Compact SUV; Built in USA
  • 2-door convertible
  • longitudinal front-engine/rear- or 4-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $4,000 – $15,500*

1997 Jeep Wrangler Sahara

1997 Jeep Wrangler

1997 Jeep Wrangler Sport

1997 Jeep Wrangler interior

1997 Jeep Wrangler X-Ray

  • Optional antilock brakes
  • 4WD versatility
  • Maneuverability
  • Acceleration (4-cylinder)
  • Fuel economy
  • Noise

True Wrangler fans don’t fret about its flaws. For other potential owners, the great strides made in safety, ride quality, and refinement in this generation bring Wrangler closer than before to serving as an everyday vehicle.


Dual airbags went into redesigned Wranglers, introduced in early 1996 as ’97 models. A revised suspension that did away with the leaf springs was also new. Appearance did not change so much, except for installation of round headlamps. Three trim levels went on sale: SE, Sport, and Sahara. The new canvas top, with plastic windows, folded more like a traditional convertible’s roof. A hardtop with full metal doors and roll-up glass windows was optional. Wheelbase was again 93.4 inches, and overall length was identical to that of the earlier model. Powertrains were as before: a 4-cylinder engine in the SE, and a 4.0-liter inline six for both the Sport and Sahara. A 5-speed manual transmission was standard; 3-speed automatic optional. Command-Trac 4-wheel drive was standard, and antilock brakes were optional only on the Sport and Sahara.

Yearly Updates

1998 Wrangler
Wrangler received no changes for ’98.
1999 Wrangler
Changes included rotary climate controls (replacing sliding levers) and standardizing the 19.0 gallon fuel tank. Previously, it had been an option.
2000 Wrangler
Child-seat tethers were added to the rear seat, and the 6-cylinder engine earned modifications aimed at smoother operation. The Sport’s standard AM/FM radio added a cassette player, and the Sahara exchanged a cassette player for a CD player. The optional tilt steering wheel in SE and Sport was now the same leather-covered unit that was standard in Sahara.
2001 Wrangler
Wrangler models got standard intermittent windshield wipers, a revised center console, an optional subwoofer, and a plastic instead of metal Add-a-Trunk storage compartment for 2001.
2002 Wrangler
The new X model joined the lineup for 2004. Sport, Rubicon, and X also get a standard CD player this year.
2003 Wrangler
The previous 4-cyl engine is replaced with a dual-overhead-cam 2.4 liter shared with Jeep’s Liberty SUV. This new engine makes 147 hp. The 6-cylinder is unchanged, but optional on both engines is a new 4-speed automatic transmission. Also new for ’03 are redesigned front seats, LATCH-type rear child-seat anchors, and an available rearview mirror with temperature and compass display.
2004 Wrangler
In 2004, a tilt steering wheel became standard on the Wrangler.
2005 Wrangler
The availability of a 6-speed manual transmission marks 2005 for Jeep’s Wrangler.
2006 Wrangler
Jeep’s compact SUV revives the Golden Eagle moniker as an option package for 2006. This package includes Tire and Wheel Group AAS plus spare-tire cover, unique interior and exterior trim, and badging.


longitudinal front-engine/rear- or 4-wheel drive

Wranglers were equipped with either a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, developing 120 horsepower, or a 4.0-liter inline 6-cylinder that produced 181 horsepower. Either a 5-speed manual or optional 3-speed automatic transmission might be installed. All Wranglers had Command-Trac 4-wheel drive. Engine improvements to the six added nine horsepower to 190. In ’03 the original 4-cylinder was replaced by a 2.4-liter dual-cam unit from Jeep’s Liberty. Also, the available 3-speed automatic was replaced by a 4-speed on both engines. In ’05, Wrangler got a 6-speed manual transmission.

ohv I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.5/151
Engine HP 120
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 140
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
3-speed automatic
6-speed manual
dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.4/148
Engine HP 147
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 165
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
6-speed manual
ohv I6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 4.0/242
Engine HP 181-190
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 222-235
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
3-speed automatic

Road Test

Wranglers really are more carlike than before–far better in ride quality and ergonomics. Occupant comfort is vastly improved, though few would call the Wrangler experience comfortable. The new suspension is a lot more absorbent, true, but it still reacts abruptly to dips and bumps. Unless the pavement really gets nasty, though, the ride isn’t jarring.

Original 4-cylinder Wrangler with manual shift has trouble merging or overtaking fast-moving freeway traffic. Performance in a 5-speed Wrangler with the 6-cylinder engine gets reasonably vigorous–though accompanied by considerable engine and gear noise. New 4 cyl is more refined than the 6 cyl, and though it’s somewhat sluggish away from a stop, it has adequate merging and passing response. Fuel economy is tolerable, but no bonus. A 5-speed Sahara with the 6-cylinder engine averaged 19.3 mpg.

Wind noise is abundant where the roof meets the windshield frame. Doors seal poorly too, with the canvas top in place. That canvas top also flutters, while the optional hardtop “drums” at highway speeds. Taking the top up and down is easier than before, but still a frustrating chore. Full instruments now are clustered in front of the driver, not spread out as in prior Wranglers. Two adults now fit in back without squeezing, but the cushion and backrest are hard and short. Interior storage is better than in earlier Wranglers. Space behind the back seat is modest.


Model Tested: 2002 Jeep Wrangler Sahara 6-cylinder

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 4
Fuel Economy - 4
Ride Quality - 1
Steering/Handling - 3
Quietness - 1


Controls/Materials - 3
Room/Comfort Front - 4
Room/Comfort Rear - 2
Cargo Room - 6


Value - 3

Total: 31


2-door convertible
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
93.4 151.8 66.7 70.2
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
55.7 15.0-19.0 4
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
42.3 40.6 41.1 34.9
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1999 Wrangler 2-door convertible


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
Front Passenger Injury - 4

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 71
Injury 73
Theft 156

Trouble Spots

Air conditioner
Description: Water leaks onto passenger side floor from A/C requiring an extension on the condensate drain tube. (1997-03)
Description: The doors may not unlock with the key, requiring replacement of the door latches. (1997)
Fuel gauge
Description: The gas-gauge needle may not point to full, may show 1/8 to 1/4 full when the tank is empty. (1997)
Fuel odors
Description: The gas tank may fill slowly or the pump nozzle will keep shutting off due to a problem with the fuel-tank venting system. (1997)
Manual transmission
Description: High shift effort on 5-speed manual transmission may be remedied with a replacement shift shaft lever and shift detent plunger. (1999-2000)
Steering problems
Description: Fluid leaks from the power-steering reservoir. (1997)
Water leak
Description: Water may leak onto the passenger-side front floor due to leaks in the heater and air-conditioner housing or from a problem with the evaporator drain tube. (1997)

Recall History

1997 Wrangler
Description: Airbag-control module on some vehicles contains an error that can delay deployment in certain crash situations.
1997 Wrangler
Description: Airbag could deploy inadvertently when ignition is shut off.
1997 Wrangler w/manual steering
Description: Driver’s airbag-wiring harness can break when steering wheel is turned to “full lock” position; in crash, airbag would not deploy.
1997-03 Wrangler w/Bestop hardtop and roof rack
Description: With some rear shell roof racks made for use with aftermarket Bestop hardtop, cockpit cover may not stay latched and could separate from the roof rack.
1998 Wrangler
Description: Power-brake booster-vacuum reservoir diaphragm can split or tear; may cause increase in engine-idle speed and loss of power brake assist.
1998 Wrangler
Description: Front-seatbelt shoulder anchors were not properly heat treated and hardened; in a crash, occupant may not be properly restrained.
1999 Wrangler
Description: Instrument-panel ground-attachment screws could loosen over time, possibly affecting gauges and/or defroster.
2001 Wrangler
Description: Some of the owner’s manuals for these vehicles are missing instructions for properly attaching a child-restraint system’s tether strap to the tether anchorage.
2001-02 Wrangler
Description: Water may leak into the ignition switch, causing a short circuit and possibly a fire.
2002 Wrangler w/4.0-liter engine
Description: Debris can accumulate in the intake and exhaust manifolds, increasing the risk of fire.
2005-06 Wrangler w/42RLE automatic transmission
Description: Cup plug that retains park pawl anchor shaft may be improperly installed; if it changes position, vehicle may not be able to achieve “Park” position.
2006 Wrangler w/ 6-speed manual transmissions
Description: The hydraulic clutch master cylinder linkage rod may break, causing unintentional vehicle movement, increased stopping distance, and engine stalling. Dealers will replace the clutch master cylinder linkage rod free of charge.
Description: The antilock brake system control module software may cause the rear brakes to lock up during certain braking conditions. This could result in a loss of vehicle control and cause a crash without warning. Dealers will reprogram the ABS electronic control unit.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.

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