- Brilliant off road, and built tough
- Bouncy ride on the highway
What stands out?The Wrangler is the only current Jeep that can trace a lineage back to the Jeep that saw service in World War II, a brilliantly effective and world-changing brainchild of the US Army. In the spirit of that go-anywhere vehicle, the Wrangler is comfortably the most off-road capable Jeep. The Wrangler Rubicon is arguably the most off-road capable 4WD, in standard trim, from any maker.
What might bug me?How much attention you have to give the steering on bumpy roads. You will be correcting it frequently in any Wrangler, and more frequently in a two-door version.
Wind noise at highway speeds, from turbulent airflow at the top corners of the windscreen.
Getting at stuff in the back. To open the upper tailgate, you must first open the lower tailgate.
That your rugged two-door Wrangler can’t tow a big trailer: the legal limit is just 1000kg. (Four-door Wranglers can tow at least 2000kg.)
What body styles are there?Two-door or four-door SUV-style soft-top wagon, with an optional hard top. A Wrangler 2-Door has seating for four. A Wrangler 4-Door is longer and can seat five. In the past, Jeep has named its Wrangler 4-Door the Wrangler Unlimited, and in some places it continues to do so. It’s the same vehicle.
All Wranglers have part-time four-wheel drive, which means you can drive all four wheels but on soft or otherwise slippery surfaces only. You use a lever to select rear-wheel drive for driving on normal sealed roads, or 4WD for driving off road. Additionally, for off-road driving you can select low-range gears, which make it easier to drive very slowly.
The Wrangler is classed as a large SUV, lower priced.
What features do all Wranglers have?A six-speaker audio system with a radio and CD player, which can be controlled by voice and from buttons on the leather-wrapped steering wheel. Aux and USB inputs, and Bluetooth-connected mobile phone functions.
Cruise control, operated from buttons on the steering wheel.
Climate-control air conditioning (which maintains a set temperature).
Wheels made from polished aluminium alloy, which look nicer than steel wheels. A matching full-size spare tyre, mounted on the lower tailgate and protected with a vinyl cover.
Front and rear fog lights, which make the car more visible in inclement weather.
A full-length vinyl soft-top roof, which can be folded down manually or removed altogether.
Leather wrapped steering wheel.
Removable doors. Once the soft top is down, you can take out the doors to give an even more open-air feel. The upper tailgate can also be removed.
Wash out interior for when you get as muddy as your Wrangler in the bush.
Steel plates under the car that protect vital components such as the fuel tank from damage off-road.
Electronic traction control, which helps prevent wheelspin on slippery roads and off-road.
Four airbags, and electronic stability control. (For the placement of airbags, and more on the Wrangler’s safety systems, please open the Safety section below.)
The Jeep Wrangler has a five-year, 100,000km warranty.
Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?The diesel engine uses the least fuel, consuming 8.8 litres/100km in the official government test (city and country combined). This 2.8-litre four-cylinder is a modern European design, with plenty of responsive power. In real-world driving it uses about 10 or 11 litres of fuel every 100km, depending on the driving environment and your driving style.
One reason you might not choose the diesel is that you want a Wrangler 2-Door or a Wrangler Rubicon, none of which offer that engine. Another could be that you want a Wrangler 4-Door with a manual gearbox: the diesel is available only as an automatic.
A third reason could be that you want to save some money on the initial purchase price of your Wrangler 4-Door, and want some extra power for overtaking on the highway.
The standard engine in all Wranglers is a powerful petrol V6. Wrangler 4-Doors with this engine cost less than they do with the diesel. But they also use more fuel: in real-world driving, any petrol-engined Wrangler will use about 13 to 14 litres/100km.
The less costly of the petrol-engine Wranglers, the Wrangler Sport 2-Door and 4-Door, are available with either a six-speed manual gearbox or a five-speed automatic. The more expensive Wrangler Overland 2-Door and 4-Door, the Wrangler Rubicon, and all diesel Wranglers, come only with the five-speed auto.
What key features do I get if I spend more?The least costly Wrangler is the Sport 2-Door, which comes with the petrol V6. Spend more for a Sport 4-Door and you get convenient access to the rear seat, seating for five rather than four, and additional luggage space. You also get the option of paying more again for the diesel engine.
Having selected any Wrangler Sport, you can also pay extra for a Renegade option pack. This brings you a removable three-piece hard-top roof, finished in black, which allows you to lock up the car more securely than you can with the soft roof. You also get a better audio system with a six-CD stacker, a mobile-phone audio jack, and a sub-woofer for improved bass response. And you get sidesteps, which make it easier to get in and out of the car.
A second option pack available with a Sport adds a hard-drive for storing your music, and satellite navigation via a 6.5-inch touchscreen. The touchscreen can also be used to control the audio system, phone connectivity, and cabin comfort.
Move on to the Overland, which is available only as an automatic, and you get what is effectively a fully optioned Sport but with extras. Those extras include leather trim, heated front seats, headlights that switch on automatically when it gets dark, and fancier 18-inch wheels in place of the Sport’s 17-inchers. The Overland also gets a body-coloured, but still removable, hard-top roof.
For about the same price as an Overland 4-Door, you can opt for the Rubicon. The Rubicon, which comes only as a 4-Door automatic, matches the Sport for wheel size and general features but has in addition a removable black three-piece hard-top roof, automatic headlights, and the better audio system with the sub-woofer. More significantly, the Rubicon has a number of mechanical features that enhance its off-road ability.
These include front and rear differential locks, and front suspension with an off-road mode (operated via a dashboard switch) that provides more wheel travel, all of which helps the car maintain progress over extremely rough ground. The Rubicon also has special front and rear differentials that are stronger than those on other Wranglers and allow you to drive even more slowly off-road. Finally, the Rubicon has extra underbody protection to minimise damage.
You can spend more on your Rubicon by adding the touchscreen, satellite navigation, leather trim, heated front seats and a body-coloured hard–top roof – all standard features on an Overland.
Does any upgrade have a down side?The diesel engine, which is more expensive, has less outright performance than the cheaper petrol engine – something you would notice mainly when attempting swift overtakes on the highway.
Four-door Wranglers aren’t as manoeuvrable or agile in tight off-road going as the two-door models due to their extra length. The four-door models are also heavier, which means less performance and poorer fuel economy.
Only white or black paint is standard. All other colours attract an extra cost.
How comfortable is the Wrangler?It’s a big step up into the high-riding Wrangler. Getting in is difficult without the optional sidesteps, due to the absence of an appropriately placed assistance handle.
Once inside, the upright seating position, slab-fronted dash and flat, upright windscreen give the Wrangler more of the feel of an old-fashioned truck than of a modern passenger car.
Contrasting with that are the Wrangler’s nicely detailed interior fit and finish, modern and easy to use switchgear, intuitive touchscreen on the models thus equipped, and excellent audio system even at the base specification. The front seats are comfortable too, although short drivers might wish for more height adjustment to improve visibility over the high dashboard.
With its old-design chassis, effectively that of a light truck, the Wrangler has sloppy steering and gets pushed around by rough roads – bumps adjust your direction of travel, and you need to compensate with the steering wheel. It feels much better on smooth roads, however. Two-door models move around more on the bumps than four-door models, which gain some stability from their longer wheelbase.
The petrol V6 engine is smooth, powerful and responsive, and works better with the automatic gearbox than the manual. The diesel isn’t as smooth and quiet as the petrol engine but is more responsive at normal road speeds when you first press the accelerator pedal. (The petrol develops more power if you hold your foot down.)
What about safety in a Jeep Wrangler?All Wranglers have four airbags: two directly in front of the driver and front passenger, and one alongside each front occupant to protect the head and upper body.
Wranglers also have electronic stability control, which can help you bring a skidding car back under control and is mandatory on all new cars.
However, no Wrangler has a reversing camera, and none has sophisticated active safety features such as autonomous emergency braking (which will apply the brakes automatically if it thinks you are about to drive into something), blind spot monitoring, or lane-departure warning.
The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the Wrangler 2-Door four stars for safety in October 2012, from a maximum of five. ANCAP has not rated the Wrangler 4-Door.
I like driving - will I enjoy this car?The Wrangler is more than a car. It’s an automotive icon and is special to drive for that reason alone. Its heritage can be traced directly back to the very first Jeep, created by the US army during World War II and still in military use. That Jeep inspired the original Land Rover, the Toyota LandCruiser and the Nissan Patrol. Without question it sparked the love for 4WD vehicles that continues today around the world.
The Wrangler’s removable three-piece hard-top roof or fold-down soft-top roof, combined with its removable doors and upper tailgate, allow it to be configured with a fully closed body or – much like the original Jeep – as an open-air vehicle, to provide a unique driving experience.
Modern and effective engine and gearbox combinations add to the pleasure available from driving a Wrangler. The petrol engine is responsive right across the engine-speed range, and gives very good overtaking ability on full acceleration. The diesel is actually more responsive at low speeds than the petrol engine but can’t match the petrol’s overtaking ability at highway speeds.
Best of all, the Wrangler is ready to go off-road straight from the showroom floor, tyres and all, and is very effective once you get there. The Rubicon is a standout in this regard, and as good as it gets off-road for a showroom-stock 4WD vehicle.
Part of the reason a Wrangler works so well off-road is its truck-style chassis, which at each end suspends the wheels on a heavy solid axle running between them across the full width of the car. The downside of this is that on the road the Wrangler does not ride, handle or steer as well as most other 4WDs, which at least at the front mount their wheels on shorter, lighter, hinged arms that allow them to move independently. Wrangler 2-Doors in particular need almost constant steering corrections on bumpy roads, especially at open-road speeds.
How is life in the rear seats?Four-door Wranglers seat two adults and a child comfortably in the rear seat, the tall cabin providing good headroom and leg room. The Wrangler is also a good height for getting children in and out of car seats, although the rear doors could be a bit wider.
Two-door Wranglers can seat only two people in the rear, and while the space is adequate for two adults the access is very awkward.
How is it for carrying stuff?When it comes to carrying stuff, the two-door and four-door Wranglers are very different. The Wrangler 2-Door has a very small luggage space. But its two-person rear seat can be removed easily to provide a very good luggage space – at the expense of retaining seats only for the two people in front.
The longer four-door model has good luggage space with five seated. The Wrangler’s square-box body helps with cargo volume, as does its carrying the spare wheel outside on the tailgate.
Unusually, the horizontally spilt tailgate requires the lower section to be opened before the upper section, which isn’t as convenient as the usual method of being able to open the top by itself.
Two door models are rated to tow only 1000kg, which is very low for a 4WD. Four-door models have more respectable ratings of 2000kg for the petrol V6 and 2300kg for the diesel.
Where does Jeep make the Wrangler?Jeep Wranglers sold in Australia are made in the USA.
What might I miss that similar cars have?Three-row seating, for up to seven people, as provided by 4WDs such as the Toyota Prado and Fortuner, Ford Everest and Isuzu MU-X.
Smoother on-road handling, as provided by most other 4WDs, including all of those above.
Full-time 4WD, as offered by the Prado, the Everest, and the Mitsubishi Pajero and Pajero Sport, for example.
A reversing camera, which is now almost a universal fitment on 4WDs.
Among other cars you might consider is the Toyota LandCruiser 76 Series Wagon.
I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?The Rubicon is the pick of the range. It’s comfortably the best Wrangler off road, and it doesn’t sacrifice on-road handing or comfort to other Wranglers. Unfortunately, it is not available with the diesel engine.
Does Jeep plan to update the Wrangler soon?The current Wrangler dates back to 2007 but was upgraded with a new petrol engine and gearboxes in 2012.
A new-generation Wrangler has been revealed, with new powertrains and improved road handling, and is expected to enter production late in 2017, and to go on sale in 2018.
- Brilliant off road, and built tough
- Bouncy ride on the highway
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