperwork, transferred my 4 years of junk and drove away. Pretty great sales experience. It helped that there was no haggling on the Jeep and because of the low balance owed on the Hyundai and it is a relatively good gas mileage car I got a good deal on the trade. They sold the Hyundai for $1500 more than the trade. Every won.
As with most, I lowered the top as soon as I could. The top does not have a steep learning curve. If you have never lowered a Jeep top have e dealership show you or study the manual. The quick tip sheet leaves a few steps out. Getting the top back up is even more of a challenge... but can be done with one person. I find myself using the Sunrider and removing side windows and unzipping and lowering rear window more than taking down the entire top. Almost same feeling, less hassle. I have taken the front doors off, but not the back. 7 year old still in booster (NC law) and don't feel it's safe enough for her yet. Didn't realize the following two things would happen:
1. Accessory power stays on for a minute (think that's the setting I have in the EVIC) unless you open the front door... Well, with no front door on to open the accessory power stays on. Couldn't figure out what was going on. That was amusing walking away from the Jeep while Kid's Place Live was still blasting.
2. Even though the front doors are off, if you use the remote to lock the doors (habit) you need to "unlock" the doors before putting key in ignition or the alarm will go off.
The interior of the Jeep is great. I came from a '07 Tucson so I didn't come from the lap of luxury or high performance. The front seats are supportive and have just enough give. I haven't sat in the back seat so can't tell you about that. If you have never been in a Jeep with power windows, you are in for a surprise: the controls are in the middle of the dash. Having had a Saturn VUE this wasn't a problem. But someone who has never had that kind of set up may find it off-putting at 1st. The rear window controls take a LOT of getting used to. They are in the bottom of the console. My daughter can't reach them when she has her sea belt on... Extra safety. The cig style power adaptor in the large console storage stays on even when Jeep is off. I feel that the Jeep has plenty of room inside, lots of leg room and the soft top has tons of head room... Even when the top is up. Yes it can be bit louder in the soft top. But I have noticed an interesting thing: it's louder in the back than the front when the top is up. Of course the front has metal doors and glass windows, the back is fabric and vinyl. Unadvertised safety feature: due to the back being louder, nothing sneaks up on you. I can even hear a Prius coming up on me in the dead of night!
Sound system is pretty good, I felt. I'm not an audiophile, so. I did find that tweaking the fader setting a notch or two to the rear gives a better 'surround' sound, can actually hear the rears. I may upgrade rear speakers, may not. I had a few issues with using my iPhone 4 with U Connect but it turned out to be my cable. Had a short in it. Have had no problems with my new iPhone 4S. The Bluetooth works great. Even with Sunrider down at hwy speeds, caller could understand me. Audio streaming on Bluetooth is ok, better sound through iPhone/ iPod cable. Tip: if when you first use iPhone for the day and have both Bluetooth and cable going you may have to choose which connection you want on the device, especially if you use the u-Connect button on the wheel or radio unit. Couldn't figure out why the unit would show music being played but no audio. Checked device and for some reason U-Connect was using Bluetooth when it cable was selected. Otherwise, good unit. FYI: the sat radio antennae is in the roll bar, just over the front passenger.
Leaks: apparently the Jeep dealer in Greensboro did all the leak TSBs as there are pieces of black foam on the header, along the front door frame top, etc. I have only noticed damp carpets once or twice. Areas were: front passenger floor board and rear driver side floorboard. Will see if it continues after the top skin is replaced (only replacing the skin, not the windows, header or other bows.)
The ride is well... Jeep. It's actually better than I expected. They must have tweaked the suspension for the '11 because it is much nicer than the '10 was. Maybe it's the bigger tires on my '11. We took the Jeep on a trip from Wilmington, NC to Tampa, FL in late September - 10 hour drive. Jeep did great. Ride wasn't too bumpy. Jeep didn't wander. 75% of the trip was on the poorly maintained I95. This highway has bounced my wife's Santa Fe all over the place. The fuel economy on the Jeep was better than expected. EVIC showed a average of 20-21mpg at an average 72 mph. EVIC was a little optimistic. Gas Cubby app indicated average of 19-20. Still, not too shabby for a pair of stepped rectangles on four wheels.
Off road experience has been very limited (gasp!) But, it's a Jeep. No problems there. Haven't taken it on the beach yet, but I will soon.
Overall: love my Jeep. Always wanted one and finally had the stars line up (and finances and Jeep deals) so I can get one. Love the ability to set it up any way I want in regards to the doors and the top. I love riding with the top down or in Sunrider position and windows out. I don't feel that the engine is underpowered. But then again, Wilmington is flat. Also, I have the 6 spd and that gives you a bit of control over the power. I've modified my driving style in attempts to keep the ECO light on (wow, you have to drive like a 90 year old woman to keep it all the time, it is obviously set for an auto because you have to give it a bit of gas with manual to get going and that cuts the light off) so I don't have my foot on the floor all the time. Wen I need to the Jeep can move though. Have even inadvertently chirped the tires a few times
I actually feel a bit safer in my Jeep for several reasons:
1. It's size. The JKU is not a behemoth, but it's not a Mini Roadster, either. It's width and height make it feel substantial, sturdy.
2. The upright driving position that is designed for increase visibility on the trail also gives you increased visibility on the road.
3. JK & JKU models stand out. They are easily seen. Being seen goes a long way towards preventing accidents. That's why motorcycles always have headlights on.
So, if you want a Jeep I recommend renting one for a week, living with it. Realize it is not a sports car, not a luxury car, not an economy car. It is a Jeep.
Oh yeah, don't forget to wave. It's rude to not wave back!