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Car review: Jeep Wrangler

Updated in 2011, the Jeep Wrangler offers legendary capability and interior comfort. Off-road enthusiasts will love it, says car reviewer Tim Barnes-Clay.

Jeep Wrangler exterior

Jeep is the original sport utility vehicle (SUV) and since 1941 has stood for freedom, authenticity, adventure and passion.

The Wrangler model is a direct descendant of the World War II U.S. Army Jeep and made its debut in 1986 as a compact four-wheel drive SUV.

It was seriously revamped in 2011, but its solid axles, removable doors, exposed hinges, fold-down windscreen and detachable roof were kept.

Sounds like a life-size Meccano set doesn't it? But the revamped Jeep Wrangler is really not like that - and I was surprised.

Jeep Wrangler: Capable & comfortable

I drove the four-door 2.8 CRD Overland Auto model.

It combines Jeep's legendary rough-stuff capability with an interior that delivers rich styling and versatility, as well as a premium appearance.

At first the Wrangler seems narrow, but space is good.

The highlight of the interior is that there's room for five adults and there are lots of storage areas, as well as luxury touches such as heated seats and heated power mirrors.

Automatic temperature controls and enhanced visibility courtesy of large rear windows are also welcome additions.

Behind the wheel, the Jeep is a thoroughly up-to-the-minute affair.

Handy steering wheel controls

Steering wheel controls allow you to operate the radio, cruise control, hands-free phone and other functions while keeping your hands where they should be.

As well as that, a USB interface connects to your MP3 player for use with the vehicle's media centre, which also includes Bluetooth.

Jeep Wrangler cabin interior

With a 0-62 mph time of 10.7 seconds and a maximum speed of 107 mph, the Jeep is not the fastest vehicle.

But then, the Jeep Wrangler isn't intended for speed - it's built for hardcore, rough-terrain action.

'Brute of an engine'

Consequently, underneath all the sugary sweet creature comforts of the cabin, a brute of an engine thrums.

The power-plant for all Jeep Wrangler models is a 2.8-litre diesel lump, producing 197 bhp and 339 lb ft of pulling power - ideal for hauling you out of the mire.

This is backed-up with a five-speed automatic transmission.

Heavy-duty suspension with tuned shock absorbers and a high ground clearance complete the picture.

Jeep Wrangler has clout

All of this gives the Jeep Wrangler the sort of clout that trounces challenging off-road obstacles, especially serious slopes.

Indeed, the Wrangler is balanced, with negligible body lean when cornering and braking.

Its suspension gives accurate ride and handling characteristics off the tarmac, but, on the black stuff, it's a much softer, more comfy experience.

Reassuringly, safety systems, such as electronic stability control, help you in maintaining vehicle directional steadiness in severe driving manoeuvres on any type of surface.

Classic but updated exterior

Looks-wise the Jeep Wrangler's exterior holds to tradition.

Its classic round headlamps, a seven-slot grille, flared trapezoid wheel arches and uncovered hinges make it unmistakably "Jeep", yet it is fashionable, with clean, crisp lines.

Of course, the SUV's exterior is worth mentioning not only for its styling, but also for its well-known flexibility to go topless.

The Jeep Freedom Top, a three-piece roof, features separate detachable panels which give you the option to experience wind-in-your-hair abandon, should you desire it.

Jeep Wrangler: Pros & cons

  • Iconic image √
  • Powerful √
  • Practical √
  • Open-top options √
  • Not cheap X

Jeep Wrangler: Fast facts

  • Max speed: 107 mph
  • 0-62 mph: 10.7 secs
  • Combined mpg: 34.0
  • Engine: 2,776cc 4 cylinder 16 valve diesel
  • Max. power (bhp): 197 at 3,600 rpm
  • Max. torque (lb/ft): 339 at 1,600 rpm
  • CO2: 217 g/km
  • Price: £31,065

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Tim Barnes-Clay

Leon Poultney

Tim is an experienced motoring writer with a background in radio and TV journalism. He puts his pedal to the metal each week with his must-read car reviews.

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