Prior Convictions: Wrangling with change

Over the years, American carmakers have often fretted that they couldn't possibly move away from their established practices for fear of upsetting loyal, repeat customers.

I've heard it said about everything from leaf springs to live axles, and sometimes, no doubt, it's been true; although sports car customers seem to have embraced independent suspension without too much trouble. But it would be especially true, you imagine, when it comes to the Jeep Wrangler. That is a car, I suspect, that you mess with at your peril.

Now the latest generation Wrangler is here, and on display this week at the Los Angeles auto show. The Wrangler can, indirectly, trace its roots back to the second world war but it is still massive business: Jeep sells more than 200,000 of them a year. Like Sellotape and Hoover, Jeep has, for many people, become a generic term. See a big 4x4? "He was driving some Jeep thing."

And so, sensibly, Chrysler hasn't messed with it. Looks good, doesn't it? I think so, especially the 2dr version, though you can have a 4dr variant too.

As well as updating, rather successfully to my eyes, the Jeep's appearance for the 2019 model year, the hardware has been renewed, too. But it's still a body-on-chassis off-roader, with solid front and rear axles. There is a low-range transfer case, all models get skid plates front and rear and it has what Jeep is claiming are the best off-road credentials in the business. The approach angle is 44 degrees, the departure angle 37, and there's a 27.8 degree breakover. Ground clearance is 277mm and it can wade through 762mm of water.

Modernity? It's getting there. There's more aluminium in the skin than ever before, to reduce weight, while a 2.0-litre turbo inline four will arrive offering almost as much power, and more torque, than the 3.6 V6 it also gets. There'll be a 3.0 diesel too, with mild hybrid versions later. You can have a six-speed manual, or an eight-speed auto 'box. It all sounds, and looks, fit for the purpose it has carved for itself over the decades.

I'll always hold a soft spot for the Land Rover Defender. So much so that I've got one. But drive even a recent version and it becomes searingly obvious how much it was denied the kind of development programme that has kept the Mercedes-Benz G-Class and Jeep Wrangler in business. So I'm a bit worried about the replacement, given it missed all of that tweaking and care that could have meant its evolution was a natural progression. Now, surely, it can't be, and I think that's a shame. Because this latest Jeep, particularly, shows how you look after an icon.



P.H. O'meter

Join the PH rating wars with your marks out of 10 for the article (Your ratings will be shown in your profile if you have one!)

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Rate this article

Comments (31) Join the discussion on the forum

  • The Spruce goose 02 Dec 2017

    The wranglers ive seen driven in the UK are always by women I guess they must make up a lot of sale.

  • missing the VR6 02 Dec 2017

    I don't think Queer as Folk did much for it reputation in the UK.

  • Harry Flashman 02 Dec 2017

    I had a heavily modified Land Rover Defender for some years, which spent 6 months in the mountain of France with me over a winter. It was modified to make it driveable and warm, and frankly it got me over some frozen passes when the gendarmes were turning other cars away. I loved that thing, and in many ways wish I had never sold it.

    However, whilst I was out there, I had the opportunity to try a Wrangler of similar vintage. And it was simply a much better car, in every measurable way.

    If I did that winter again, one of these would be my car of choice.

  • jhonn 02 Dec 2017

    I had one (a TJ) and for off-road use it was very good, better than the Defender in a number of key areas.

    Unfortunately for Jeep, the UK is not like the USA and the opportunity for people to actually use it off-road is limited, meaning it has the image of a 'lifestyle'/leisure vehicle, and it's not an image that a lot of people covet - not at the prices they're charging nowadays.

    I think Jeep are doing a great job in its evolution, love the fact that you can still fold the windshield and take off the doors - it's nice to have a true icon around.

    There'd be another in my dream garage - a 2 door Rubicon would do nicely.

  • RDMcG 02 Dec 2017

    Have a current one in Arizona. They are amazing things off road. Blah on road. Still would not be without it. Will definitely get a short version for Canada but wait for second year prod. Jeep quality has never been great and will wait for year one shakeout. New one looks superb.

View all comments in the forums Make a comment