1 Oct 1996
CHRYSLER launched the Jeep CJ-7 Wrangler, the granddaddy of off-road vehicles the world over, locally in October 1996.
Although similar in silhouette to its pioneering 1940s-design predecessors, the Wrangler benefited from big revisions aimed at making it more car-like against new-age pseudo 4WDs like the Toyota RAV4.
To improve ride, handling and comfort, Jeep junked the old model's horse-and-cart era leaf-spring suspension for the Grand Cherokee's Quadra all-coil set-up, improving the structurally stronger Wrangler on as well as off-road.
Still, it uses a traditional ladder frame chassis, the preferred off-road method of construction but one not favoured by road safety experts.
The Wrangler’s performance was provided by a 4.0-litre, six-cylinder engine pumping out a useful 130kW at 4600rpm and 290Nm of torque at an unstressed 2800rpm.
All that lazy torque meant the three-speed only automatic transmission sufficed. A long-legged, five-speed manual was also available.
From early 2000, a new heavy-duty five-speed manual transmission with a synchro reverse gear replaced the standard five-speed. This was coupled to Jeep's Command-Trac transfer case, which provided part-time four-wheel drive with high and low ranges.
Two models are available, the base Sport and better-equipped Renegade. The latter, a hardtop only variant, was discontinued in October 2003.
In mid-2001 there was the limited edition Sport 60th Anniversary soft top, followed in early 2004 by an Extreme Sport edition.
From January ’05 a four-speed automatic and six-speed manual gearboxes replaced the ageing old units, while torque rose from 290Nm to 305Nm.
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