During our week in the Jeep Wrangler, a colleague said: “That’s a bit old world for you.”
Exactly – that’s the whole point of the Jeep Wrangler!
Like the Land Rover Defender, Jeep Wrangler has plenty of modern kit - like Electronic Stability Program (ESP), Electronic Roll Mitigation (ERM) and even air-conditioning – but it’s still original (you can remove the roof and fold the windscreen down).
And Jeep Wrangler is still unbeatable off-road – 68 years of experience assures that.
To be honest, our single week with the Jeep Wrangler wasn’t enough – the beast won us over…and we loved its combination of originality and modern driving dynamics.
Jeep Wrangler Overview
Sure Jeep Wrangler is popular with traditional off-road buyers. But its original looks and dominating on-road presence make it hip and cool with the younger generation – you see many in the heartlands of the advertising industry such as Melbourne’s St Kilda Road and in North Sydney.
We tested the entry-level three-door Jeep Wrangler Sport, powered by a V6 petrol engine and driving through a six-speed manual transmission. Our Jeep Wrangler was stickered at $31,590, but you can also get four door models and a four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine – the range-topper is the $46,990 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon.
The core of the Jeep Wrangler remains unchanged – the body-on-frame chassis, solid axles, removable doors, round headlights, seven-slot grille and of course that fold-down windscreen. And its other core value – legendary off-road capability – has been improved by constant updates.
Inside there is a level of luxury that’s appropriate for 2010 – nice trim materials, comfortable, sculptured seats and even optional satellite navigation and a 20-gig hard drive entertainment system with a 6.5-inch touch screen.
Jeep Wrangler Engine
Big under-bonnet news from the latest updates for the Jeep Wrangler was the launch of the 2.8-litre common-rail turbo-diesel – the first ‘non-military’ Jeep Wrangler to offer a diesel powerplant.
The new 3.8-litre V6 petrol engine (as fitted to our Jeep Wrangler test vehicle) was also a first for the company – the first time this Chrysler engine was fitted north-south, rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive. It’s a modern design featuring – another first for Jeep – electronic throttle control.
With 146kW/315Nm, it certainly got the 1745kgs Jeep Wrangler Sport we tested boogying – strong pulling power at low speeds (as you’d expect from an off-roader) plus plenty of oomph at higher engine speeds for freeway overtaking.
Jeep Wrangler The Interior
Step inside the Jeep Wrangler and you instantly know this isn’t an Asian or European SUV. Looks and feel are distinctly American - and that’s good, something different.
And, not surprisingly for an American vehicle, Jeep Wrangler is comfortable with large, supportive seats. The steering wheel (rake adjustment only) is modern and the instrumentation is comprehensive and contemporary with a retro-style/aviation look.
Forward visibility is good, but the roof structure does restrict rear three-quarter visibility.
Access to the rear is reasonable with tip-and-slide front seats and once there, accommodation is comfortable (the Car Showroom juniors commented on the good visibility provided by the high-riding seat).
Standard audio is a six-speaker CD system with MP3/Auxillary input, but you can option the excellent myGIG Multimedia Infotainment System with hard-drive navigation and music storage- even JPEG photos can be downloaded and viewed on the 6.5-inch screen.
Luggage capacity has been improved with the current generation Jeep Wrangler’s larger overall size and access is easy via the wide-opening tailgate (with its usual externally-mounted spare wheel).
Jeep Wrangler Exterior & Styling
The latest Jeep Wrangler is the biggest yet; 133mm wider than its predecessor and offering a wheelbase of 2424mm. But everywhere you look are styling cues that can be traced back to the original 1941 Jeep Willys.
For starters there is the traditional seven-slot front grille, round headlights, bold, standout wheel-arch flares and even the taillights which are mounted separate from the body.
But look closer and you’ll notice the modern details. Yes, the windscreen is still upright and rectangular, but for the first time the glass is curved (to provide less wind-noise and improved aerodynamics). And the wheel-arch flares now have plastic guards (better resistance to stone damage).
There are also moulded side steps, power windows and modern 16-inch alloy wheels.
Other key elements remain true – like the bonnet with external latches and mounting points for the windscreen to fold to, plus the forged external door and windscreen hinges.
Jeep Wrangler On the Road
Jeep made a concerted effort to enhance the interior quietness of the latest Jeep Wrangler. A few examples: there are 10 individually tuned and isolated body mounting points, extra sound deadening material in the firewall, door and windscreen seals have been improved and even the curved windscreen glass.
And while it’s no Grand Cherokee in the refinement department, the latest Jeep Wrangler was a pleasant place to be during our week behind the wheel.
The 3.8-litre V6 and sturdy six-speed manual transmission get things going with a rush and there’s plenty of acceleration to tackle weekday freeway work.
Not surprisingly with its off-road pedigree the Jeep Wrangler has lots of steering lock which eased the negotiation of our tight CBD car park, but naturally visibility was bit restricted.
And over our high-speed mountain roads loop the Jeep Wrangler was comparable to modern SUVs – a bit of body roll and chassis flex at the very limit but good levels of grip. In fact the latest Jeep Wrangler is 100 per cent stiffer in bending and 50 per cent stiffer in torsion, plus there is revised suspension geometry and new springs/dampers – no wonder it’s so much better on-road.
We didn’t have the opportunity for any ‘Burke and Wills’ off-road work, but the Jeep Wrangler really has nothing to prove there. The latest models now have three under-body skid plates – for the fuel tank, transfer case and automatic transmission oil pan.
Jeep Wrangler Challenges
Considerable changes were made to the steering of the latest Jeep Wrangler – a new recirculating-ball system with the steering knuckles shifted outwards to the wheels. It’s better, but a solid front axle does have its limitations and we would like a bit more feel and directness in the steering department (handy for both on-road and off-road going)
Jeep Wrangler Verdict
If all-out luxury is your go, the Jeep Grand Cherokee might be your cup of tea. The Jeep Wrangler is as good as it gets for a modern twist on an iconic design.
It’s true to the original but in the equipment, refinement, safety and technology departments, the latest Jeep Wrangler is thoroughly modern.
And it’s hard to beat that butch on-road presence.
Jeep Wrangler Competition
Talking icons – the Land Rover Defender springs to mind. It’s perhaps even truer to the original than the Jeep Wrangler - the American beast is ahead in comfort and refinement.
The Suzuki Jimny is a lot less coin and not really in the same league as the Jeep Wrangler but it too will take you just about anywhere.
Jeep Wrangler Likes:
Iconic design; on-road presence; surprisingly comfy; strong petrol engine
A challenge to park in the city; steering lacks feel