Car reviews - Jeep - Wrangler - wagon range
Value, style, off-road ability, vastly improved on-road comfort and driveability, more space, comfort and features, safety upgrades including ESP, Unlimited’s looks and versatility
Room for improvement
Still not great on-road – though much, much better than before
16 Mar 2007
HAVE no fear – the Jeep Wrangler is still one of the off-road kings.
As a two-day trek through Tasmania’s wilderness revealed, the latest JK edition – in either two-door or Unlimited four-door wagon guise – can deal with the rough stuff like virtually no other vehicle, tackling demanding terrain with enough to make the most novice of four-wheel drivers look like a professional.
That much we expect and we are duly impressed by.
What does come as a surprise is how much more civilised the Wrangler is from the driver’s seat.
While Volkswagen will not envy the trim quality, the Wrangler no longer seems like a tacky American import inside.
There is space aplenty for most adults up front, while the rear seat in the two-door model finally has the room for knees and legs, and not just two people’s torsos.
In the Unlimited, three people can now fit across the rear seat, and they can get to and from it easily thanks to wide-opening back doors.
It’s a much quieter place to be as well, without the jarring mechanical and road noise that afflicted past Wrangler iterations.
We need more urban on-road driving to properly assess the extent of the progress that has come with the wide-ranging mechanical changes underneath, but we can say that both Wrangler models are stable and steer accurately on highway roads.
What is also obvious is that people who expect Ford Territory levels of dynamic capabilities will be disappointed, but that’s not really a criticism when you consider how very much further off the beaten track the Wrangler can go.
The CRD turbo-diesel is a beauty, providing all the oomph you need without racket or delay, and should also reward its owner with decent fuel economy – a first for any Wrangler in Australia.
Similarly, the new V6 seems epochs more advanced than the ancient 4.0-litre six it replaces and is officially more powerful and frugal, but it remains a relatively unsophisticated engine.
What the JK Wrangler range offers is a viable alternative to a number of vehicles, in a way that its flawed TJ predecessor could not hope to do. You need not be a masochist or a diehard 4x4 head to justify spending money on one of these.
Better still, the Unlimited broadens the range’s appeal more than you might imagine, since it also comes with an optional hard top/soft-top configuration, to give you an unparalleled family-SUV open-air experience, while still being able to do all the mundane things that vehicles like this are designed to do.
That all Wranglers also come very well equipped for the money – including electronic stability control – should serve as an example for many other manufacturers and importers.
It also has an appealingly Hummer-style look that draws you in.
A lot more time is needed to more accurately appraise the latest Jeep, but we can say with confidence that it already stands as one of the decade’s – let alone the year’s – most improved vehicles.
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