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Road Test: Jeep Wrangler 3.6 V6 Rubicon 2dr Auto (2011-2018)

£34,150 when new

Car specifications

Budget
£34,150
Brake horsepower
280bhp
Fuel consumption
24.4mpg
0–62 mph
8.10s
CO2
270g/km
Max speed
112Mph
Insurance Group
32A

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A direct descendent of the 1945 original, the 2012 Jeep Wrangler is one of the oldest new cars you can buy. And, on first impressions, it looks like it, too. It’s got the same slab-sided stance, the same flared wheelarches, the same hose-out interior and the same girder-style bumpers. It still doesn’t ride well on its leaf-sprung chassis and still feels like it’s going to topple over when you corner moderately quickly. 

But take it off-road and show it an unfeasibly rutted or steep – preferably both – track, and you won’t care about its road manners for long. A spider would have trouble getting to some places this car can reach without breaking a sweat. And in Rubicon spec – the true camouflage-wearing, blood-smeared survivalist’s choice – it has a Gollum-like ability to crawl up and over rocks several times its size.

Last year, Jeep gave the car a raft of interior improvements to cheer it up a bit. Nothing radical, just stuff you expect to see in a 21st-century car: better materials, some new knobs and dials and several 12v accessory ports.

This year, though, they left the interior alone and went to town in the engine dept. First, they threw away the 60-a-day, 3.8-litre V6 pushrod engine and inserted the gleaming new 3.6-litre bent-six Pentastar unit, which is seeing service across the Jeep range. Next, they pensioned off the fossilised four-speed auto ’box and replaced it with a new five-speeder.

Unlike the visual changes, the effect on the performance is more than just noticeably different. It’s so much better that, if you have just bought a 2011 model, I strongly advise you to sell it now before the 2012s arrive, because next to this new one, your car is frankly rubbish. Try these figures for size: the new car has 83bhp more power, 23lb ft more torque, is four seconds faster to 60mph, and gets a couple more mpg from every gallon of unleaded. And then try this for size – the V6, our favourite Wrangler engine, isn’t coming to the UK. Such a pity.

Especially as this increased muscularity and new flexibility means it can conquer even more ridiculous obstacles. On the road, it allows the Wrangler to keep up with traffic without having to stretch the throttle cable like piano wire. The new drivetrain isn’t enough in itself to make you want a Wrangler if you didn’t already have a hankering in your heart for one. But if you do, it now makes that choice a whole bunch easier to sell to your head.

What do you think?

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