Regardless of whether you’re a lover of all things with four-tyres and an engine, or you’re more interested in what Catherine the Dutchess of Cambridge wore to give birth, I’m hoping you will take something away from this column – even if it is just a polite laugh.
This week in the WhichCar office, we joined forces with 4X4 Australia to drive the team’s long-term 4-door Jeep Wrangler Blackhawk. To say I was excited would be an understatement. The Wrangler saw faces light up faster than a group of women at a Magic Mike opening night.
Those of us that are less inclined to understand the definition of torque are probably more interested in a car’s aesthetics or the ‘celebrity-factor’. Which brings me to the appeal of a Wrangler: Stephen Baldwin, David Beckham, Avril Lavigne and Khloe Kardashian are just a few of the big names spotted driving a Wrangler at some point – but let’s face it, celebrities crash change cars like Melbourne changes weather. But perhaps the biggest name, and the one that will reside in the hearts of most women’s inner-child, is Barbie. Remember the little pink Jeep with big white alloy wheels and purple roll bars? Well that’s exactly what we got, only black, and shiny and marginally more expensive.
So there I was, getting the keys to my childhood dream-car handed to me on a chrome platter. As I climbed into the seat, I felt like a queen in her throne; so tall, so much power… such… a… big… car! Being all black, it was hot. Like really hot. I was going to suffocate. Challenge: how does one open the window in a Wrangler? No window! Panicked…Survived. Controls were on the centre console. I repeat, the centre console. Crisis averted.
Once I got over the initial ordeal, I pulled the autostick to R, and waited for the reverse camera to set in. Wait, no reverse camera? SHIT! After ensuring the path was all clear, mentally measuring the distance of the car behind me and checking there were no small children or puppies in sight, I managed to get out of the car park. Alive.
The steering on the Jeep was loose and if I took my eyes off the road ahead for even a moment, it would start to steer itself left or right. The accelerator was also set in an unusual spot and a little behind the brake; this is not the car to drive in Havaianas. And don’t get me started on the noisy tyres.
On the plus side, it looks good. Really good. And you don’t have to be at a stand-still to set the navigation system, which is a bugbear of mine – not that I recommend you play with the navigation while driving, especially in this mind-of-its-own truck, but it sure comes in handy when you’ve got Ken someone in the passenger seat.
Eventually I got back to the office with myself and the Jeep in one piece. It took me a whole two seconds to hand the keys back to the 4X4 staff, at which stage my eyes were filled with tears and disappointment. Barbie lied – bitch!
But it didn’t stop me from trying again. I couldn’t help myself; I was determined to find the positive in this beast. If Barbie could do it, so could I! So after a few test runs, I came to appreciate it for what it was. Yes, it may have taken me 30 minutes of sitting in extreme heat to find the window controls, the steering is less than ideal and it could be more aligned to a hummer than a Jeep. But this is an off-roader after all, and a fully adaptable one at that. You can take off the roof panels, the bonnet, and the side doors. It even comes with the soft-top loaded into the back when you drive out of the dealership so it’s like you’ve bought two cars for the price of one. There’s not a lot you can’t do to modify the Jeep Wrangler and that is exactly its appeal.
Give me wide open spaces, dirty mountain tracks and a pair of Hunter gumboots any day of the week and this vehicle would be at the top of my list. But if you’re not prepared to get your heels stuck in the mud and you just want a car that looks good for those trips to Oxford Street, then maybe you should be looking for something a little more like Barbie’s convertible.
Torque: A force that causes a rotation or twisting motion. So, basically, it’s the force that moves your car.