• Motor Week Examines The Then-New 1997 Jeep Wrangler TJ

The Jeep Wrangler TJ is considered by many to be the first Wrangler to reach mass appeal in a market beyond the rugged outdoorsmen. It debuted in 1997 with a far more comfortable interior and a more refined pair of powertrains than the previous Wrangler YJ. So what did journalists think of the now-classic TJ when it was new?

Take a gander at Motor Week’s retro review.

John Davis gives the TJ a thorough inspection in this 1997 taping of the popular automotive program. First to be mentioned is the TJ’s updated looks. Gone were the controversial square headlights from the outgoing YJ, while the gas filler got relocated to the rear quarter panel on the driver’s side. The windshield also received several changes, namely a four-degree tilt to the rear and a two-inch shortening in height. Thankfully Chrysler kept the windshield’s ability to fold flat across the hood.

Under the squared-off body came a new four-corner coil spring suspension adapted from the Grand Cherokee. It replaced the leaf spring setup front and rear, giving the Jeep a smoother, more compliant ride.

Powering the new-for-’97 Wrangler is a pair of inline engines. The base Wrangler came powered by the 2.5-liter four-cylinder making 120 horsepower and 140 pound-feet of torque while the upper trim levels got the mighty 4.0-liter inline six-cylinder that made 181 horsepower and 222 pound-feet of torque.

Pricing is where the shock comes in. The TJ started at $13,495 while one with options topped out under $20,000.

So enjoy, Jeep fans. This one’s for you.

Mark McNabb
Mark McNabb was a contributor at TopSpeed from 2013 to 2018. Growing up, Mark always had a mind for tinkering on random items throughout his home and dad’s garage, including a 1953 Ford Mainline and 1971 Corvette Stingray.  Read full bio
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