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The Wrangler is back, and it's bigger, better and more Wrangly than ever. If you think it’s for you, you’ll love it. If you think it’s not, it’s not.
  • First Drive

    Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 2dr 2018 review

    The Wrangler is back, and it's bigger, better and more Wrangly than ever. If you think it’s for you, you’ll love it. If you think it’s not, it’s not.

What is it?

“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. 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.

What's it like?

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?).

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 ride, 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.

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, too.

There’s a lot of wind noise. It’s wide. It’s susceptible to crosswinds.

Should I buy one?

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.

Jeep Wrangler 2.2 Rubicon 2dr specification

Where Austria Price tbc On sale September Engine 4cyls in line, 2143cc Power 197bhp at 3500rpm Torque 332lb ft at 2000rpm Gearbox 8-spd automatic Kerb weight 2086kg Top speed 99mph 0-62mph 9.6sec Fuel economy 38.1mpg CO2 195g/km Rivals Suzuki Jimny, Mercedes-Benz G-Class

Join the debate

Comments
10

6 July 2018

I know it's a tough 4x4 on a ladder frame chassis but I am surprised it weighs over 2 tonnes.

6 July 2018

Coming to a suburb near you soon. Unfortunately, desperate wannabes whose only trips off road involve the shopping mall car park are going to lap these up.

6 July 2018

Oh no they won't.  The Wrangler only ever appeals to enthusiasts.  The rear is far too small for your 'desperate wannabies'.  The 'Burbs will buy the new Defender at its inflated price.

7 July 2018

If 2 tons plus weight in a wehichle not any bigger is true. Perhaps it's actually built like a tank.

jer

7 July 2018

As the US. Looks good fun, thats a lot of metal in a small footprint. Made of lead?

7 July 2018

must be incredibly strong.

7 July 2018

I bought a SWB Rubicon 4 years ago. it cost well under £30k. They are talking around £50K for the new one. £40K for a basic version. Crazy price inflation that we have seen from FCA on other Jeeps too. Its a Jeep, not a premium prodict, and all the better for it, but it must not have premium pricing.

289

13 July 2018

Agree artill, crazy pricing, just flying a kite here.

FCA will be punished by small sales. As much as I like this vehicle (even in red - and normally I would never buy red), I am not prepared to have my leg lifted by FIAT with crazy pricing. A full spec 2 door Rubicon is just over £39k in the States, and that includes the V6 engine which, for some reason, we are not allowed to have!

It is a great development but definitely NOT a premium product...no JEEP is

Great review and video by the way Matt Prior, its is a good workhorse.

7 July 2018

Yes, I fear it's going to be a silly price.  That will hurt sales enormously.  The new Defender (if it ever breaks cover) is going to be daft as well, so Jeep could undercut it if they can afford to do so.  Otherwise most people will buy the Defender.

16 July 2018

I suppose if you think of it like buying sugar or sand, by the kilogram, it's not too expensive.

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