Test Drive: The New Jeep Wrangler
Living the American dream
Ian Lamming gets high on life in the latest Jeep Wrangler
LIFE is an adventure or at least it should be if we are to make the most of it.
Not many cars give you this freedom of course in fact some actually restrict your movement; would you really want to take a Rolls-Royce over Hardknott Pass or Wrynose Pass in the Lake District? While it would undoubtedly make it, would you dare? Probably not.
And that’s the very heart of Jeep’s Wrangler, it is freedom personified in metal and plastic, it hungers for the great outdoors, it thrives on challenge. This thing will go anywhere, from the brutality of the supermarket car park to the top of the highest pass. It laughs in the face of anything asphalt, it chomps through mud, rocks and gravel. Now that’s my sort of car.
It does have to be said that there’s an element of culture shock approaching and then climbing inside a Wrangler, so be prepared. In the automotive world this Jeep is unique. Firstly, it looks like a Jeep and while many have aped the war-footing styling, there really is only one original. It is boxy, wings become fenders, massive front bumper offers a place to perch, wide running boards are perfect on which to rest your takeaway mocha while you open the flimsy feeling doors, while the round LED headlamps set off a traditional seven slot grille – it could only be a Jeep.
Climb inside the tall imposing body and the driver’s seat, initially, feels surprisingly cramped, the steering wheel almost in your face. The dash is pure militaria, the sort of look you would normally find under canvas at a special forces front line camp.
But that hostility soon gives way to practicality – when your arms aren’t at full stretch the controls are so much easier to use and the lack of space soon switches to cocooned, cosy and comforting.
Very quickly you start to feel perfectly at home. Ok, it’s a bit noisier than normal on the motorway, mainly because the roof is canvas and opens electrically on rails, peeling backwards to reveal a panoramic view of the sky. And that is good, because it all feels so different and exciting, rugged and involving. Life will never be boring in a Wrangler, that’s for sure.
Given it is a model that has been around for decades it is surprising how many admiring glances the big Jeep attracts, probably due to its resplendent white livery.
In the Lake District you would imagine its size would be a hindrance but at no point do you feel the dread of meeting another vehicle on single carriageway road. The choice is yours; you can either intimidate the other road user into submission or take the morally higher ground and use its incredible off road abilities to climb somewhere out of the way. In a Wrangler the highway is much wider than the road because you can so easily venture off the carriageway. Playing around in Honister slate mine quickly shows its supreme ability to tackle steep gradients and loose surfaces.
It feels safe and secure, the Command-Trac all-wheel-drive system, diff locks and long travel suspension combining to bite deeply into terrafirma. If you keep it in ‘four wheel high’ it also sharpens responses on normal roads and even in the supermarket car parks its robust nature and running boards save it from a nasty battle scar when and elderly man smashes his car door so hard into the Wrangler that it rocks on its suspension – I dread to think of the damage to his car.
Surprisingly, the motor under the Wrangler’s battened down bonnet is a petrol unit, a turbocharged 2.0 four cylinder that pumps out a lusty 272hp thanks to a turbo. It really is powerful offering all the performance you could ever need while still managing to return a creditable 30+ mile per gallon. There’s bags of grunt for sprints, cruising, overtaking and climbing mammoth hills. The eight-speed automatic box is a peach too with quick, seamless changes.
Cast an eye over the various digital fora and Wrangler sparks a high degree of interest and many questions, namely are they reliable, safe, comfortable? Well, it works perfectly for the week I have it, though I can’t turn off the interior light, but that might b just me; they are safe because they make you drive safely and shake you from the brain-fug that causes most accidents; and I’m particularly comfortable because I’m so happy driving the Wrangler and living my adventure to the full.
Jeep Wrangler four door Night Eagle
Engine: 2.0 petrol turbo
0-62mph: 7.3 secs
Top speed: 110mph
Combined MPG: 31.4
Transmission: Eight speed auto
CO2 g/km: 260