Top 10 cars for summer

2. Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

Chrysler Group LLC/PRNewsFoto/File
The 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Altitude, a great summer car, includes power windows and locks even though the doors are removable.

Essentially unchanged since it first saw duty on the battlefields of World War II, what we now know as the Jeep Wrangler may command the most recognizable shape of any car on Earth. The Chrysler Group has been wise enough not to mess with success and, as a result, the Wrangler is the only new vehicle still sporting a removable roof, doors, and windshield. You can’t get much closer to nature than that!

Since the 2007 release of the four-door “Unlimited” variant, sharing those sun-soaked afternoon with friends has never been easier. This latest incarnation of the famous Jeep design, officially known as the “JK,” features many accessibility upgrades for the first time on a Wrangler. Power windows and locks were made available while retaining removability of the doors. The traditionally flat windshield is now curved to decrease road noise and increase aerodynamics, if only slightly.

Such modernizations, along with some rather dramatic plastic cladding, may seem sacrilege to the off-road purist.  But those enhancements make the vehicle substantially more useable as a daily driver than its predecessors, and that’s a major plus for the average consumer. My only gripe is the color selection – an iconic 4x4 like this should be rendered in flat green or tan, but the paint options remind me more of an Easter basket than a military motor pool.

The Unlimited Sport (base model) starts at $25,545 with the two-door Wrangler Sport coming in about $2,500 less. All Wranglers achieve 18 miles per gallon (m.p.g.) in combined conditions, regardless of trim or transmission.

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