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Wrangler – Jeep’s new off-road warrior

09/10/2018
Graphic News

September 7, 2018 -- The all-new Jeep Wrangler is guaranteed to cross the roughest of terrains without getting stuck, powered by a new 2.0-litre turbocharged I4 engine featuring Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ hybrid eTorque system.

The new Wrangler is a popular fashion icon in the U.S. and Jeep is hoping Europeans will finally get excited about this quirky throwback.

Last year Jeep sold nearly 200,000 Wranglers in the U.S., and will probably double that this year, boosted by the launch of the new model. But in Europe Wranglers have barely registered, with just over 3,670 sold in 2017. Jeep is trying to change all that and is believed to have a European target of between 10,000 and 12,000 a year for the new one.

The new Jeep is certainly much more civilised than the previous one, but still retains some links with the past. For some reason, there are people who want to remove the doors and windshield before embarking on their off-road adventures and the Wrangler still allows that. It also explains the rubber mounts on the top of the hood, where the removed windshield can sit. The roofs are removable, naturally.

The interior still looks like a nostalgic but sophisticated version of the old one, but the dashboard is overcomplicated. Despite all the claimed improvements, the steering still seemed woolly. Most puzzling of all; while just about every modern 4x4 uses a computer to seamlessly move from two to four-wheel drive and has little wheels to select variations like snow, mud, and rocks, the Wrangler retains the separate clunky gear-change to move from two into four-wheel drive and other variations.

The sales success in the U.S. says that this is in fact what the customers want, but it remains to be seen if this will work in Europe. Another hurdle here is the price, likely to start at €57,000 (£44,000) and €71,000 (£55,000) for the top of the range Rubicon. This compares with U.S. starting prices that equate to about €30,000 (£23,000), but European prices are after tax.

In Europe, Jeep is offering a choice of a 2.2 litre 200hp diesel or a 272hp petrol motor, with an eight–speed automatic gearbox, two or four doors, in Sport, Sahara or Rubicon trim. The engines were gutsy and the Wranglers did their stuff to the manner born off-road. On the highway they were impressive too, with plenty of acceleration when required, and with smooth, quiet, high-speed cruising.

The new Wrangler does look handsome and is much more practical than the old one, but it still really offers a very narrow specialty; off-roading. Sure it’s comfortable when you get inside, but hauling yourself up and into it is a bit off-putting. But if that’s what you’re into the Wrangler is unbeatable. There’s precious little competition in Europe with only the Mercedes G-class available now that Land Rover has vacated the space. Soon there will be the new little Suzuki Jimny. And that’s it.


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