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.