“Jeep is arguably the only true off-road company in the market,” says Jeff Hines, head of the Jeep brand in Europe. I can imagine one or two other companies having something to say about that, and listen, guys, don’t think we haven’t driven a Renegade.
But I also kinda see the point, at least when it comes to the Wrangler. It occupies a unique space in the market, particularly now that Land Rover has temporarily limped out of that arena and hasn’t told us how it’s going to stroll back in. For now, Jeep (and maybe Mercedes-Benz and Suzuki) looks like it’s the one who knows how to look after its icon.
By which I mean that it looks the same as the others, for a start. The round lights, seven-bar grille, stick-out wheel arches and separate ladder frame and body.
Jeep’s designers visit the Moab Jeep Safari every Easter. They talk to owners, they see what’s new, what’s modified, how people use these cars. And so here’s the first new Wrangler in a decade, with more USB ports, a more sensibly laid out interior, more leg room and greater efficiency.
But also a windscreen you can drop flat after removing just four bolts, a more easily removable roof (three-piece solid, full canvas or, coming later, an electric canvas hood), better off-road angles, more ground clearance, a tighter turning circle, lighter doors with a grab handle inside so you can lift them off more easily and a stamp identifying what size Torx tool you need to undo them. Five-link suspension with solid axles, low ratio, locking differentials and mega wheel articulation. More of the most customisable, the most customised, car on the planet. Just more … Jeep.
So they say, anyway. Let’s see. The Wrangler comes in a few flavours. It starts with Sport, which is basic, but in the US, “let’s be honest, Wranglers stay stock for about five minutes”. Then there’s Sahara, which is a more suburban choice in the States, to which Overland trim, exclusive to Europe, can be added, to make it more habitable still. We’ve tried that version for a short while.
Then there’s the Rubicon, the one I’m most interested in, with the biggest off-road tyres and the most serious intent. You can have two or four doors. We’ve got a 2dr model, because it’s the coolest.