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Jeep Wrangler: PH Trade-Off!

The new Jeep Wrangler has arrived on these shores - but by 'eck it's expensive. Can we do better for half the price?

By Alex Robbins / Sunday, March 03, 2019

It might come as something of a surprise to find that the Jeep Wrangler is still sold on these shores. Think about it: when's the last time you saw one on the road? We'll wager, unless you work at a Jeep dealership, it was some time ago.

That's a bit of a shame. After all, there's always been lots to like about the Wrangler. Its achingly cool image, for one thing; as pumped full of greasy Americana as a glistening double cheeseburger with extra pickles and loaded fries. Not to mention the way this latest generation's bulging arches, tapering nose and boxy roofline all hark back to the original YJ Wrangler and the CJ models that preceded it.

But the Wrangler faces two problems: firstly, its rather wayward on-road manners, for which you can blame its body-on-frame construction. Of course, this also gives it that rare thing among SUVs today: true off-road ability, the like of which few other cars can muster.

The second problem with the Wrangler is its price. Even the basic Sahara, with a three-door body and a diesel engine, will set you back a whopping £44,685 - not far off what you'll pay for an entry-level Land Rover Discovery. And that, let's face it, is bonkers.

So it seems like the Wrangler is a prime contender for the Trade-Off treatment. Trouble is, even with an extended rootle through the classifieds, finding something with the same combination of larger-than-life character and off-road ability isn't easy.

It isn't impossible, mind you. Take a look, for example, at this Mercedes G-Wagen. A 1989 example with just 57,000 miles on the clock, it is utterly wonderful if you appreciate time-warp-ish survivors that have managed to pass through the ages remarkably unmolested. As you'd expect from a G with this sort of mileage, it isn't just the outside that looks to be immaculate; the interior is, too. This petrol-powered 230 auto is a genuine UK-from-new right-hand drive car with a stack of history and just four owners behind it. Sorely tempting, then. Were you only after a car for occasional use, it'd be ideal.

Trouble is, asking a potential new Wrangler owner to live without any mod cons - the G-Wagen doesn't even have electric front windows, let alone nav, air-con or Bluetooth - might be stretching things somewhat. So let's move things bang up-to-date with something that'll rival the Wrangler for general knobbliness, but also match it on tech: this Ford Ranger Wildtrak.

It's fitted with a Raptor bodykit, which gives it plenty of visual aggression with a strong Stateside whiff - not to mention chunky tyres that should enable it to go anywhere the Jeep can too. Inside, you get climate control, cruise control, heated this and that, and Bluetooth too. Sure, the interior's plasticky, but the Jeep's is hardly a paragon of quality; the Ranger even gives you two extra doors and a whopping load bay. All this for £19,999? Bargain.

Except... well, even in this hepped-up form, the Ranger is still rather more builders' merchant than backcountry trail. On paper, it ticks all the right boxes, yet in the flesh... well, the image side of the equation just isn't quite there.

All of which leads us, rather predictably, to the door of the Land Rover Defender. This 2008 90, to be precise, which seems to offer a happy medium between the charm and character of the G-Wagen, and the modernity of the Ranger.

For a start, it's been modified. Now, that can be a good or a bad thing with a Defender, depending on your tastes, but in this instance the tweaks don't appear to be too heinous. In fact, the Keswick Green paint, bonnet bulge, LED lights, roof rack and panoramic windows all do a pretty good job of making the Landie look like a modern rival to the Wrangler. Which is jolly convenient for our purposes.

Inside, that feeling continues with part-leather seats - heated up front - electric windows, a 'How do you do, fellow kids' sound system which includes Apple this and Android that, and a reversing camera.

This, then, is the perfect foil to the Wrangler, and an ideal intermediary between our G-Wagen and our Ranger from earlier. There we are then. Case closed.

What's that? The mileage? No, you don't need to know a silly thing like that. It's fine. Oh, alright then, it's done 79,000 miles. And yes, that's rather a big pill to swallow if your alternative is a delivery-mile Jeep. However, in mitigation is the fact that this Landie is a 2008 car, making that mileage about average. (Indeed, the folks who've been doing 10k a year in a Defender for 11 years deserve a slice of our admiration).

'What about a Land Cruiser?' we hear you cry. Oh sure, the Land Cruiser will get you back again, and all that, but modern examples simply aren't as cool as any of the cars gathered here, while older ones suffer the same drawbacks as the G-Wagon. Which leaves the Defender out on top. It ain't perfect, but if you're looking for a similar experience to the Wrangler - for better and for worse - at half the cost, this is the way to go about it.

2,143cc four-cylinder diesel turbo
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Power (hp): 200@3,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 332@2,000rpm
0-62mph: 9.6sec
Top speed: 99mph
Weight: 1,920kg
MPG: 37.7
CO2: 195g/km
Price: £44,865

2,198cc four-cylinder diesel turbo
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Power (hp): 122@3,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 265@2,000rpm
0-62mph: 14.7sec
Top speed: 90mph
Weight: 1,889kg
MPG: 28.3
CO2: 266g/km
Price: £21,995

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