I test drove just about every combination of TJ (97-06) vs. JK (07+), manual vs. automatic, hard vs. soft top, 2dr vs. 4dr, etc. And I went with the 2dr manual JK. The manual can be a pain at times (sitting in traffic). But it felt more authentic to me. If I was going to get a Jeep, I was going to get a manual. You'll pick it up quickly. And I could tell a HUGE difference in the drive and ride of the JK. I felt much more in control with it. I would definitely recommend it, even for a secondary vehicle. I can't offer any advice on the soft vs. hard top in the winter, as I live in Texas. But I do wish I had gotten a hard top instead of softop. There's a lot more road noise with the softop, and it can leak if it rains (or snows I assume). And I've had a difficult time trying to find a hardtop now, other than from the dealership. They are few and far between.