Uncompromising off-road, still crude on tarmac

What is it?

The (very) slightly revised version of the Wrangler, with a mild facelift and spec tweak giving a chance to get re-acquainted with the seminal US off-roader.

As always, the Wrangler exists in a world removed from the growing number of unashamedly tarmac-biased ‘soft-roaders’. Alongside it’s great rival, the Land Rover Defender, this is as real as off-roading gets.

Not only is the Wrangler substantially cheaper than the Defender, but it also gets a more powerful 174bhp engine and a soft-top.

What’s it like?

Pretty much as we remember it being from ages past: tough, solid and seemingly unstoppable in the wild.

Although this iteration is more refined than before, such concepts are relative when it comes to the Wrangler, the appeal of which remains based around its impeccable go-anywhere credentials.

That means crude on-road manners with shuddering ride quality and lots of noise, both from the road and through the canvas top.

Grip levels are decent, but the vague steering and uneasy chassis means it’s not a vehicle you’d ever choose to pilot at more than prudent speeds. On the plus side, the 2.8-litre diesel engine pulls well, and can certainly muster more pace than the Defender’s lethargic Transit unit.

Collapsing the fabric roof is a laborious process, but the Wrangler offers decent space for four occupants – and the doors can also be removed to create a cool way to travel around in a heat wave.

Despite being in the most basic UK spec, ‘Sport’ comes with more than enough kit to match the Wrangler’s utilitarian image.

And off road? The Wrangler remains brilliant, with excellent ground clearance and sufficient axle articulation to get over most obstacles, plus a switchable low-range transmission.

The only real flaw is its low-mounted rear numberplate, which is quickly dislodged by proper mud-plugging.

So, should I buy one?

Like the Land Rover Defender, the Wrangler’s authenticity and unwillingness to compromise remains it’s biggest draw – and it’s biggest drawback.

Unless you’re intent on buying a proper, uncompromising off-roader, it’s not for you. But if that is what you’re looking for then it still makes an excellent case for itself.

Mike Duff

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