Is this really big enough to fill its cowboy boots?
The lines are iconic, it’s very obviously still a Jeep Wrangler. But in an SUV market that is hot to the point of combustion, is this good ol’ boy really man enough still to protect its turf?
Both the engines on offer under that bluff ‘hood’ are fairly butch – a 2.8-litre diesel with 197bhp or a 3.0-litre V6 petrol with 280bhp. You’ll be searching in vain for a 1.0-litre econo version. The diesel is only available in the three-door variant, while the five-door can have either engine. The five-door gets the option of the Sahara trim or there’s the choice of Rubicon.
All models come with a six-speed auto box and four-wheel drive, since this is an SUV that really can go off-road and really will if given half a chance. Naturally, all that doesn’t do a ton for the running costs but the Jeep has a reputation to live up to and, as we know from prison dramas, reputation is everything.
However, all that genuine ability in the rough stuff does rather hamper things in the environment where vehicles spend most of their time. The road, as opposed to off-road, shows up the slow, heavy steering – it’s as much tiller as steering wheel. Handling and ride are equally barge-like, with the sensation that the vehicle is trying to navigate a choppy Force 6 rather than your suburban street.
You end up backing off early, even though the diesel – which we’ve tried – provides quite enough stomp for faster progress. It also provides quite a bit of noise, vibration and harshness, but the V6 petrol – which we haven’t tried – would doubtless mollify quite a bit of that.
Off-road though, the diesel’s grunt is very welcome and you’ll enjoy the real ability of this beast to attack pretty much any bit of innocent countryside. The low-ratio transfer box and – if you get the Rubicon trim- the locking differential, mean that you have a recipe for success when going just about anywhere.
While all this is happening the driver will be sitting quite high in the cabin, and also slightly above the pedals which are themselves a bit offset – it’s not the best combination for a comfy long journey. Forward visibility is good but much less to the rear, and this isn’t the sort of vehicle to offer you sensors or cameras.
The switchgear and cabin generally seem fairly robust but it’s not very classy. But then again, this isn’t trying to be a G-Wagen. There is a 6.5-inch infotainment touchscreen, but as you’d expect it’s all a bit rough and ready and the sat nav isn’t terribly clever.
You’re basically sitting in a fairly rough box, so shoulder width is a touch limited, and if you have the three-door you’ll find that, once you’ve tipped forward the front seats, it’s all a bit of a struggle to get into the rear. Those of a more rotund disposition might want to focus on the front seats.
And you’d better not have much luggage either in the three-door. The side-hinged rear door opens onto a tragically small space, so the five-door scores much higher for rear passengers and everyone’s luggage. Plus, unlike the three-door, the five-door’s rear seat splits, in a normal 60/40 ratio.
However, one neat trick is that the Wrangler comes with a black hard-top that splits into three, or you can take it off. There’s a soft-top option as well as a body-coloured hard top.
Inside there’s quite a bit of kit as standard, really quite generous, but one glaring omission is the absence of much safety kit. In fact Euro NCAP has never tested the Wrangler and some might find that pause for thought. You get front and front-side airbags but those in the rear get none at all. Forget about AEB or anything like that.
Fuel consumption and hence emissions are also on the high side, so you’ll pay quite a bit to run either the petrol or diesel version, whether that’s as a private vehicle or a company car.
The five-door sort of matches up roughly in terms of price with other big SUVs like a Skoda Kodiaq or Mazda CX-5, but the three-door is way more than competitors like the VW T-Roc or Seat Ateca. In truth, it’s hard to say either version, in any format, is anything like good value, but if you have to have a Wrangler we’d definitely go for the five-door. Yippee Ki Yay.