With a fresh interior and more refinement, the new Jeep Wrangler is an improvement over its predecessor
With a fresh interior and more refinement, the new Wrangler is an improvement over its predecessor. And as it's available as a four-door, this is a credible family alternative to the Land Rover Defender Station Wagon. While it has strong off-road ability, though, there is little to recommend it over the British machine - it's competent, but doesn't stand out. Still, at £17,995 for the entry-level car, it's a lot of 4x4 for the money.
As the popularity of fuel-efficient, tarmac-friendly SUVs grows, finding a truly rugged mud-plugger is becoming increasingly tough. Most British buyers opt for Land Rover's Defender for its blend of ability and practicality, but now there is another option - the all-new Jeep Wrangler.
Despite having a heritage which stretches back to 1941, the Wrangler has struggled to establish a large following in the UK. So it's no surprise that the new car is designed to be more comfortable and upmarket than before. The biggest change is the availability of a four-door variant, which will appeal to family buyers who are looking for extra space.
This Unlimited model is 500mm longer than the standard car, while boot space rises to 2,320 litres. Yet it retains Jeep's distinctive looks, with a seven-slot grille and round headlights, a fold-down windscreen and removable hard-top. Large bumpers, black plastic cladding and exposed door hinges add to the rugged appeal.
The interior continues the robust style, but lacks quality, and the harsh plastics feel distinctly low-rent. Rear visibility is severely hampered by the small glass area and large pillars.
Things don't improve on the move. The 2.8-litre engine offers decent pace, but it's noisy and unrefined, while the slack six-speed gearbox and long accelerator pedal travel don't add up to a relaxing driving experience.
What's more, the steering is lifeless and lacks feedback - at motorway speed, it feels disconcertingly vague and on twisty roads, even worse. Jeep says the chassis is now twice as stiff, but cornering inspires little confidence due to poor body control, and the brake pedal lacks feel.
Ride quality is disappointing, too, and the 4x4 fidgets when dealing with uneven road surfaces. Due to the soft suspension, there is a tendency to wallow on fast roads.
The Wrangler is happiest when tackling off-road terrain, where it deals with deep rutted tracks and sharp inclines with few complaints.
Jeep says with this model, it aims to take on the Defender, a car seen as a true workhorse. However, while it can arguably compete away from the tarmac, the US car just doesn't have the same kudos in the UK.