We’re about to learn how this distinctly un-British off-roader fits into everyday UK life
Matt Prior
8 September 2020

Why we’re running it: To see if the all-American icon translates over here, especially as a new all-British icon arrives…

Month 1 - Specs

Life with a Jeep Wrangler: Month 1

Welcoming the Wrangler to the fleet - 12 August 2020

You don’t see many Jeep Wranglers in the UK but there’s no denying the success of what I’m going to dare calling the original off-roader.

I mean, you could make a case that any really early car or truck was designed for rough track use. But the modern 4x4 as we know it? I think its origins all started here: the Jeep. Today’s Wrangler is the latest in a model line that, as with a Porsche 911 or Toyota Corolla, has been in constant evolution, ever present since 1941.

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Jeep currently sells nearly a quarter of a million Wranglers annually. Just not to the UK, where we buy a handful. Why? Too big, too thirsty, too American? They’re the easy reasons but I think it’s a bit more nuanced. Here, it’s rarer to have a lifestyle that suits the Jeep because it excels in wide open spaces. Besides, we also had our own beloved 4x4. Ah, the Land Rover Defender. It’s back this year and no talk in the UK of a Jeep Wrangler would quite be complete without a passing mention. But they’ve never been quite the same thing.

The Jeep isn’t typically a utility vehicle in the US and the Land Rover became a lifestyle vehicle late in its life. So the biggest overlap has really just been in their off-road ability. Fresh from the factory, they were perhaps the two most capable off-roaders in the world. (Please don’t conflate durability and reliability into that, Toyota fans.)

And given the return of the Defender, as a more lifestyle than utility car, now seems a good time to spend a while with a Wrangler, a car that it is both more like (neither is a workhorse) and less like (the Jeep retains a separate chassis) at the same time.

I’m rather fond of the old-school nature of the Jeep: that separate body and chassis, solid axles at either end. This one is a Rubicon, which is as hardcore an off-road variant as you’ll find in the UK, so it has 17in wheels with 255/75 BF Goodrich MudTerrain KM2 tyres, of 32in diameter (apparently the way serious 4x4 types gauge a wheel and tyre set-up). It also has a disconnectable front anti-roll (sway) bar, electronically lockable differentials and an uprated off-road software programme to make the most of them. The way I figure, if you’re going to have a Wrangler, you might as well go full Wrangler.

This one arrived with a fair few miles on it – 18,000 – which also suits me fine. It’s still not a big number, but interesting to try to get a bigger handle on durability. I had thought that would guarantee we’d need to service the car at some point during its stay with us, given the 12,000-mile intervals – again, a useful exercise – but I see there’s a stamp in the book at 18,000 miles, too, and it seems unlikely I’ll hit 30,500. We’ll see.

Some cars are better than others at being driven big amounts of mileage in short amounts of time. Unlikely though it might seem, a Toyota Land Cruiser I ran last year was one of them. I covered 38,000 miles in it and it was a surprisingly easy motorway cruiser.

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The Wrangler isn’t quite the same – those KM2 tyres hum like an apiary at speed – but it’s better than you might think. Everywhere in America is a long way from everywhere else, after all, so it’s built for it. And the 2.2-litre diesel, mated to an auto transmission and a drivetrain that has a 2WD mode (as well as 4WD high and low ratio) means I’m seeing more than 32mpg so far.

The Wrangler’s interior is also more habitable than tradition would suggest. Material grades are good and there are some quite sweet design touches – a little Jeep motif in the corner of the windscreen, for example. There’s climate control and a sufficiently sized centre screen with smartphone mirroring, while visibility is good so it’s actually a pretty easy car to spend time with. There is ingress into the left side of the driver’s footwell from the transmission casing, but it doesn’t bother me much.

Refinement could be stronger, but I’m also prepared to overlook that. The fact is, you can remove the roof panels and then the entire roof, and, should you want to, the doors too. So it’s bound to be a little less snug. As soon as I can guarantee a couple of dry days, I’ll try that. I think the only issue, on the road, is that the door mirrors will come off with the doors. Off road, obviously, it’s brilliant.

The ground has been pretty dry since the Wrangler arrived and, for a while, doing anything fun was frowned on anyway, so I’m only just starting to enjoy that bit of it. More of that will follow – with the car both on its own, and alongside its new rival.

Second Opinion

The Wrangler’s sheer size combined with its relaxed, off-road-centric steering makes it a pretty hilarious machine to pilot around busy London streets. And given the fact that the new Land Rover Defender will probably be a common sight with the ‘lifestyle’ crowd, it will be interesting to see how the two compare here. It will be even more fun to test them off the beaten track, mind.

Simon Davis

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Join the debate

Comments
7

8 September 2020

Great to see you in a Wrangler Matt. As you know Wranglers dont stay stock, so I suggest you try to get hold of a Bestop Sunrider which replaces the freedom panels to start with. 

8 September 2020
Had a ride in one round Cathedral Valley in Utah.

The driver admitted it wasn't great on the highway, but it was absolutely in its element in the valley and sped through the two feet deep river at the end, with water coming over the hood (bonnet).

8 September 2020

Seems utterly pointless for everyday driving. Completely compromised unless you need to traverse a muddy field. 

8 September 2020

Hands up, I'm on my second Wrangler, so obviously completely biased.  I came to Jeeps from smooth, powerful BMWs and Audis.  But I took the view that in today's driving conditions, they were never stretched...point the steering wheel, put your foot on the accelerator and off they went like a well trained poodle.  The Jeep? Well I always have to be on my game...try and take a bend at any decent speed, and you have to be ready to react quickly...it's fun.  It's smooth enough on most roads.  Add in the removable roof panels, the carrying capacity (a son at Edinburgh Uni meant plenty of 8 hour trips up the A1 with 'stuff' filling it to bursting), and it's hard to fault..if you buy into what Jeep are selling. And the occasional off-road trip is an absolute bonus.

8 September 2020

Two reasons: 1) Unaffordability. A double whammy of extraordinarily ambitious UK dealer pricing (the Wrangler is NOT a luxury vehicle but, over here at least, is priced like one) plus exorbitant fuel taxation; 2) Anti-American sentiment. For decades the British motoring press has sneered at US-designed vehicles, as much (I suspect) out of envy as any serious appreciation of said vehicles' capabilities, and made ludicrous claims about their "sheer size" (the latest example is in this very article). The two-door Wrangler is shorter than a Dacia Duster or a Honda HR-V and narrower than a Volvo XC-60 or Kia Sorento, but the average Autocar reader could be forgiven for thinking it's bigger than a Bentayga!

8 September 2020

That and it drinks diesel, costs a fortune in tax, over weight, slow, expensive, looks cheap inside, on the road it's poor, off road well how many people want to spend 50k on a Fiat and bent it in a field when they can get a far better Toyota or LR.

8 September 2020
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