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“Jeep is arguably the only true off-road company in the market,” says Jeff Hines, head of the Jeep brand in Europe. I can imagine one or two other companies having something to say about that, and listen, guys, don’t think we haven’t driven a Renegade.

But I also kinda see the point, at least when it comes to the Wrangler. It occupies a unique space in the market, particularly now that Land Rover has temporarily limped out of that arena and hasn’t told us how it’s going to stroll back in. For now, Jeep (and maybe Mercedes-Benz and Suzuki) looks like it’s the one who knows how to look after its icon.

By which I mean that it looks the same as the others, for a start. The round lights, seven-bar grille, stick-out wheel arches and separate ladder frame and body.

Jeep’s designers visit the Moab Jeep Safari every Easter. They talk to owners, they see what’s new, what’s modified, how people use these cars. And so here’s the first new Wrangler in a decade, with more USB ports, a more sensibly laid out interior, more leg room and greater efficiency.

But also a windscreen you can drop flat after removing just four bolts, a more easily removable roof (three-piece solid, full canvas or, coming later, an electric canvas hood), better off-road angles, more ground clearance, a tighter turning circle, lighter doors with a grab handle inside so you can lift them off more easily and a stamp identifying what size Torx tool you need to undo them. Five-link suspension with solid axles, low ratio, locking differentials and mega wheel articulation. More of the most customisable, the most customised, car on the planet. Just more … Jeep. So they say, anyway. Let’s see.

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Understanding the Wrangler line-up

The Wrangler comes in a few flavours. It starts with Sport, which is basic, but in the US, “let’s be honest, Wranglers stay stock for about five minutes”. Then there’s Sahara, which is a more suburban choice in the States, to which Overland trim, exclusive to Europe, can be added, to make it more habitable still. We’ve tried that version for a short while.

Then there’s the Rubicon, the one I’m most interested in, with the biggest off-road tyres and the most serious intent. You can have two or four doors. We’ve got a 2dr model, because it’s the coolest.

The Wrangler is lighter but bigger than the previous version. Jeep claims 2086kg at the kerb. At 4.3m long, the car's length is still pretty compact (the Ford Focus is longer), although at 1.89m wide, it has a fair amount of girth.

You climb up into its cabin, but not as high as in a Land Rover Defender. The driving position is lower, so there’s reasonable head room, decent elbow room and a newfound semblance of car-ness, order and quality to the interior, to a point. The switches are still chunky, the door mirrors could still feature on a dressing table, the footwell’s slightly cramped and, despite a longer wheelbase, rear accommodation still tight in the 2dr (although with the roof open and the sun beaming in, who’d care?).

What's it like behind the wheel of a Wrangler?

It’s fine, but if you buy a Wrangler thinking it’ll replace your Volvo XC60’s luxury, think again. It’s “a playground for adults” kind of car. Sure, there’s sat-nav, a rear-view camera, blindspot sensors and cross-traffic reverse sensors on the right versions. But it’s built for a different purpose.

That’s something you’ll remember when driving it on the road, too. The new 2.2-litre diesel engine is actually relatively quiet and just powerful enough at 197bhp and 332lb ft. The eight-speed automatic gearbox copes with it as well.

The ride, however, even on the more refined Sahara-spec tyres, is like sitting in light turbulence. The captain has switched on the fasten seatbelt signs.

The 255/75 17in all-terrain BF Goodrich rubber of the Rubicon hums like a military convoy or a wind farm. The 3.7-turns steering does little through its first 0.2 of a turn. Rain falls on the canvas roof like it does on a tent, while on the windscreen it crackles like sizzling bacon.

There’s a lot of wind noise. It’s wide. It’s susceptible to crosswinds. And none of this matters. Off-road, the Wrangler is still magnificent. Its turning circle (10.4m) is brilliantly small, articulation is superb and the anti-roll bars can be disconnected at the touch of the button, so it rides off-road with the grace of an Ariel Nomad.

It feels unflappable, unstoppable. Sure, there are compromises on the road. It would be impossible for there not to be.

So, if you only want to drive around suburbia, for heaven’s sake don’t buy a Wrangler. If you want the real thing, don’t buy anything else.

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