New 'box, same tricks for Wrangler

We really shouldn’t like the Jeep Wrangler. A bouncy ride, vague steering, terrible economy, cramped cabin and minimal grip are hardly the makings of a dynamic masterpiece. But we do like it.

We like the way its 1940s feel always raises a grin as you bounce around town, we like its archaic-but-eager 3960cc straight-six engine and we like the no-nonsense way it goes about its business.

And now there’s more reason to like it. For £350 over the 2004 car, you get standard anti-lock brakes and a new six-speed manual gearbox to replace the ponderous old five-speeder.

On paper the gearbox makes little difference – the Wrangler still manages 0-62mph in 9.9sec and goes on to 108mph. But the gearshift is much improved, with a pleasantly short throw and a slick, quick action. Switching to four-wheel drive – which the Jeep’s ‘shift on the fly’ transfer box lets you do at up to 55mph – gives only a barely perceptible increase in resistance to gearchanges.

The ratios are perfectly spaced to make the most of the Wrangler’s 174bhp at 4600rpm and 218lb ft at 3500rpm. Shorter first and second gears make it feel more sprightly off the mark – Jeep claims it helps off-road, too. Overall fuel consumption, however, drops from 22.1 to 21.7mpg, partly because top gear now yields 32.0mph per 1000rpm to the five-speeder’s 34.0.

Alastair Clements

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