Jeep Wrangler SUV (2007-2018)
"The Jeep Wrangler is incredibly impressive on rough terrain, but compromised as a road car"
- Cheaper to buy than rivals
- Excellent off-road ability
- Removable hard-top
- Expensive to run
- Very uncomfortable
- Dubious interior quality
The Jeep Wrangler is one of the most iconic cars in the world and a descendent of the original Willys Jeep widely recognised in WWII footage and countless war movies. The Jeep has earned itself an army of followers in peacetime, too, with its off-road ability appealing to leisure users as well as the military.
Today’s Wrangler, the Jeep’s most recent evolution, lives up to the reputation of the original and is still incredibly impressive off-road. Should you wish to cross a desert, drive over a mountain range or ford a river, the Wrangler is one of the most capable cars in the world. But just like the original, it’s strongly biased towards off-road prowess and this comes at the expense of on-road comfort. For most of us, the only jungle we need to traverse is the urban one, and the Wrangler falls behind the competition by some margin when back on the beaten track.
The Wrangler’s closest competitor used to be the Land Rover Defender but that car is no longer on sale. If you need a tough off-roader and aren’t too fussed about on-road driving manners, the Mitsubishi Shogun is easier to live with and similarly tough. The immeasurably superior Land Rover Discovery Sport, meanwhile, may not be quite as capable off road as the Wrangler, but it’s not far off. If all of the above are too bulky and complicated and you’re looking for a basic off-roader, few are simpler or more effective than the Suzuki Jimny. It costs a fraction of the price commanded by larger alternatives too.
The latest Wrangler still wears the iconic design cues, such as separate wings over the front wheels, a distinctive slatted grille and headlamps mounted closely together. If you’re sold on the style and go-anywhere ability, choosing the right Wrangler is a simple affair: first, decide if you want the two-door or the four-door model; then, pick either a 2.8-litre diesel or a 3.6-litre petrol engine; finally, choose your trim level – either Sahara, Overland, or Rubicon.
We recommend the four-door diesel model in Sahara trim for its practicality, long standard equipment list and because it’s considerably more economical than the petrol version. Be aware, however, that whatever the specification, the Wrangler is a very expensive car to run.
The Wrangler’s interior may not scream quality, but it features air-conditioning, 18-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, an Alpine stereo and automatic headlights, as well as a removable hard top, though it’s pretty hard work to put it on or remove it.
Upgrading from Sahara trim to Overland adds heated leather seats, larger alloy wheels and makes the removable hard top body-coloured, rather than black. Again, it’s an impressive amount of equipment for the money, but doesn’t hugely increase functionality over the entry-level Sahara model.
There's also a 'special order' Rubicon version. It’s only available with the 3.6-litre petrol engine and has to be ordered from the factory, so may take longer to deliver as a result. Among the highlights here are heated leather seats, satin black alloy wheels and rubber mats designed to keep mud off the carpets.
Jeep doesn’t do too badly at all in terms of customer satisfaction – it placed 11th out of 32 brands covered in our 2016 Driver Power survey, with excellent scores for practicality, ride quality and ease of driving. Reliability and running costs were rated poorly, though. Owing to the small numbers in which Wranglers sell in Europe, it has never been subjected to independent crash safety testing by Euro NCAP. However, passengers are protected by front and side airbags and all mandatory safety equipment is present and correct.
The Wrangler sells mostly on its adventurous nature, all-American appeal and all-terrain capability, and we can’t argue that it scores well on all three fronts. However, for all its virtues, we can’t recommend it over its competitors, every one of which is a more competent all rounder, and far more palatable financially.