Words by Erin Baker, Editorial Director at Auto Trader
The Jeep Wrangler is the most “Jeep-ish” of the range, with fabulous rugged styling that echoes the original Second World War Willys Jeep. If you think Land Rover has all the 4×4 heritage, think again; this is America’s take on an off-roading icon. We tested the larger four-door version in Overland (more expensive) spec.
It’s all about the design of the Wrangler. The shape is fantastically boxy, with squared wheel arches, a massive bumper at the front, exposed hinges on the narrow doors, an upright windscreen and grab handles everywhere. There’s masses of air between the huge wheels and the bodywork, a spare wheel mounted on the rear tailgate, which opens in two halves, with the bottom opening horizontally like a normal door and the glass rear window rising up.
Inside, up front it’s reminiscent of a Land Rover Defender, with a very shallow dashboard to show that creature comforts are essentially for wimps. All the buttons are large and clad in durable plastics that beg to be splattered in mud from your off-road adventures. In the back, it’s a different story, with a plush leather-clad bench seat for three adults, and a big enough boot for the dog and the shopping.
There’s masses of standard equipment, which is a good job considering the hefty price (see below). There’s Apple CarPlay, which is an obvious winner. The satnav screen is small, and there are plenty of brands that do the maps better, but you’ll no doubt be using Google Maps from your phone along the with the rest of the world, anyway.
The Alpine sound system is fantastic, with tons of bass from the subwoofer in the boot, as it would be for a car that majors on style. Our test car had heated seats and heated steering wheel, and there’s the usual DAB radio and Bluetooth phone connection.
Driving aids as standard include front and rear parking sensors with an automative braking function if the car sense a vehicle approaching from the side as you reverse. You also get a rear reversing camera, tyre-pressure monitoring, and cruise control.
This is a big car, with loads of head room and leg room. If, however, you want more head space, you can simply remove the freedom panels, or roof, as we call it. This couldn’t be easier: there are big chunky black levers that you rotate, and two central clips under the sun visors, which remove the two roof panels at the front. You can leave it there if you want, or go the whole hog and unclip the entire upper half of the car at the rear, too. This will leave you with a huge cage-type roll-bar that you see surf dudes hanging from in California as they race along the beach. You don’t get quite the same effect in the Kent countryside, but hey, my boys, aged six and nine, said it was the best car they’d ever been in, and it’ll bring out the kid in anyone.
We genuinely haven’t enjoyed a car this much in ages. It’s gone back to Jeep now, and we’re all moping about the house, as if we’d lost the family pet.
Ah, this part you need to ignore. The car is woefully underpowered – it weighs two tonnes with its indestructible four-wheel-drive system, which is brilliant if you’re stuck in a muddy field somewhere or climbing a rocky outcrop for some reason (it even has a low-ratio transfer box with a separate gear lever which gives you more traction at low speeds to get out of slippery situations – it makes you look like a farmer), but not so good if you need to go far at any sort of speed. The engine is a 2.2-litre diesel with 200 horsepower which just isn’t enough. The automatic gearbox clings to gears for as long as it can before you get frustrated, stamp your foot all the way to the ground and get a gear change out of it.
The trick, however, is to relax into this ambling gait and enjoy the scenery. If you force it along in a hurry, you’ll get annoyed quite quickly. So chill out and enjoy bumbling about.
At first glance, this is a very pricey car, at £48,365 and without much power, plus none of the sophisticated ride and handling dynamics we’re used to in Europe. A Land Rover Discovery Sport seems a better bet. But look again at that standard list of kit – it’s very generous. Plus we attracted comments from lots of fellow Wrangler owners during our week with the car, who all said they’d swapped their Land Rovers for Jeeps, for better reliability.
For monthly personal contract quotes, go here https://www.jeep.co.uk/private-promotions/wrangler. Note you get five years’ roadside assistance.