Jeep Wrangler 2 dr Overland 2.8 CRD Auto, Model on test: £34,140
The Wrangler is, quite simply, an icon. When it comes to small rugged off-roaders, the Wrangler is effectively an indirect progression from the Second World War Jeeps; sturdy, dependable, military-inspired and utilitarian.
But let’s get one thing straight.
This car does not handle well on the road. It’s jumpy, jittery and will skitter across your lane like a frightened horse if you’re heavy on the wheel, and it hits speed bumps like they’re trees laying across the road.
I wish that was unfair, but it’s not. My wife took this to a meeting in Worcestershire and texted me when she got there to ask me what was wrong with it as it had no power and felt terrible. I pointed out that it had a 2.8 litre turbo-charged engine; how could it not have power? The reason is that all that power is geared towards torque, not acceleration. Putting out just 200 horsepower and taking more than ten seconds to get to 60 miles per hour, speed is not what this thing is about. In fact the Citroen C4 Grand Picasso with a 1.5 litre engine was faster to 60mph!
Going back to basics… this is a rugged off-roader. So I took it off road to see if it made sense in that environment. And (thankfully) it did.
The gearbox handled inclines that I felt sure would beat it, but it just kept climbing, even with loose gravel underneath. It’s designed for this and let’s face it, Jeep have quite the heritage when it comes to tough terrain – when you supply vehicles to the biggest military force in the world, there must be a reason for this.
Take this onto anything other than tarmac, and it starts to make sense. A lot of sense. Its handling capabilities off road are, in a word, immense. Incredible, really that something so bad on the road can be so much fun off road. Everything about it is aimed at this, so the performance matches the rugged, robust nature of the beast. It’s clunky, sure, but at the same time reassuring. Take this anywhere and it will see you through to the best of its ability.
So, bad on the road, great off it; what else can you expect?
In terms of the interior, it’s more comfortable than you would expect, with a halfway decent stereo, a sat nav that, although rudimentary, is effective once you’ve managed to programme your destination and upholstery that feels good and seats that are supportive. But then they have to be, because the suspension is horrible, and without something to distract you from the lack-lustre acceleration you’d be sorely tempted to give up and walk.
My wife’s friend joked that she felt she had to ‘do a Fred Flintstone’ to help it up the hills, and I know what she means. If you don’t mash your foot down enough to drop the five speed automatic gear box through the cogs, it will struggle, and once you lose momentum, it’s slow to recover it. The gearbox is not smooth, but again, I think this is because it’s set up for off roading, and longer gears are less disruptive to control over loose surfaces.
So it’s horrible on the road, clunky and, while well-equipped, you’ll find better quality almost anywhere in terms of technology. Oh, and if you want to remove the roof, it takes two people and a set of step-by-step instructions. It will also punish you for inattention and heavy-handed steering… but it has a certain quirkiness, something that makes you smile, something I couldn’t put my finger on, and at the end of the week, while I wasn’t sad to see it go, it had grown on me.
But paying more than £34,000 for something that only works when you go out to play, rather than on the way to work as well? That truly is mad.