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The Top Gear car review:Jeep Wrangler
For:Has bags of character and the mountain-climbing ability of Tenzing Norgay
Against:It’s a bit of a niche product; more crossover-y 4x4s will be better in town
What is it?
This is the brand-new Wrangler. And it really, really is new. We promise. It just doesn’t really look like it.
Of course, it’s easy to pour scorn on how similar the new Wrangler looks to the old Wrangler – and indeed, roughly every Jeep since the one that ferried Eisenhower around Normandy – but that’s overlooking the fact that this is what people want. Jeep, for better or worse, is locked into this design and will be judged by how faithfully it continues the lineage.
The Wrangler ‘JL’ (that’s the model code, it replaces the ‘JK’) really is new – the ladder frame, bodywork, interior, engines and eight-speed automatic gearbox are all making their debut here. So it’s lighter and more efficient than ever before, and it’s better at tackling that pesky time you’ll actually spend on the road and not off in the wild blue yonder.
That said, it’s still very much a tool for seeing just how wild and blue that yonder actually gets – the axles are still solid, there are low-ratio off-road gears and locking differentials. The tyres, if you plump for the Rubicon spec, are massive 33-inch affairs that jack you up into the air like you’re in an ancient Egyptian sedan. In short, the Wrangler is still something that turns the wilderness into a playground.
And it’s the playground part that has always set the Wrangler apart. Yes, it’s a serious off-roader, but it does so in such an unserious, swaggery way that you can’t help but find it characterful and oddly desirable. It’s certainly has a bigger sense of humour than the old Land Rover Defender, even though they both offer the same basic premise – rugged, go-anywhere machines that you can clean with a hose and service with a hammer.
The Wrangler is an entirely unique purchase – it’s a convertible, it’s an off-road warrior, it’s a four-seater that’ll likely work well enough when it’s time to take children to school. Yet, rather cleverly, it’s never felt compromised by being forced into a certain, newly fashionable segment, nor diluted by Jeep trying to broaden its scope. Even now it’s been upgraded to be better on road…