Jeep Wrangler Review
Jeeps have their own subculture. There are groups all around the world dedicated to the brand – and the fans are known as Jeepers. That means Jeeps can often do no wrong in the eyes of these devotees. So, we went to Austria to give you our impartial view
- Iconic brand image
- Awesome off-road performance
- Efficient diesel engine
- Cabin space
- Slow on the road
If you’re into Jeeps, you’ll already be aware that the Wrangler is a legend in terms of heritage. If you’re not, we can tell you the model’s DNA goes all the way back to the Second World War. This means the car holds a special place in global automotive history, making it difficult to criticise. But we’re here to be honest, not to worship at the altar of Jeep. So, let’s look at what the new-for-2018 Wrangler is like.
On the Road
There are just two choices of engine. The exciting Wrangler’s 2.8-litre diesel and 3.6-litre V6 petrol have gone. Now there’s a 200PS 2.2-litre diesel and a 272PS 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol. We tried the former in trail-ready Rubicon guise. It comes hooked up to an eight-speed automatic gearbox, and it has a 4x4 arrangement with a 4.0:1 low-range gear ratio, heavyweight axles and axle lockers. This makes the Rubicon invincible at wading, climbing and traversing virtually anywhere. It’s not fast on the road though, with 0-62mph arriving in 10.3 seconds. The top speed is 99mph.
The Sport is the entry-level model, and the sophisticated Wrangler Sahara sits in the middle of the range. The Rubicon we were handed the keys to is the flagship model, but the Sahara is the one that is best for British roads. It's not as die-hard off-road as the Rubicon, but it'll still handle a lot off the tarmac while giving a more compliant ride on the black stuff. That said, all of us who tried different Wranglers agreed none handled like a regular SUV. All have slow and vague steering, and you feel like you’re at the tiller of a boat rather than a car. There’s body roll and tyre squeal in corners, so you need to concentrate on making sure the Wrangler behaves.
The Rubicon four-door diesel is hushed and relatively refined. Even at idle there’s no hint of it sounding like a tractor. Things only get less sophisticated when you step hard on the gas, and even then, just a boomy sound enters the cabin. Style-wise, you still get a slab-fronted dashboard, but the materials are better than the last incarnation of Wrangler. The plastics feel more agreeable to the touch and look like they will last for a long time. Indeed, after peeking in all the models, they seem a more elegant place to sit now. And, in the Rubicon, we were particularly impressed with the easy-to-use infotainment system and touchscreen.
In the car
You get a good view when you're sat behind the wheel of the new Wrangler. The high driving position makes you feel confident, and the horizontally arranged switchgear is intuitive to use. However, most of the Wrangler’s features are available by way of the touchscreen. Below this, you get the low range gearbox and a bunch of auxiliary sockets to make adding after-market accessories easy. This has been done to keep the Jeepers happy. Many of these groupies like to customise their vehicles with additional lights. Despite its talents, the Rubicon will only appeal to a minority of the British population, because our terrain doesn’t include many rocky hills or desert trails. That said; the driving experience on-road is still better than, say, the last of the Land Rover Defenders. But whichever way you slice the pie, the Wrangler isn't meant to be a refined road-car – it's intended to be an off-roader that just so happens to handle tarmac too.
Driving the Jeep is comfortable, with a steering column that is now adjustable for rake and reach. Up front, it’s roomy enough for the passenger and driver, but there isn’t a massive amount of freedom in the Rubicon’s rear. The short-of-leg will be happy enough in the back though, and cargo capacity is 533 litres. You can expand this to 1,044 litres if you’d rather get rid of your passengers and fold the rear seats down instead.
The best bit about the Wrangler is that each model carries a toolkit that enables you to unfasten the doors and remove the windscreen. This allows for an excellent open-top driving experience. Under the load bay floor, there's a handy area to stow the windscreen and the bits you’ve removed to get the doors off.
What’s more, there are three kinds of roof available: an electrically-operated one named ‘Sky One Touch’. Then you get the ‘Zipperless Premium Sunrider’ and ‘Freedom’ tops. The Zipperless is the easy option with panels that slide in and out of runners. Then there’s the three-piece Freedom covering, fitted to our Wrangler, which uses detachable panels.
The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon four-door 2.2-litre diesel will do a claimed combined average of 29.4mpg. We achieved late 20s mpg, but this did include a bit of off-roading up a somewhat muddy Austrian hillside, as well as some on-road driving. CO2 emissions for this model are 201g/km.
The all-new Jeep Wrangler is robustly constructed, and the revised cabin looks like it will cope with years of use. Jeep is part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), the eighth largest car manufacturer in the world. The fact that the diesel unit in our Wrangler is already being used in other models within FCA confirms this is a trusted engine.
The latest Wrangler has more safety kit in it than before, but that’s not hard because this tech has been wanting in times gone by. Equipment now encompasses a system to help stop the Jeep rolling over, and there are four airbags. There is also a blind-spot alert system fitted. The new model is waiting to be crash tested by Euro NCAP, so stay tuned for more information on this.