The Wrangler for the family man has been much improved, but is still fairly rough around the edges.

What's new?

Jeep’s rugged Wrangler has always been a bit like a ragtop sports car for the family man: you’ve always fancied owning one, but reality sets in and you recognise that there’s just not enough space for the family. After 65 years, Jeep has understood and next spring it releases the first four-door, five-seat Wrangler: the Wrangler Unlimited. It’s part of a line-up of brand new Wranglers that feature 100 per cent stiffer frames for improved off-road performance and on-road comfort, new 3.8-litre V6 petrol and 2.8-litre turbodiesel engines, fresh bodywork and redesigned interiors. To make room for those rear doors, 500mm was added to the wheelbase, giving a decent 945mm of rear-seat legroom. Jeep has also broadened the body by 127mm, so there’s now just about enough space for three in the back. And you can still get the Unlimited with a canvas top which, according to Jeep, makes it the world’s only production four-door ragtop.

What's it like?

We tested the new long-wheelbase Unlimited on part of the gruelling Rubicon Trail in northern California, Jeep’s unofficial off-road proving ground. This highlighted the biggest improvement: greater refinement. The new, stiffer chassis and body are coupled with softer spring rates to dramatically improve ride comfort. There’s also much less pitching and tossing than before, particularly over the rough stuff. The new V6 is much more refined than the previous, wheezy 4.0-litre in-line six and packs an extra 12bhp for slightly swifter acceleration. Jeep didn’t have a new diesel version for us to try, but it’ll be the same gutsy (if a bit noisy) 2.8-litre common-rail four-pot that powers the current Cherokee. The Wrangler cockpit is all new, with a redesigned dash and centre console, better instruments and seats. For the first time, the rear seat splits 60/40 and folds flat. It's still got its problems. That folding soft-tail is still a pain and there are too many rough, sharp edges. The new trim also feels cheap. But you can no longer use the family as your excuse not to buy a new Wrangler.

Howard Walker

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