Jeep Wrangler 2018 is estimated to cost from £40,000 in the UK
This Jeep Wrangler certainly qualifies as an icon too. With a lineage that stretches back to the Willys Jeep that helped the Allies win World War Two, the Wrangler was the first true SUV.
There’s now an all-new generation Wrangler, which builds on its well-earned reputation for combining ruggedness, a go-anywhere capability, and a boxy stylishness.
Indeed, one of the reasons for Jeep’s recent success (a 600 per cent increase in European sales since 2010) has to be its increased focus of design, which has borne fruit in some ruggedly handsome cars of late.
This new Wrangler is in the same vein: its iconic looks have been modernised, but without jettisoning the features that have made it what it is. So the seven-bar grille and circular headlights, set into a trapezoidal frame, announce its presence.
The wheelarches add to that and while car’s traditional rectangular shape has been smoothed off at the corners, it’s still sufficiently chunky and robust looking to leave you in no doubt what this car has been designed for.
But perhaps the real beauty of the Wrangler’s design is that it can morph into something else entirely. The roof panels can be removed (or rolled back if your prefer the soft top), the doors taken off and the windscreen can be folded down to turn it into a 21st-Century beach buggy or an adventure-seeking al fresco off-roader.
True, there won’t be many owners that do that on a regular basis, but the fact that this transformation is possible is its real ace card.
Buyers can choose from two engine options, one turbo-diesel and one petrol – with, intriguingly, a plug-in hybrid due to join the range in 2020.
The diesel is a 2.2-litre unit producing 198bhp, which enables a 0 to 60mph time of 8.7 to 10.1 seconds (depending on the version), while official consumption is 35.7 to 38.1mpg and CO2 emissions are 195 to 201g/km.
So it’s not the fastest, most economical and least polluting car on the road by some margin: the engine is also pretty noisy and unrefined. If quiet motoring with low running costs is what you’re looking for in an SUV, the Wrangler is unlikely to make your shortlist.
A 268bhp 2.0-litre petrol will join that diesel early next year. It’s certainly a bold decision to make it available, but it will undoubtedly be more attractive to British buyers than it was three or four years ago, especially if they drive less than 12,000 miles annually.
The interior of the all-new and updated Wrangler SUV
Performance and economy figures have yet to be released, but if the diesel is any guide, it’s fair to say that it won’t be cheap to run. Unlike previous Wranglers, the UK will not get the larger V6 petrol.
The other area in which it’s hard to make a case for the Wrangler is its on-road characteristics. The steering feels heavy, with a delay when you start turning the wheel; the handling isn’t exactly responsive; there’s a lot of wind and road noise; and the ride is, at best, knobbly and, at worst (in Rubicon trim with proper off-roading tyres) more jittery than a politician in a marginal seat at election time.
The Wrangler’s cabin has been updated, with soft-touch interior trim, contemporary-looking switchgear, digital instrument cluster, USB ports (front and rear) and a touchscreen in the centre of the dashboard (either 7-inch or 8.4-inch).
Space is adequate: the driver’s footwell does feel snug, but headroom is fine and rear legroom is surprisingly good – even in the two-door versions (although easy access is for the young and nimble only).
Storage and stowage is very practical, with cubbies, mesh pockets in the seat backs and cupholders. The boot isn’t hugely capacious, with two-door cars only having 192 litres with the seats up, rising to 533 litres in four-door versions: lowering the seats increases bootspace to 587 litres or 1,044 litres.
The Wrangler has something of a split personality
The two-part tailgate (one of which holds the spare wheel, in the classic Wrangler way) doesn’t make access easy, and the relatively high boot floor means you’ll have to hoik your luggage and shopping up and in.
There are two-door and four-door versions, and three trim variants – Sport, Sahara and Rubicon. Sport is the basic grade and is largely a base for the customisation that many Jeep owners like to indulge in.
Sahara cars are the choice of buyers that the brand like to refer to as ‘Urban Jeepers’, who like the Wrangler’s image and iconography, and want something that is more of a car to drive very day (there’s also an Overland pack designed to create a more upscale look). The Rubicon has uprated four-wheel drive and suspension systems to enable it to take on tougher obstacles.
The Wrangler has something of a split personality and its appeal will depend on how much the buyer appreciates that. It is incredibly capable off-road and it’s arguably the most adventurous car currently on the market. For everyday use on road though, there are better options (Volvo XC60, Mercedes-Benz GLC, BMW X3, Land Rover Discovery Sport). The importance of its cross-country character will dictate how good a buy it is – especially when prices (due to be announced later in the summer) are likely to start at over £40,000.
Then again, icons don’t come cheap – so it’s just as well that everything about this new generation reinforces that status.
It is incredibly capable off-road and it’s arguably the most adventurous car currently on the market
Model: Jeep Wrangler
On sale: September
Price range: est from £40,000
Engine range: Petrol – 2.0-litre; Turbo-diesel – 2.2-litre
Power: 0 to 60mph in 8.7 seconds, 111mph top speed (2.2TD)
Average fuel economy: 38.1mpg (Jeep Wrangler two-door)
CO2 emissions range: 195-201g/km
Rivals: BMW X3, Land Rover Discovery Sport, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Volvo XC60