Jeep Wrangler Sahara25 | 02 | 2019Scotcars rating

    Jeep breathes new life into its offroad icon, the Wrangler, as it bids to expand customer base

    SEVEN HUNDRED FEET up a hillside, peering down on Lake Coniston through the mizzly late February gloom, it was, perhaps no surprise, that the only other beings in close proximity were sheep. Enviously surefooted as they are, I suspect they might well have been impressed by the ease with which the new Jeep Wrangler conquered the narrow, twisty and rock-strewn path to the summit. (Related: New Jeep Wrangler starts at £44,865)

    The latest version of the Wrangler, the fourth generation of the iconic four-wheel drive off-roader — which can trace its heritage back to the seminal Willys MB of 1941 — has just arrived in UK showrooms. And while there’s an air of new luxury in the cabin, without question the Wrangler retains its reputation as the most capable, uncompromising mass-produced, dual-purpose off-roader in the world.

    Available as either a four-door long wheelbase, or the more traditional short wheelbase two-door —  which we concentrate on here — both are powered by a 197bhp, 2.2-litre MultiJet II turbocharged diesel engine, mated to an eight-speed auto ‘box. There’s also a 2.0-litre turbocharged in-line four-cylinder petrol. (Related: New Jeep Wrangler bags special 4x4 honour)


    Prices start at £44,865, for the entry-level Sahara 2.2 MultiJet II 200hp 4x4 Automatic 8-Speed 2-Door version. The entry-level four-door is £46,865.

    Two four-wheel drive systems are available: Command-Trac, on the Sahara — which we drive here — and Overland trim level; and Rock-Trac, standard on Rubicon trim. Both systems feature the new Selec-Trac full-time two-speed transfer case for a continuous monitoring and management of the torque sent to front and rear wheels.

    The 4x4 system operates in four driving modes:

        •    2H (Two-Wheel Drive High Range)

        •    4H AUTO (Full-Time Active On-Demand High Drive)

        •    4H Part-Time (Part-Time Four-Wheel Drive High Range)

        •    4L (Full-time Four-Wheel Drive Low Range)

        •    N (Neutral) is also available


    And that all works together to ensure the Wrangler is capable of coping with anything thrown at it; especially if you decide to tackle  the very roughest, toughest sort of off-roading.

    And no, that doesn’t mean climbing a kerb outside the school, or a wee bit of grassy parkland. The Wrangler looks hardcore offroading in the eye square on … and just laughs.

    With its combination of short wheelbase, short overhangs, ladder frame chassis, rigid axle suspension, permanent differential-lockable four-wheel drive, low-range transfer gearing and knobbly tyres, the Wrangler was unstoppable on its treacherously demanding route up to sheep country.

    The Lake District is awash with individuals smothered in fluorescent-coloured, state-of-the-art microfibre waterproof clothing, lightweight sturdy boots, and rucksacks packed with enough food and equipment for a fortnight’s mountaineering … despite the fact they’re normally simply just dandering along a well-worn footpath for a few hours.


    So it was no surprise that on our drive high up into the hills, we didn’t pass any ‘walkers’. And while the rain tipped down, I was content to wade through two-and-a-half feet of water, inch my way up the slippery 45-degree rock slab and pick my way through a never-ending boulder-strewn track … all the time warmly cocooned in the Wrangler’s leather-bound cabin.

    That, I’m happy to reflect, was better than two colleagues who — when setting off from the Jeep base at Windermere — removed the two roof panels above the driver and front passenger. Thirty minutes later, as the skies opened, they succumbed to the weather conditions, were forced to stop and got ever so slightly drenched as they refitted the panels.

    If ever a car was fit for purpose, it’s the Jeep Wrangler. Sure, the number of people who require a car capable of conquering such terrain must, logically, be reasonably low. But equally, and perhaps not surprisingly, there are a large number of people out there who do want one.


    And it might surprise you that, having stumped up close to 50 grand to buy one, the guys at Jeep admit many owners will splash out as much as another £20,000 “customising” their vehicle, with the likes of “winches and stuff”.

    Jeep though is keen to expand its Wrangler customer base; hence this move to delivering additional practicality and comfort in the latest model. But a word of advice. If you’re planning to use your new Wrangler simply for “Tarmac-tootling”, buy the Sahara or Overland trim: the ultra-tough Rubicon isn’t ideal for what you  would call the daily commute. Offroad though, it’s a monster!

    The Sahara comes with a a hard-top roof, a relatively road-friendly hybrid off-road tyre, and a host of creature comfort features such as those sumptuous leather seats, This latest model also boasts more interior space both in the front and the rear — the back seats though are still on the tight side, and access requires the flexibility of a yoga master — plus there’s more bootspace.


    Getting in and out of the front seats is initially straightforward, but you do need to lift your legs over a fairly obstructive sill. The footwell is also slightly cramped, and there’s no resting place for your left foot. But there is plenty of head and elbow room. At the rear, access to the bootspace is via a side-hinged tailgate, and the stowage decently voluminous in what is a deep, straight-sided space.

    Standard kit upfront includes a modern touchscreen infotainment system, electric windows all round, cruise control and climate control. There’s also a raft of USB ports and quality speakers.

    As I mentioned earlier, the Rubicon is the ‘hardcore’ offroad model. That means the less rugged — and I use that phrase relatively speaking — Sahara and Overland time each have different axles, suspension struts and axle drive ratios. Their wheel and tyre specifications are also different to those of the Rubicon.

    At 1894mm wide, the new Wrangler isn’t exactly narrow; it does have something of a presence, especially on the narrow lake lanes. However, it never felt out of place, nor too large for its surroundings, and while it was certainly at home offroad, it rode comfortably enough on the hard stuff.


    You do though need to factor in the fact that while the ride is certainly quieter and smoother than the previous generation, it can get a tad excitable over rougher Tarmac surfaces. The steering can also be slightly ponderous at returning to the straightahead, meaning that having first manhandled the car into a corner, you can find yourself hauling it back out of it on exit. Fun though.

    And while engineers and designers have combined to reduce the level of noise and vibration in the cabin, it’s nowhere near as silent as other modern SUVs in the £40-50k segment.

    But unlike rivals, the Wrangler is available as a manual soft-top, a powered soft-top and the targa-style removable hard-top  … the latter as experienced by my colleagues in the rain.

    In diesel form, as tested here, the package is excellent, with more than enough torque to deliver impressive levels of drivability and responsiveness.


    The burning question is: brilliant as it is offroad, could you live with a Wrangler on a daily basis as your sole mode of automotive transport with the majority of driving on Tarmac?

    I’ve a sneaky suspicion the answer would be ‘yes’, simply because of the improvements Jeep has made to the car’s suspension, soundproofing and overall drivability; and certainly the cabin’s a comfortable place to be.

    But the Wrangler still finds itself in a rather specialised niche, where it stands alone with few, if any rivals. Would you opt for a Wrangler over an Audi Q5 of Volvo XC60 as a daily driver? Unlikely.

    No. The buyer who will pocket the keys to a Wrangler remains one who not only relishes the Jeep’s remarkable off-road ability, but actually regularly uses it in the mud and glaur in which it simply excels. Or, then again, he or she will buy it simply because they like its presence, looks, and the image it portrays. And it’s an image I could happily live with.


    Related: New Jeep Cherokee revealed

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    Jim McGill


    Quick Stats
    Price OTR/As Tested £44,865 / £46,940
    Engine / Power: 4cyls in line, 2143cc, turbocharged diesel, with 8spd automatic / 200bhp
    How fast?: 0-62mph 8.9secs / Max 112mph
    How big/heavy?: L4334mm W1894mm H1839 / 1920kg
    How thirsty/CO2?: 37.7mpg combined / 198g/km CO2
    InsGP/Road tax: n/a / n/a
    Alternatives: Land Rover Discovery Sport, Toyota Land Cruiser

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