RE: Jeep Wrangler: UK Drive

RE: Jeep Wrangler: UK Drive

Saturday 23rd February

Jeep Wrangler: UK Drive

America's 4x4 is better on British roads than ever before - and no worse off it either



The Jeep Wrangler is as American as a cowboy riding into the sunset wrapped in a stars and stripes cloak and with a Bud in his hand. Yet somehow it also manages to perfectly suit the misty, sodden surrounds of the Lake District in February. We’re here to drive the new car for the first time in the UK and, to really test it, PH has organised one of those fine drizzles that soaks everything, on a week when the rest of the country is bathed in sunlight. Don’t say these tests aren’t thorough.

For the new Wrangler to achieve Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' sales ambitions in Europe, it'll have to be as effective on the road as it is at clambering over moss-covered rocks and wading through mud in Cumbria. UK managing director Arnaud Leclerc wants the Wrangler to shift from being a “niche product” on this side of the Atlantic to something more mainstream.

With the next Defender still a year away from production - and likely to lose at least some of the original’s retro charm - you might think those targets an open goal. Jeep’s already excited by recent momentum, with 194,000 cars shifted in Europe last year, a 48 per cent improvement on 2010 (although in the UK, the brand remains tiny, with only 6,100 cars sold). But unlike its siblings, which face rivals from almost every mainstream manufacturer, the Wrangler has a fresh chance to really capitalise on its uniqueness. What can we actually compare it to? The Suzuki Jimny is smaller and simpler, the Mercedes G-Class is larger and significantly pricier and the Defender is - well, we don’t know yet. The Wrangler might yet prove the default choice for those who want a proper off-roader with modern usability.


That last trait is key in the new Wrangler because, as we found out upon first meeting the new model in Italy in last year, its on-road functionality has been greatly improved. Amongst the grab handles and chunky buttons that keep the theme true to the old JK-gen model, there’s an 8.4-inch infotainment display which responds to touch even if you’re wearing gloves and features bespoke Jeep menus, including an off-road page that shows live pitch and roll angles. Ensuring the Wrangler’s very much a 21st century 4x4 is a customisable 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster. Ok, so the dash’s leather wrap feels a little cheaper than what you might get in more conventional SUVs and the overall fit and finish could be better, but it’s big step forward from the previous car.

We begin in an entry-level three-door Sahara, which comes with the digital tech as standard, but doesn’t get leather upholstery and a few of the extra driver-assist features added to the higher-ranking Overland. You do still get the three-piece removable hard top, however, as that’s standard on the Wrangler and a key party piece when it comes to distinguishing it from anything else on the market (there’s an optional power soft top and a removable fabric alternative as well). Even in an option-light Sahara there’s plenty of kit – too much to list here – so you’re not wanting for equipment.

This car’s fitted with the 2.1-litre diesel, a 200hp and 332lb ft of torque-producing Multijet four-cylinder, and it certainly feels up to the job even if the noise is a little agricultural. Peak torque’s delivered from 2,000rpm and the car’s automatic eight-speed gearbox is keen to keep the motor spinning around that range so it always feels sharp and responsive. On Cumbrian B roads the new Wrangler is a significantly more settled beast than the old one, with lighter thuds felt through its suspension over ridges and a generally more composed attitude at speed. It’s not going to win over anyone who’s used to the handling of a road-biased SUV or crossover, but it’s perfectly competent and only the extremely slow steering – 3.7 turns lock-to-lock – requires you to adapt your driving style.


Since the Wrangler continues to use a body-on-frame architecture it always feels like a proper 4x4, but body control is decent enough for it to not tip and roll unduly. Of course, this construction means it really comes into its own on the rough stuff, of which there is plenty in the Lake District; particularly on our route, which treads up and down a steep hillside near the picturesque lake of Windermere over sharp rocks as tall as cereal boxes and mud slopes so slippery you couldn’t hike up them. For this, we push the car’s transfer ‘box from two-wheel drive high into four-wheel drive low mode, which couples the eight speed with a 2.7:1 crawl ratio.

The Wrangler makes mincemeat of it all. So effective is it in these treacherous conditions that it seems like only driver apprehension would cause the car to lose momentum. A quick roll back one or two feet is all it takes to regain pace, with the Wrangler Sahara – which is equipped with road-biased tyres we should add – clawing at the surface beneath and hurling its 1.9 tonnes forwards like a ticked off linebacker. Since the Wrangler’s auto only, you never quite have the control of a manual like in, say, the Jimny, so you wouldn’t be able to rock out of trouble - but there’s so much low-down grunt on offer that the diesel Wrangler just creeps up and over everything its nose is presented with. On the descent, meanwhile, the brakes are strong and progressive enough that you can focus on steering without breaking a sweat.

If the base car’s so good, what’s the point of forking out for the top-spec Rubicon? It’s two grand more at £46,385 and with the four-door 2.0-litre petrol we have here, it’s £1,980 more on top of that. The engine, a turbo four-pot GME, has 272hp but comes mated to the same eight-speed auto. What the extra cash buys you is actually underneath. Added to the Rubicon are a pair of differentials, which can be locked independently, as well as an electronically disconnectable – at the touch of a button – front anti-roll bar. Unlock it and there’s more articulation providing, in theory, even more traction, as a set of BF Goodrich off-road tyres ought to. The transfer ‘box gets an even lower 4:1 ratio to maximise this.


Unstoppable. That’s the only way to describe this most beefed-up Wrangler. It tackles the same challenging routes with even less drama, the longer body and wheelbase barely troubled on their way to a distant summit. That said, the petrol engine, although clearly more potent on the road, feels comparably weak in this setting, requiring 3,000 revs to achieve its smaller peak of 295lb ft, so it's not as muscular as the diesel – and no doubt would be far thirstier as a result. While the four-door petrol is probably no less capable overall, the combination of the compact three-door body and torquey diesel is the most fun for the driver. We’d have ours in Rubicon spec because, well, for a couple of grand more you really do have yourself the ultimate Wrangler.

There is an elephant in the room, though. A baby one, perhaps - or small enough at any rate to be subjective - but the lack of footrest and slim space between the brake pedal and transmission tunnel was, for this tester, a little uncomfortable. While it’s no issue when you’re traversing Lake District rocks or driving short hops, it might prove troublesome on longer stints. The issue appears only to be a right-hand drive one, too. Certainly not a deal breaker, but perhaps a disappointing feature of an otherwise appealing machine.

So should you buy one? The Wrangler, even in base Sahara spec, is pricey in Britain what with all the costs added to get it here, so if you don’t venture far from tarmac it’s unlikely you’ll ever feel that value in the product. Although, to be honest, if you’re in the market for a 4x4 and don’t ever go properly off-road, you’re not really in the market for a 4x4 at all but rather an SUV or crossover. For some, the ultra-cool image of the Wrangler might be enough to sway them, but for those who do value go-anywhere capabilities, well, they needn’t look anywhere else. Unless they can squeeze into the equally as impressive - and much cheaper - Suzuki Jimny that is.


SPECIFICATION - JEEP WRANGLER SAHARA DIESEL THREE-DOOR

Engine: 2,143cc 4cyls in line
Transmission: 8-spd 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

SPECIFICATION - JEEP WRANGLER RUBICON PETROLFIVE-DOOR

Engine: 1,995cc 4cyls in line
Transmission: 8-spd automatic
Power (hp): 272@5,250rpm
Torque (lb ft): 295@3,000rpm
0-62mph: N/A
Top speed: N/A
Weight: 2,028KG
MPG: 31.4
CO2: 213g/km
Price: £48,365


















Author
Discussion

Hub

Original Poster:

4,109 posts

137 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
This and the Jimny show that there is a market for retro proper 4x4s. Land Rover should take note with the Defender, rather than ruining its heritage and creating another lifestyle SUV out of it!

I like it! (Don't need one though)

Grant Tuscan

131 posts

210 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
Can't say I've noticed anything at all with the pedal spacing, it feels 100% standard to me. I have had my Rubicon 5dr for a couple of months now and totally love it. These cars have an increasingly rare quality, in that the have character, making them fun to get in and drive somewhere. Rather than simply being a machine that efficiently moves you from A to B but that's utterly devoid of any personality.

...and you can take the roof off!


mudnomad

3,836 posts

123 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
I test drove one in London and really liked it but there are some strange sales rules in play. Like you can't spec your own, you're only able to choose out of what Jeep produces and sends to dealers.
Also, the "removable" hardtop is apparently over 100kg, so a massive PITA to remove. Power soft top will be brilliant, but it's not available in the UK yet. "Sometime in 2019" I've been told.

tuscan_raider

78 posts

86 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
Always liked the look of these. Had a jimney and loved it but it had to go cause only 2 seats in the back.

We need 4x4 due to remote country living - currently running a freelander 2 and a rav 4 which just about manage most of the time...however always wanted a drop top too...

I always thought they had "4 liter" engines and the mahoosive front bumper always looked ridiculous (looks like they fixed that)...so maybe....

Childhood memories of the Beverley Hills Cop 2 film...cloud9



jontysafe

2,005 posts

117 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
Am I just old or is that stupid expensive?
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astroarcadia

1,564 posts

139 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
The UK pricing is the only thing stopping me from buying one.

I'm not asking fir Jimmy prices but these are about 20% overpriced IMO.

Although not a fair comparison a year old XC90 is great value.

Jeep need to provide some additional support if they are to get the Wrangler out of its niche and into the mainstream.

st4

1,359 posts

72 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
Hub said:
This and the Jimny show that there is a market for retro proper 4x4s. Land Rover should take note with the Defender, rather than ruining its heritage and creating another lifestyle SUV out of it!

I like it! (Don't need one though)
^^^
This.

This car is so gloriously fit for purpose. Like the Jimny, Landcruiser etc. My choice would be a Landcruiser commercial though. Fantastic cars

Edited by st4 on Saturday 23 February 09:18

astroarcadia

1,564 posts

139 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
The Defender as we know and love (hate) has gone forever. The new version will be a pastiche and fashion accessory like all LR products (FFRR aside).

Suzuki has nailed it with the new Jimny and there is huge opportunity for Jeep here.

Price is the key and right now and the new Wrangler is just not viable unless you truly follow your heart and crave the Wrangler image.

alorotom

5,912 posts

126 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
I bought a very early JK Wrangler Sahara Unlimited (2007/07) - paid full whack for it as well, and while it was spacious and not uncomfortable the build quality would rival Tesla.

Most infamously the headrests peeled from their placement bars and the paint on the drivers door came off in one big sheet when it was jet washed - these were both before it was 6mths old.

The dealership werent interested and even when I uncovered that the finance documentation that I had differed drastically from what MBFS had they (and MBUK) were not interested. Eventually took MBUK to court over fraudulent miss-selling and forging of legal finance documents (basically the salesman made 2 copies of docs, one with the price and rate we agreed, discussed and made the sale on, and one that was totally different with an inflated price, inflated APR and longer monthly term, in an attempt to keep the payment near what we discussed).

MBUK (and the dealer) lost the case and bought the car off me (the salesman mysteriously disappeared and the dealer reported they had left but is still listed even now, 12yrs later as employed by them)

I would hope things have improved in terms of the build quality and approach to dealer services and customer care - but I wouldnt touch another Jeep with a barge pole

Earthdweller

1,493 posts

65 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
jontysafe said:
Am I just old or is that stupid expensive?
No you’re right

I’d love one, saw them at the New York auto show back in April .. but the quality wasn’t great on them

It wouldn’t stop me buying one though if they were cheaper

They are in my mind a £30k car max .. not a £50k car

fernando the frog

129 posts

7 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all


Why do the doors look all dented? Sort of see it on the yellow one too

300bhp/ton

36,057 posts

129 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
Earthdweller said:
jontysafe said:
Am I just old or is that stupid expensive?
No you’re right

I’d love one, saw them at the New York auto show back in April .. but the quality wasn’t great on them

It wouldn’t stop me buying one though if they were cheaper

They are in my mind a £30k car max .. not a £50k car
Jeep UK are off their rocker pricing wise. How on Earth they thing the Wrangler should be priced the same as a Porsche Boxster is beyond me.

Plus the UK doesn’t get the entry models which are only $27k in the USA. But even these Rubicon models are pitched a lot cheaper than a Boxster is State wise.

Sadly Jeep seem not to give a fk about it though and probably only plan to try and sell 20 a year here or something stupid.

The previous model (JK) was pitched much better. A 3rd was £19k at launch with reports of deals as low as £17k. But Jeep made no effort to really let anyone know about the model. So failed to sell many it seems. Then one night Jeep UK jumped the prices to £33-35k. And to be fair to them probably sold the same total number per year.

This now means used prices are stupid money too frown

Fire99

9,515 posts

168 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
I do rather love these things but then I am a Jeep owner, admittedly a fair bit older one. I couldn't bring myself to buy a new one though.. Well I don't think so, but they say Jeeps are built not bought, so one that's lived for a few years will probably have a few of it's 'issues' ironed out.

These are another car that are rather flawed but have a charm that make you get very attached to them.. (For no particular reason).

Baldchap

767 posts

31 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
Isn't Rubicon a fruity drink?

loskie

1,206 posts

59 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
yes stupidly expensive especially when it burst the UK £40k VED threshold. Why no mention of the Landcruiser Utility in this article? I think that lists at about £34k for the swb.

Pumpsmynads

85 posts

95 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
Fifty grand! biggrinbiggrin

ArnageWRC

933 posts

98 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
Saw one of these in the Alwen car park on the Cambrian Rally last weekend; got home and went on the Jeep website and was gobsmacked by the price......over £40,000...really???

SidewaysSi

5,173 posts

173 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
Baldchap said:
Isn't Rubicon a fruity drink?
Yep. I quite like the fizzy Mango. Very refreshing smile

JeepWrangler2018

1 posts

1 month

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
Stupidly expensive for what it is. It’s a great vehicle however it’s nearly £10k more expensive than the outgoing model!! We have no option for a base model here in the UK so we are forced to have models which already come with most of the options.

It also has a few issues such as uncomfortable ride, wind noise, lack of a parts market, extortionate prices from Mopar (they sell accessories and parts for Jeep). Cheap looking interior, especially the roof as on the inside the roof isn’t padded or painted it’s just white.

I struggle to see why the Wrangler is priced so high in the UK. Compare it to other SUV’s at a similar price and you will find that they are better value for money in terms of comfort, speed and fuel economy and some even offer low gear ratio and other off-roady stuff. Seeing as we haven’t really got extreme terrain in the UK they are all as capable as the Wrangler in the UK.

The only thing that Wrangler has going for it is its retro looks and lots of customisation potential (if you can afford to import the parts from the USA) and the ability to go convertible (Not many SUV’s around that can go convertible) as well as it’s heritage.

The new Jimny isn’t going to help Wrangler sales. As it offers the retro look, will have lots of customisation potential, offers manual transmission and there will most definitely be a parts market for it.

And it offers most of the tech that the Wrangler has at a fraction of the price. Suzuki just need to release a convertible and a long wheelbase 4 door version then it pretty much beats the Wrangler. Unfortunately the Jimny doesn’t offer the same practicality as the Wrangler because of the lack of 4 doors.

I have yet to see a Jeep Wrangler JL in the UK. I’m not really surprised either.


Pommy

9,493 posts

155 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
Here in Australia they're going to be about £35k equivalent and as they're RHD someone is definitely taking the piss with UK pricing.