What is it?
By quite widely held consensus, this is the most capable and uncompromising mass-produced, dual-purpose off-roader in the world.
In fact, the Jeep Wrangler, now four generations old by that name and stretching its roots back even further, to the seminal Willys MB of 1941, probably has a stronger claim to that status than any other SUV. And the latest version has just arrived on the UK's byways, back lanes and B-roads.
It should probably be number one on your shortlist if you want a car for the very roughest, toughest sort of off-roading – the sort that depends on a ladder frame chassis, a short wheelbase, short overhangs, rigid axle suspension, knobbly tyres, permanent, differential-lockable four-wheel drive, low-range transfer gearing and disconnecting anti-roll bars.
We’re talking about the sort of driving that tends to happen at a pace slower than walking, mind you, under the direction of guides and by the medium of a very particular system of nods, gestures and signals. The sort that puts cars like the Wrangler in places where you’d think quite carefully about trying to go on foot without at least a rucksack full of mountaineering equipment: at the top of slippery rockfaces, wading through two-and-a-half feet of water or climbing a 60deg slope.
The number of customers who need a car capable of that kind of thing must be low, but there’s a surprisingly large body of people who want one, and plenty of them have now been depending on Wranglers for decades. But Jeep's owners, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, clearly no longer feels that it can rely exclusively on that committed band of devotees to deliver the future it wants for this model.
We say that because there's a sprinkling of extra practicality, habitability and comfort about certain versions of the new Wrangler, should you decide that the abilities of the ultra-tough Rubicon version won’t be best suited to your daily commute.
The Overland is the derivative to which Jeep is looking specifically to broaden the reach of its 4x4 icon. It comes on relatively road-friendly hybrid off-road tyre, has a hard-top roof and features heated leather seats and most of the creature comforts and safety features that you’d expect in a modern SUV. And, since the Wrangler has also been available with four doors since the introduction of the previous JK iteration, it’s comparable with a medium-sized SUV in terms of everyday practicaility, too.
Jeep offers the Wrangler Overland with the choice of a 268bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol or 197bhp 2.1-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel engine in the UK, with the six-cylinder petrol model being reserved for other markets. It was the diesel in which we had our first taste of the car, on and off the road, in the UK.