The Jeep Wrangler's design DNA and rugged appeal have been largely unchanged since the original Willys jeep from the 1950s. It is offered in the traditional short wheelbase, two-door configuration, or as the longer, four-door Unlimited, which is the first Wrangler to sport rear doors.
Unashamedly rugged in a world of soft-roaders, it’s easy to understand the emotional appeal. Only the Land Rover Defender can compete in this regard. But, like the Defender, it’s a fairly crude experience on the road, with shuddering ride quality and lots of noise, both from the asphalt and through the canvas top.
Off road, it feels almost unstoppable, and the running gear is reassuringly mechanical, rather than electronic. The compromise made for off-road ability manifests itself as vague steering and soft suspension, but grip levels are good.
Two engines are available, although neither makes much concession to the concept of downsizing. The 197bhp, 339lb ft 2.8-litre turbodiesel pulls well, and is mated exclusively to a five-speed automatic. Refinement is much improved over previous Wranglers, but buyers looking for a smooth, hushed experience should look elsewhere.
The 3.6-litre V6 petrol engine develops 280bhp and 256lb ft for a more refined and higher-performing drive. With the 2.8 engine, the Wrangler will cover 0-62mph in 10.6sec and on to a top speed of 107mph, emissions are rated at 213g/km and Jeep quotes an official 29mpg on the combined cycle. Unlimited models are fractionally slower and thirstier.
To make room for the rear doors in the Unlimited, 500mm has been added to the wheelbase, giving a decent 945mm of rear-seat legroom. Jeep has also broadened the Jeep’s body by 127mm, so there’s now just about enough space for three in the back. And you can still get the Unlimited with a canvas top, which, along with the doors, can be removed, even if it is a laborious process.
Two standard trims are available, Sahara and Overland, alongside the Rubicon special order scheme. Sahara models come with more than enough kit to match the Wrangler’s utilitarian image, including automatic headlights, hill descent control and an Infinity premium audio system. Overland models add 18-inch alloys, leather trim, heated front seats and a body-coloured hard top.
The Wrangler remains brilliant off road, with excellent ground clearance and good axle articulation, plus a switchable low-range transmission.