The Jeep Wrangler might very well be the defining ‘go-anywhere’ vehicle.
As you’d expect, the hardware that imparts its legendary off-road ability does make for a few compromises on the road – and, though they might be slightly less noticeable than on previous versions of the car, they are nonetheless still present and noticeable enough that they might put off anyone who imagines that this car might look like a wilderness man but somehow handle like an Audi Q5.
At 3.3 turns lock to lock, the recirculating ball steering rack feels remarkably slow when manoeuvring. Changing direction at speed takes a fair amount of forethought and a degree of manual exertion, too, on a steering system that demands you put effort in to turn into a bend and guide the car straight again.
This slower steering set-up might suggest the Wrangler should feel like a reasonably stable car at speed, and it does most of the time – although its sheer size and slab-sided, boxy shape make it vulnerable to wind buffeting at motorway speed. Between one thing and another, then, keeping the Wrangler tracking straight and true on the road is a process requiring plenty of concentration and regular line correction; or, to put it another way, this is a car you can never really get much respite from driving when at the wheel.
Through bends, the Wrangler’s handling manners are entirely predictable: it’s a large car that feels its height and weight; pitches in with plenty of body roll; and has limited front-end grip with which to prevent its bluff nose from wandering progressively into understeer if you hurry it along.
But nearly all of these criticisms are the result of mechanical specification and tuning that lends the Jeep its unflappable off-road ability. The boxy shape provides great visibility; the slow steering means you won’t injure your wrists when clambering over boulders and can make finer course adjustments easily; and those Bridgestone Dueler H/T tyres, while not full-fat off-roading rubber, will get you further from the Tarmac than the standard tyres you’d find on the likes of a normal medium-sized SUV.
Even if you don’t buy the Wrangler in go-absolutely-anywhere trim, it’s a remarkably capable off-roader. In any guise, it beats a Mercedes G-Class and a Toyota Land Cruiser for maximum wading depth and ground clearance, and across the board on clearance angles. A Land Rover Discovery will ford through deeper water and has more ground clearance, but even that can’t match the Jeep’s approach and departure angles.