Comments

The new Jeep Wrangler is more usable than ever, but it comes at a price

The Jeep Wrangler is a four-wheel drive icon that’s better than ever before in its latest iteration. It offers significant improvements in all areas but it’s expensive to buy and run; compare its efficiency and luxury with the average premium SUV from Europe, and it really trails. It’s not at the cutting edge when it comes to safety tech, either. But if you want an off-roader that’s virtually unstoppable over challenging terrain, the Wrangler clearly has what it takes.

Our Choice 
Jeep Wrangler Sahara

There are few automotive icons left with the sort of bloodline that the Jeep Wrangler boasts. It traces its roots back to the dark days of the Second World War and the Willy’s Jeep, itself born from the US army’s desire for a capable off-road runabout with rudimentary weather protection and a folding windscreen (making them stackable for easy shipping). It has spawned imitators ever since but amazingly after three quarters of a century, the Jeep Wrangler still holds true to the 1940s format. Today’s all-new model has a simple boxy body dropped onto a basic chassis.

The latest Wrangler is nothing like as rudimentary, though, as its modern day prices confirm. There are three trim levels and two bodystyles in the UK – Sahara, Overland and Rubicon in two- or four-fdoor versions. Prices start from around £45,000 for the entry-level two-door and climb to nigh-on £50,000 for the four-door, top-spec model.

Best 4x4s and SUVs on sale

You get more for your money these days at least, and the latest generation has been subjected to a root and branch overhaul designed primarily to make it easier and more practical to live with. Upgrades to the suspension, engine efficiency, safety tech and roof mechanisms have all been part of the programme.

There are petrol and diesel engine options – just one of each – with an eight-speed automatic gearbox the only choice with both.

Rivals for the Jeep Wrangler are difficult to pin down exactly, because many buyers choose it as a style statement rather than a workhorse. The Land Rover Discovery Sport, Toyota Land Cruiser and Mitsubishi Shogun SUVs and Mercedes X-Class pick-up are possible candidates that spring to mind.

Engines, performance and drive

3.8
For top-down fun drives, the Wrangler is a blast, and it’s epic off road, too

Although Jeep is able to make a big noise about the improved road performance of the latest Wrangler, perhaps that’s more a comment on how unruly the last version was.

Get behind the wheel of the new one, and compared with pretty much anything else in the premium SUV sector, you’ll find the ride bouncy, the steering vague and the road and tyre noise intrusive. There’s no manual gearbox option, but the auto performs pretty well and helps to reduce the workload. The overall ride and handling of the Wrangler is much closer to one of the ‘lifestyle’ pick-up trucks. That’s good enough for many people, of course, and with the roof open on a sunny day the Jeep’s unsophisticated nature is all part of the fun. On a dark November morning on the school run it could easily feel like a chore. We’re fans of the smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox, however.

Where the Wrangler excels is over rugged terrain, thanks to its low departure angles and high ground clearance. Indeed, in Rubicon trim with low-ratio gears, heavy-duty axles, locking differentials and various other off-road trinkets, it’s virtually unstoppable.

On UK roads, even the short-wheelbase Wrangler feels large, a little dated in the chassis department and not especially comfortable. The 2.2-litre petrol offers a turn of pace that’s actually pretty impressive for a car of this type, but the Wrangler is not equipped to make the most of this on the road. Rivals like the Land Rover Discovery Sport are far better to drive on the road, but the Wrangler will certainly prove the most cable off it.

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

Engine options are limited to a 268bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol, or a 197bhp 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel that’s familiar elsewhere in the Fiat and Jeep line-up.

The diesel is actually pretty refined unless you really want to thrash it, when it takes on a bit of boom. Otherwise it idles relatively quietly and will whisk you to 62mph from rest in just 9.7 seconds, although maximum speed is only 99mph. If you opt for the petrol engine you’ll get off the mark even more quickly, with a 0-62mph time of around seven seconds.

MPG, CO2 and running costs

2.8
The Wrangler is expensive, thirsty, emits plenty of CO2 and pays the price in taxation

‘Tread lightly’ is one of the eco-focused watchwords of the off-road set, but the term was coined before CO2 overtook tearing up fragile landscapes as the environmentalists’ primary concern.

If you want a green 4x4 with genuine off-road ability and iconic character, your best bet is to go for the diminutive Suzuki Jimny. In spite of the new downsized engine choices, the Wrangler remains something of a dinosaur, albeit a likeable one.

The 2.2-litre diesel is the most efficient option, but it only returns up to 30.4mpg and emits 198g/km of CO2 (in the short-wheelbase car). The Toyota Land Cruiser promises almost 30.1mpg, while the Suzuki Jimny returns 35.8mpg.

As a result of these figures, company car users running the Wrangler will pay a hefty 37 per cent in Benefit-in-Kind tax based on an already high purchase price. Steep list prices also mean owners will have to stump up the £320 luxury car VED supplement, which means total road tax of £465 in years two to six of ownership.

Insurance groups

The Wrangler sits in insurance groups 33 to 41, depending on specification. The diesel-powered four-door in Rubion spec sits in group 33, the four-door Sahara diesel in group 38 and the two-door, petrol-powered Overland in group 41. The Land Cruiser occupies a similar bracket of groups 31 to 42.

Depreciation

The outgoing Jeep Wrangler has a very strong reputation for holding onto its value, which is a testament to the ageless appeal of the slowly evolving design. The 2018 model has all the old version’s intrinsic appeal; according to our experts it should hold on to around 40 to 45 per cent of its value after 36,000 miles and three years come trade-in time.

Interior, design and technology

3
The new Wrangler interior is welcoming, well equipped and more user-friendly in all respects

In every direction, the new Wrangler is a little bigger than its predecessors, but not so much that you’d notice from the outside. It features a revised grille and bumper, slightly more overtly flared plastic wheelarches and more obviously ‘designed’ rear light units. The windscreen is noticeably raked this time around, in the quest for a bit more aero efficiency, but it’s still very upright compared with most other passenger vehicles on the road.

Climbing up into the car remains a bit of a stretch, but once inside the driving position is as upright as in Wranglers of old. However, the cabin ambience is much improved thanks to the use of soft-touch materials, and while the dashboard is still utilitarian, it now features a touchscreen with intuitive controls. The facia also has a very attractive retro feel, designed to evoke memories of the metal panel dashboards in early Jeeps.

It’s always been possible to remove a Wrangler’s doors and windscreen, but the new model makes it much easier. The windscreen folds after removing four bolts, and the doors unclip in a much simpler fashion.

You also get a choice of three types of roof. There’s a manual set-up with lift-out panels, an electric sliding option and a removable full hard-top.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

Jeep offers three sizes of touchscreen in the Wrangler, ranging from five to 8.4 inches. The two larger varieties include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto so you can hook up your smartphone. The latter system is responsive and is intuitive to use; it’s joined by a small read-out in the instrument binnacle that can display off-road information and sat-nav directions.

Practicality, comfort and boot space

3.6
You can take a Jeep Wrangler anywhere, as long as you don’t need to carry much stuff

Even in the four-door Wrangler, cabin and luggage space is a bit tight, but the two-door is 550mm shorter and has a smaller boot than a SEAT Mii city car.

The Wrangler is pretty high up so can be awkward to get in and out of, especially for those accessing the rear seats on the two-door model. The back doors on the four-door are relatively narrow, too, and there’s no seven-seat option.

Visibility out of the Wrangler is pretty good, with a commanding view and relatively slim windscreen pillars. The boxy design and bluff ends make the Jeep easy to place in confined spaces as well.

A big externally mounted spare wheel can make the tailgate heavy and unwieldy to open and close, and means you can’t raise the rear window of the hard-top without swinging the lower door out of the way.

Size

All Wranglers are 1,875mm wide and 1,868mm tall, but the two-door is a considerable 550mm shorter than the four-door, at 4,237mm. The Land Rover Discovery Sport is 4,599mm from nose to tail.

Leg room, head room & passenger space

There’s plenty of leg and shoulder room for passengers in the front seats of the Wrangler. The extended length of the four-door car means space in the back is acceptable, too, although the seats feel upright. In the two-door the rear seats are cramped, as well as awkward to get into.

Boot

The Wrangler two-door has a boot capacity of just 197 litres with the back seats in place, but if you only have occasional rear passengers you can fold the seats forward to create a 587-litre load bay. The four-door fares a bit better with a 533-litre boot; this extends to 1,044 litres when the seats are folded down.

Reliability and Safety

3.2
Dependable under extreme conditions, but safety tech is lower on the Wrangler’s agenda

The Wrangler’s rugged simplicity has always been a selling point for those wishing to take their vehicle off road, and the latest version isn’t really any more complex than its predecessor from a mechanical point of view. Additionally, the new car’s Fiat group diesel is already well proven across a variety of different models.

Crash safety is less of a known quantity because we’ve yet to see the Jeep undergo a Euro NCAP crash test. However, there isn’t the array of electronic safety equipment you’d expect to find on most SUVs in this price range these days. It seems a bit stingy that only four airbags are included, and you won’t find features such as automated brake assistance. Although a blind spot warning has made it onto the car, there isn’t much else to crow about. 

Warranty

The Wrangler’s five-year/75,000-mile warranty is impressive, and eclipses the cover on offer from the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes.

Servicing

Three years’ servicing and five years’ breakdown cover are included as part of Jeep’s standard 5-3-5 Warranty and Service package.

Last updated: 
12 Jul, 2019