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Car Review

Jeep Wrangler review

£58,510 - £60,125
710
Published: 29 Apr 2024
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Latest generation of the ultimate American go-anywhere 4x4 is the most authentic thing Jeep makes. Off-roaders don’t get gnarlier than this

Good stuff

Bags of character, the mountaineering ability of Tenzing Norgay

Bad stuff

It’s a niche product, crossover-y 4x4s will be better in town, expensive

Overview

What is it?

This is the latest Jeep Wrangler. And it really, really is new. We promise. Newer than ever actually, having been gently updated to keep it looking fresh (well, different) for 2024.

The changes are both small and big. Of the former, Jeep added a bunch of driver safety aids - as required by law now - and made rock rails (for extra stiffness) standard, then fitted more airbags and upgraded the touchscreen to a 12.3in doobry.

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Meanwhile the design of the grille has been altered, and the 18in and 17in alloys on both Sahara and Rubicon models have been revamped.

And the big stuff?

Remember how the Wrangler used to be optional as a four-door? Now you don’t get to choose: it’s that or nada, as the two-door has been canned. And remember it had a 2.2-litre diesel? Yup, that too has been dispatched to the history books; only the 2.0-litre petrol 4cyl remains, coupled to an eight-speed auto.

That’s good for more power but less torque - 268bhp and 295lb ft - than the retired diesel. 0-62mph is surprisingly sprightly at 7.6 seconds; obviously you’ll never trouble the 112mph top speed. On paper fuel economy is 27.2mpg, but you’ll do well to break 16. Good job it’s got an 81-litre fuel tank…

It looks identical to the old Wrangler.

It’s easy to pour scorn on how similar the Wrangler ‘JL’ (that’s the model code) looks to the ‘JK’ generation that came before it, as it is for nearly 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.

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The ladder frame, bodywork, interior, engines and gearbox were all first for the Wrangler when it landed in 2017, making it lighter and more efficient than before. And crucially, better at tackling that pesky time you’ll actually spend on the road and not off in the wild blue yonder.

But it’s still a utilitarian, right?

It’s very much a tool for seeing just how wild and blue that yonder actually gets, yes. 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 32in 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 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.

What’s it up against?

Of course, the latest Defender now has to look just as comfortable in Chelsea as it does in the Brecon Beacons, but it’s still a serious off-road machine. Ineos has since planted its flag in the ground with the Grenadier; the new Toyota Land Cruiser is brilliant but pricey; an updated Mercedes G-Class is afoot, and it’s going electric too by the way. Not fussed about genuine rough-stuff ability? Get a Duster.

We’d have recommended a Suzuki Jimny in times gone by, but that’s only available as a commercial vehicle now. Maybe try one of these modded ones instead.

Come on then… how much?

At £61k minimum, the Wrangler is an entirely unique purchase. It’s a convertible, it’s an off-road warrior, it’s a four-seater that’ll work well enough when it’s time to take children to school.

Yet, rather wisely, Jeep hasn’t fallen into the trap of trying to broaden its scope. It is what it's supposed to be and makes no apologies for that fact. So while it may be compromised out on the road or around town – albeit less so than ever – it's unflappable at the task for which it has been designed. Put it to work properly and you won’t be disappointed.

Our choice from the range

What's the verdict?

It makes a mockery of hostile terrain: just pick a mountain, apply light throttle, and wait for the rocky summit to come to you

The Wrangler is the best thing Jeep makes because it's the most authentic thing it makes. If it couldn't clamber over various things that’d stop a Sherpa in their tracks, it’d be an abject failure. And so would everything else Jeep builds. The Wrangler is Jeep’s bedrock, period.

Happily, it makes a mockery of hostile terrain: just pick a mountain, apply light throttle, and wait for the rocky summit to come to you. Easy peasy. But there’s also a less tangible (but no less important) element to the Wrangler: how it makes you feel in the process. It has an inherent desirability that transcends its blocky styling and overtly utilitarian mandate; that sense that at the drop of a Stetson, you could disappear off for parts and adventures unknown.

It is chuffing big now that it’s four-door only, and in the context of the multifaceted Defender, rather expensive. Probably too expensive for a car that’s overkill 90 per cent of the time. Still, we can’t fault it for character.

The Rivals

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