What is it?
Jeep’s Wrangler hasn’t changed much over the years.
Unless you count the four-door and of course the hugely desirable utility — the Gladiator (what a great name).
But they all have one thing in common, they’re all focused on off road performance and it’s their saving grace — and Achilles heel at the same time.
You see it’s so difficult to be good at both, to go bumping along the Rubicon Trail, then turn right around and head into the city for work on Monday morning.
But, like Glen Campbell’s famous rhinestone cowboy, the Wrangler just keeps on keeping on.
What’s it cost?
The action gets underway with the two-door Wrangler S, followed by our test vehicle Wrangler Overland, both with a 3.6-litre V6 petrol engine and 8-speed auto..
The same car with four doors will set you back $63,950, both prices before on-road costs.
McKinley Leather Trimmed Seats with Overland Logo, two-zone climate air conditioniung, body colour, 3-piece removable hard top with Freedom Panels, removable doors, 18 inch alloy wheels, push-button start, heated seats and steering wheel, LED head, tail and fog lights, daytime LEDs, auto lights and wipers, auto dimming rear view mirror, front and rear park sensors, 230V Power Outlet and Remote Start System
The huge Uconnect 8.4 inch touchscreen includes Satellite Navigation, digital radio plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.9-speaker 522 watt Alpine Premium Audio System (that thing in the boot is a subwoofer).
Safety features include four airbags, Auto Emergency Braking (AEB), Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop, Blind-Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Path detection, ParkView Rear Backup Camera with Dynamic Grid Lines, Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and Electronic Roll Mitigation (ERM).
What’s it go like?
Like it or not if you hanker for a two-door, you’ve get a petrol V6 as part of the deal.
It’s just the way it is. A diesel is available only with the top of the line four-door Rubicon Unlimited.
Unfortunately, that V6 means higher fuel consumption than you might like, but it does deliver some serious performance when required.
For example, take the bloke in the Ranger Raptor who we encountered. He obviously believed that he was king of the road . . . but the humble Wrangler had him covered.
The Pentastar V6 is teamed with a new Torque Flite eight-speed automatic transmission with Stop-Start (ESS) technology and the Selec-Trac 4×4 system (Jeep has more than one).
It’s an old tech multi-point injection unit, with 209kW of power and 347Nm, the latter available from 4100 revs.
The dash from 0-100km/h takes a creditable 7.5 seconds and it uses a claimed 9.6L/100km.
Getting in and out of the Wrangler requires a step up and step over the prominent door sill.
Once you’re in it’s okay however, with sports seats that are surprisingly comfortable and a steering wheel that is both reach and height adjustable.
The seats are even heated and so is the steering wheel, in preparation for colder climes.
But alas there’s no footrest.
The front seats flip forward to provide access to two seats in the rear, but failed to lock on a slope.
And, if you’re feeling claustrophobic, the doors and most of the roof come off.
Get it dirty and you can hose it out, with a one-way drain valves in the floor to let the water flow out but not back in.
Just remove the carpet and you can wash out the interior with a hose.
A flat Beetle-style dash encompasses a bewildering array of controls, with many functions replicated in the large, dominant touchscreen.
Two analogue instrument dials flank a central information screen where your speed can be displayed digitally.
The impressive touchscreen also boasts satellite navigation, with warnings for school zones and speed cameras.
After driving an endless stream of diesels and four cylinder cars, it was refreshing to feel the throb and hear the sound of an honest to goodness six.
Plant it and the thing gets up and boogies, regardless of the fact it’s an off roader.
At the same time, the ride is soft and pillowy, with steering that is far from precise.
Off road however the same suspension gets to do what its designed to do, and that’s soak up the dips and bumps of fire trails.
The Selec-Trac 4×4 system is the entry version and there are no diff locks, but with proper low range gearing, 260mm of ground clearance and plenty of wading ability, it’s a force to be reckoned with.
The road-oriented Bridgestone Duelers fitted to our test vehicle could be a limiting factor however.
Four-wheel drive is engaged via a traditional transfer lever, with a 4×4 auto setting.
A plaque inside the rear tailgate provides the dimensions of the car including the “water fording” depth which happens to be 30 inches at 5 mph, proudly proclaiming the car is designed in Auburn Hills, Michigan and built in Toledo, Ohio.
Sorry folks, no metric conversion (but we can tell you it’s 760mm).
If you’re planning an off road adventure, this is a good choice of vehicle, with the ability and confidence to go just about anywhere.
The one thing I dislike about driving the Wrangler off road is the lack of forward vision.
You’ve got no idea where the end of that long bonnet is and no concept of where your wheels are.
It might explain why, every time I hear stories about the Rubicon Trail, they always include someone directing you where to drive — or more specifically where to place your wheels.
With a 66-litre tank and rated at 9.6L/100km, we were getting 10.4 after close to 400km.
Maximum braked tow capacity for this one is 1497kg.
Wrangler comes with a 5-year, 100,000km warranty, lifetime road assist if serviced with Jeep and service intervals of 12 months or 12,000km.
What we like?
- Strong road presence
- Six cylinder performance
- Tough as proverbial nails
- Amazingly comfortable
What we don’t like?
- Cluttered dash
- No footrest
- High fuel consumption
- Vague steering
- Soft on-road ride
- Small boot
The bottom line?
Like a good Boy Scout, be prepared.
The Wrangler is not for everyone. But if you like getting away from it all, and often, the Wrangler is the car to get you there and back again in one piece.
If you just fancy the look and the idea of driving a Wrangler, be careful because as a day to day proposition it could wear out its welcome.
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Jeep Wrangler Overland, priced from $59,450
- Looks - 8/108/10
- Performance - 7.5/107.5/10
- Safety - 8/108/10
- Thirst - 6/106/10
- Practicality - 7/107/10
- Comfort - 7.5/107.5/10
- Tech - 7.5/107.5/10
- Value - 7.5/107.5/10