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The Wrangler is pretty iconic. Its looks are unique – we don’t think there are many cars that look even slightly like it - and at the same time it’s a great car too. As well as the looks, its got a standard spec that features hill start/descent control, cruise control, hands-free calling, and a premium audio system. Call us today for your Jeep Wrangler contract hire or car leasing option.
Bigger, better built, with a far better ride and a diesel engine option at last, the Jeep Wrangler is now something more than a novelty plaything. True, it’s still hardly the most practical 4x4 unless your idea of practicality is wallowing in mud but it’s now usable in Surbiton as well as across the Serengeti.
And if you’re prepared to put up with a slightly utilitarian feel, it’ll reward you with a unique character all of its own.
Jeep designers have struggled with the need to develop this icon without losing its distinct appeal. Their biggest challenge came with this ‘JK’ version, with the need to justify its existence in a modern 4x4 market that claims to have an answer to every need. Jeep’s response was offer two Wrangler ‘firsts’, five doors and diesel power.
Previous Wranglers never had to be very good on road. As long as they didn’t shake your fillings out on the way to your surf shack, all would be forgiven once you set a tyre on the rough stuff. Jeep had to appeal beyond those who might use their cars as weekend mountain playthings.
So they started again with the chassis for this car – it’s now 100% stiffer, so the whole thing doesn’t bounce about so much on country roads. Extra torsional rigidity and an upgraded five-link suspension system help too. Even more important is the 174bhp 2. 8-litre turbo diesel engine fitted to virtually all UK Wranglers, though a 3. 8-litre V6 petrol unit is also offered on the two-door version.
The diesel offers a hefty 410Nm of torque but the pulling power is available only in quite a narrow band between 2000 and 2600rpm, so you have to swap cogs around the 6-speed manual gearbox quite often to make full use of it. Body roll is not surprisingly greater than you’d find in a ‘school run’ 4x4 but I was surprised to find that it’s now quite possible to cruise at 80mph and hold a civilised conversation. Cutting to the chase, yes, if you wanted to, you now could quite happily live with this as an only car.
But if you think that means this Jeep has gone soft for rough terrain work, then you’d be wrong. Switch from two to four wheel drive, make full use of the low range transfer case and you’ll find that it’s now even more capable thanks to greater ground clearance, improved approach and departure angles for steep slopes and a clever brake lock differential system that can slow down a spinning wheel to equalise torque across an axle and so boost traction just when you need it most. The only thing I’d change is this low-mounted rear numberplate, which can be quickly dislodged by proper mud-plugging.
This is unmistakably a Jeep Wrangler. Iconic features like the seven-bar grille, the fold-flat windscreen and the removable doors are all present and correct and the two-door short wheelbase model should do little to upset diehard enthusiasts. Sales growth though has come from the four-door Unlimited version, a car that looks something like a mini-Hummer and is 50cm longer and 12. 7cm wider than its stablemate. Out back, the two-tier tailgate opens to reveal a boot capacity of either 1310 or 2320 litres, depending on whether you fold the 60/40 split rear seat.
That extra half a metre’s length makes possible a back seat with room for two adults or maybe three kids in a space that though not generous, is perfectly adequate. No, it’s not super high quality but at least you no longer feel you’re piloting something that would pass muster as an exhibit in the Imperial War Museum, there’s everything you need and nothing you don’t with loads of wipe-clean surfaces that encourage you to use the car in the way it was intended, rather than making you feel worried every time you get in with muddy boots. It’s really all rather refreshing compared to the SUV norm.
You’ve still got to be serious about hardcore off-road driving to consider a Jeep Wrangler – but not quite as serious as you had to be before. The Unlimited model makes a decent fist of providing versatile family transport for the user who doesn’t mind making a few sacrifices at the altar of comfort, ride and handling. It’s got a style all of its own and its heart and soul remain on the Rubicon Trail rather than on Staples Corner. Thank goodness for that.