Drive Time: Wrangler well-equipped for climb up Devil’s Gulch Road
October 6, 2017
It's not the cinnamon rolls; that's not what draws me up the road to Glen Haven.
It was the 2017 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon Recon and the opportunity to show its mountain prowess that carried me back there last Saturday, two days before the road closed for winter repair.
U.S. 34 from the Dam Store to Estes Park will be closed until late May 2018, and that includes the cutoff at Drake for the Devil's Gulch Road past Glen Haven.
Devil's Gulch is noted for a pair of hairpin switchbacks and the Wrangler was well-equipped for that steep climb, shortly before reaching Estes.
The four-door Wrangler Rubicon is packed with a five-speed automatic transmission, dating back to when the Chrysler brands were part of Mercedes-Benz of Germany from 1998-2007. It's the last Chrysler/Dodge/Ram/Jeep product using the 5-speed auto.
That workhorse transmission, locked in first gear and tied to Jeep's 285-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 engine, and the Jeep's body-on-frame structure, 10-inch ground clearance with half-inch suspension lift and a very tight turning radius handled the sharp ascent with ease.
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The extended-length Unlimited model is a popular Jeep and demand for used versions has kept resale values at unusually high levels. It has basically the same exterior appearance of other Wranglers. The Rubicon Recon package added a power-dome hood with functioning air vents, side rock rails with tread plates (step pads) for fending off boulders and heavy debris, a winch-capable steel bumper with red tow hooks and a military-inspired, beefed-up Dana front axle for added durability.
Regarding the rolls, they're a cinnamon delicacy prepared by Steve and Becky Childs, who have just finished their 37th year as owners and operators of the Glen Haven General Store. Childs closed the store today and expects to reopen in May.
This is the second winter the road to Estes Park has been closed by the Colorado Department of Transportation for continued road and stream reconstruction from damage in a 2013 flood.
A redesigned four-door Wrangler Unlimited, built in Toledo, Ohio, like the earliest of Jeeps back in the '40s, was introduced in August 2006 as an '07 model. Its track was widened by 3.4 inches and its wheelbase is 20 inches longer than the short Wrangler two-door.
The 2017 Wrangler review model brought to me was finished in rhino clearcoat. Depending on the brightness or lack of, its hue can range from battleship gray to navy blue to almost black. Its red tow hooks are a standout both front and back and, inside, it has red seat belts. The top over the front seats can be removed by twisting four latches. Its transfer case is still shifted with a floor-mounted lever; it will crawl over most anything in four-wheel-drive low-range.
Jan and I drove it on to crowded Estes Park, where visitors were in such numbers many were forced to park along the sides of roads at the town's edges. In descending Big Thompson Canyon on the main U.S. 34 roadway, I used second and third gears in the Jeep to maintain "slowdown control" and avoid frequent braking. At the Interstate 25/ U.S. 34 intersection east of Loveland at Johnstown, we stopped and joined in the grand opening of the 240,000-square-foot Scheels sporting goods store. For the 110 miles, the Wrangler averaged 18.3 miles per gallon.
The Rubicon Recon amenity package, along with Alpine premium audio and GPS navigation lifted the price of the Jeep from a base of $37,445 to $48,870.
— Bud Wells, a native of Wray, is a former Page 1 editor of the Denver Post and has reviewed automobiles for the past 40 years. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.