For true off-roaders like the Wrangler, ‘good performance’ means something different to what it does for mainstream SUVs.
In the midst of a boulder field, healthy torque and a linear throttle are of far greater importance than the aural refinement and crisp gearchanges Mercedes might strive for with the similarly sized but road-biased GLC. Equally, if the Wrangler’s popularity is to grow, Jeep can’t afford to imagine that on-road drivability and refinement are unimportant – and, in fact, FCA’s 2.2-litre MultiJet-II turbodiesel does well enough on all counts.
The new eight-speed automatic gearbox must take much of the credit for this. For hardware designed to cope reliably with the stresses and strains of contorting dirt trails in California’s High Sierra, it is surprisingly smooth and well-mannered on the road, and contributes to the Wrangler’s appeal as an everyday vehicle.
Granted, during normal driving it has a proclivity to shift lazily into the highest possible ratio, but in the absence of a Sport driving mode, using manual mode to keep the engine in its 2000-3000rpm sweet spot is no chore.
With a recorded 0-60mph time of 9.0sec, the diesel Wrangler has a very respectable outright performance level; the considerably more powerful and larger-engined Land Rover Discovery TDV6 we timed in 2017 only managed the trip in 8.7sec.
In-gear performance is decently stout and makes for fairly effortless progress, the drag from 40mph to 60mph in fifth gear taking 5.0sec – within a second of the Discovery. Indeed, the Jeep gets its power down cleanly and, in everyday driving, its considerable torque output does enough to disguise a kerb weight measured at over 2.1 tonnes.
On the move, variable-geometry turbocharging reduces turbo lag and, along with this engine’s inherent smoothness, the experience is far less agricultural and more car-like than you might expect given the Wrangler’s true purpose. The car’s refinement is heightened if you shift the transfer case into ‘2H’ – for two wheel-drive high range – because this disconnects the front driveshafts, noticeably reducing the inertia of unnecessary mechanical drag.