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First Drive

First Drive: Jeep Wrangler

Jeep Wrangler Sahara 2.1 Multijet-II 200 2dr
The story: Jeep has launched a new version of its iconic Wrangler, still maintaining the classic looks but adding more modern engines and technology
Key rival:Toyota Land Cruisers
Efficiency:37.7 mpg
On sale:Now

The Jeep Wrangler is one of a kind, certainly since Land Rover dropped its Defender model. Iconic and instantly recognisable styling and immense off-road ability come in a compromised package to drive and live with, and for a pretty hefty price tag.

It’s never going to be a huge seller, but its iconic status secures a following, and this new version of a car that dates back to the 1980s brings new 272hp petrol and 200hp diesel engines, a new 8.4-inch touchscreen system with smartphone connectivity, updated interior with increased stowage capacity, new LED front and rear lights and safety kit including blind-spot and cross path detection systems, rear parking camera and four airbags.First Drive-June 2019-Jeep Wrangler-Image 1

The range kicks off with the two-door Sahara, in diesel as driven here, or the 272hp petrol two-door, which both cost more than £43,000. The top-spec Rubicon four-door costs £48,365 in either petrol or diesel forms. All cars come with an eight-speed automatic transmission, a four-wheel-drive system that leads Jeep to describe the new car as the most capable Wrangler ever, and front- and rear-axle locks, a limited-slip differential and the ability to disconnect the front anti-roll bar for anyone looking to go deep into the wilds.

The more practical but slightly less attractively styled five-door costs an additional £1500, for which you get an extra 548mm of length including another 345 litres of boot space, which is rather handy because the two-door’s 203-litre area is pretty tiny.

There is decent rear passenger space though, and the interior is designed to be tough and durable without feeling cheap.

The on-road driving experience is seriously compromised by the car’s top-level off-road ability. For example, the steering is very vague, despite being better than before. Turning the wheel eventually means the car changes direction, but this happens in its own time. The powertrain is neither the most refined nor rapid, despite offering 200hp, and emissions of 198g/km really aren’t great.

But the Wrangler is great at bringing smiles to faces and is a car that, despite its flaws, is easy to enjoy. It’s expensive, not that pleasant to drive and in many ways a silly decision, but that’s doesn’t always have to be a bad thing, if you can afford it, and can put up with its shortcomings.

Paul Barker

The verdict

There’s a lot to love about the characterful Wrangler, but that almost-peerless off-road ability comes at a cost in financial, practicality, refinement and driving experience terms.