Welcome to the 2021 model year Jeep online configurator. You can now waste your free hours configuring your very own 2021 Wrangler or Gladiator. In the Wrangler section you’ll be greeted by the new Islander, 80th Anniversary, and Altitude models. Gone are the North Edition and Freedom models and I doubt that anyone will miss them. Three top choices, four engine choices, and two transmission choices provide endless fun.
The Gladiator range grows as well. Willys, unofficially known as Rubicon Light, is added and it’s damn solid choice. Like the Wrangler, 80th Anniversary and a posh High Altitude models are added and the North Edition is gone. The big news is addition of the diesel engine to all but Mojave models. The Mojave does not get the diesel due to its weigh, which would kill its finely tuned suspension calibration.
Tops and Fenders
While playing around with the configurators, I noticed something very disturbing. This fact was originally pointed out to by a friend who bought a Wrangler Rubicon in 2018. Each of these Jeeps comes with unpainted black fenders. On some models, painted fenders are standard (Sahara, High Altitude, Overland) or optionally painted to match (Sport, Rubicon, Mojave). Let’s ignore the fact that high-clearance (Rubicon) and wide fenders (Max Trailering Package) also exist and just focus on aesthetics.
On each of those Jeep models, a selection of tops are available. The Gladiator comes standard with a softtop or one can opt for an optional hardtop. On some models that hardtop can be painted to the body color. Things get trickier with the Wrangler as that comes with a softtop and an available black three-piece hardtop. On some models that hardtop can be painted to the body color. Making things more complicated is the existence of an available Sky One-Touch power top. That power tops are always painted in the body color of the Jeep.
The troubling part is that some vehicles come standard with color-matched fenders but only a black hardtop is available. Likewise, many models on which the Sky One-Touch power top is available, painted fenders are not an option. And crazily, as seen in these photos, the Wrangler Willys comes with black fenders but is available with a color-matched top and the Gladiator Willys comes with painted fenders but is only available with a black top.
What the even slightly obsessive–compulsives among can find irritating is the look of a black-fendered vehicle with a color-match top. The opposite, a vehicle with color-matched fenders and black top can be found equally offensive. Either of those mismatches, in your humble author’s opinion, look especially bad on a black vehicle. Perhaps Jeep would make a rule that either all fenders and tops get painted on each, or none. This would allow some of us sleep better at night.
Pros and Cons
Other than looks, there are pros and cons to choosing each type of a fender or roof. The pros having black fenders and tops is that they are less prone to scratches, which can occur on a trail or when removing the top. The cons are the fact that black fenders tend to fade over the years.
The pros of the painted fenders are mostly visual and the fact that they won’t fade. The cons of these painted panels is that they would need to be professionally re-painted if damaged or replaced. Pick your poison.
Limited Edition Models
If there is a company that loves limited edition models, it’s FCA. The 2021 Wrangler Islander special edition is available with a white three-piece hardtop. But the Islander comes only with black fenders. This is certainly an interesting color combination. If the white hardtop looks familiar, it’s because the 2017 Wrangler Chief was also available with a white hardtop.
The Real Problem
Choosing the fenders and top colors of your new Jeep is not a problem. We can make that decision fairly quickly. The problem arises when one goes to buy the vehicle. Having had a few friends who recently purchased Jeeps, I walked around many dealer lots. The issue is that dealers get, or order, seemly random color and option combinations. Most of the people end up buying whatever is on the dealer lot. It is possible to order your own custom Jeep but that takes time and even that is at times off when it arrives.