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, 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. Five-door models are fractionally slower and thirstier.
To make room for the rear doors, 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.
Four standard trims are available, Sahara, Overland, Rubicon and 75th Anniversary. Sahara models come with automatic headlights, climate control, cruise control, hill descent control, power folding and heated mirrors, and an Alpine stereo system as standard, while the Overland trim adds a three-piece modular hard top, leather upholstery, heated front seats and Fiat's Uconnect infotainment system complete with 6.5in touchscreen display, sat nav, Bluetooth and USB connectivity.
The mid-range Rubicon Wranglers get numerous strucutral and mechanical additions including a Tru-lok differential, flared wheel arches, front sway bar and rock rails, while the 75th Anniversary adds a power-retracting hood, a body colour hard top, bronze interior and exterior details, and a brown and tangerine leather upholstery.
The Wrangler remains brilliant off road, with excellent ground clearance and good axle articulation, plus a switchable low-range transmission. Other than a emotional buy, the Wrangler can't be considered if you wish to spend a large majority of your time on tarmac, with the Range Rover Sport, Land Rover Discovery Sport, Volvo XC90 and BMW X5 are providing viable options that can traverse off road too.