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Great performance on- and off-road

Jeep’s iconic Wrangler models retain many of the styling characteristics which made the brand so famous, but latest versions boast extra comfort, performance, and passenger-carrying practicality. David Williams had an extended test-drive.

The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon proved versatile and capable during a Farmers Guide week-long test.

The latest Wrangler series includes two- or four-door models; all powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine developing 272hp. There are three specification levels, starting with the base Sahara and topping out with the Rubicon which was the version supplied for the Farmers Guide week-long test.

Attractive package

The Rubicon’s attractive interior is finished to a very high standard, and the soft leather seats remain comfortable during longer journeys and provide plenty of support when driving off-road. There is room in the rear for three adults but it’s a snug fit. The rear doors are narrow but open to almost 90 degrees for good access. The base of the door is 65cm above the ground and there is no step – making it tricky to climb in and out without brushing clothes on the external rear mudguard surrounds.

Storage in the rear passenger compartment is good, including cargo net pockets in the rear doors and in the backs of the front seats. These are flat when not in use so they don’t take up valuable space, but they also offer plenty of practical storage for items such as drink containers.

The front seats have plenty of adjustment and the leather is tough but soft and very comfortable. Powerful seat heaters are standard. The steering wheel has a chunky leather-clad rim and is heated.

Storage in the front is generous – with plenty of small trays for odds and ends, and full-length door nets for larger items. There is a small but deep glovebox and a large storage box between the front seats with a tray inside the hinged cover. There are also drinks holders in the centre.

With the rear seats folded flat, there is up to 1.7m length of boot space available. The split rear door provides good access for loading heavy items.

Generous equipment

The dashboard is attractive and functional, with a large 8.4in touchscreen display in the centre. This is well designed and easy to set up and use, and an attractive feature is that many functions can also be operated through physical switches which are easier to operate when travelling across uneven ground.

Two small instrument dials include the speedometer, and a rev counter. Limited space around the dials means extra information including data from the trip computer is too small to read easily.

Most control switches are clearly arranged in the centre of the dashboard, including on-off selectors for four electrical power outlets.

Vision

The view from the driver’s seat is good, although the front windscreen is shallow compared to many competitors. The exterior mirrors are also small for the size of vehicle which reduces the chances of breakage, but means extra attention is needed when reversing in confined spaces. A rear-view camera is standard.

The climate control works well and is controlled from the touchscreen. The air conditioning is very powerful, and air is distributed through four vents in the dashboard and two at the rear.

The Wrangler is available with a range of roof options, and the test vehicle had removable roof sections above the driver and front-seat passenger. These could be removed and refitted in less than a minute and lock securely in place with twist levers.

Practicality

The rear load area is up to 170cm long with the rear seats folded flat, and there is space for items up to 90cm high beneath the rear roll bar. The rear door opens in two sections – the lower section has a side hinge, and the upper part is hinged at the top. Unusually, the lower section must be opened first and closed last. With both sections open the rear door access is 98cm wide and 93cm high allowing plenth of space for loading. There are six strong tie-down points, and handy under-floor storage just inside the rear door.

Maximum towing weight is 2,495kg.

The Wrangler is very capable off-road. BF Goodrich Mud Terrain tyres provided high levels of grip and the Jeep steered easily in and out of deep mud ruts.

Extremely capable off-road

Off-road performance is excellent. The Wrangler has a 3,008mm wheelbase and 260mm ground clearance. Jeep states that the maximum fording depth is 762mm at 6kph. The front approach angle is 36 degrees, and the rear departure angle is 31.4 degrees. The Rubicon has Jeep’s exclusive Rock-Trac 4×4 system and the advanced transmission allows the driver to choose between 2wd high, 4wd high, 4wd high part-time, and 4wd low. Heavy-duty Dana 44 axles come with electronic locking differentials and the driver can lock the rear only, or both front and rear.

Coil spring suspension and the large 255/75R17 tyres work together to provide a very comfortable ride in demanding off-road conditions, and the vehicle feels stable and secure on undulating ground. Additional axle travel is available for the most extreme conditions by disconnecting the front sway bar. This can be achieved when travelling at low speeds by pressing a dashboard-mounted button. The BF Goodrich Mud Terrain tyres proved almost unstoppable. The off-road test included use on muddy, deep-rutted tracks on heavy ground and the Jeep effortlessly steered in and out of the ruts in 2wd, in conditions where most other vehicles would have struggled.

On the road, the handling was good. There was little body roll and the Jeep felt surprisingly nimble on winding rural B-roads. A tight turning circle provided impressive manoeuvrability.

Performance

With 272hp from the 4-cylinder, turbocharged petrol engine, the Wrangler is quick. The standard eight-speed automatic transmission reacts quickly but smoothly to changes of speed and load. The Wrangler is rewarding and fun to drive. Noise levels inside are generally low although there is some noise from the off-road biased tyres, but when accelerating quickly under full power the transmission kicks down and the engine’s sporty rasp becomes more apparent. The test vehicle had no tow bar, but it was obvious from the way it performed in heavy conditions climbing off-road slopes that it would easily handle a typical farm trailer.

At 70mph the engine revs were approximately 2,000rpm. Fuel consumption during the test week averaged 24.9mpg, but on a longer journey on main roads it reached 29mpg. Diesel-engined competitors would probably do slightly better, but the petrol Jeep is smooth, quiet, comfortable and very rewarding to drive.

The 2.0-litre, 4cyl turbocharged petrol engine produces 272hp, and provides excellent performance.

On-the-road prices

Two-door Jeep Wranglers start at £50,800 and the base four-door Sahara costs from £52,800. The flagship Rubicon four-door costs £55,800 and with its enhanced suspension and premium transmission as well as top-specification interior trim and higher equipment level it is probably the best buy.

Verdict

The Jeep Wrangler isn’t cheap, but it does boast a great pedigree. It’s extremely capable off-road, fast and comfortable on-road, and the latest versions have a very high standard of finish. On farms that were visited during the test week; feedback from those who saw the vehicle was very positive, and most were surprised at the high level of comfort and the generous specification. The test vehicle’s bright yellow paint finish might not be the first choice for agricultural users, but there are plenty of other colours available. For farms or estates wanting an extremely capable vehicle which is also a little different – then the Jeep Wrangler range is well worth a look.

 

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