Jeep Wrangler (2011-2017) review
The Jeep Wrangler is a more modern take on a 1940s icon – a US equivalent to the UK’s discontinued Land Rover Defender.
Jeep Wrangler (2011-2017): what would you like to read next?
With it gone, only the small/cheap Suzuki Jimny and large/pricy Mercedes G-Class offer the same old-school, rugged appeal as the Jeep, but most people will be better served by a modern crossover such as the VW Tiguan, Skoda Kodiaq or Peugeot 3008.
The Jeep Wrangler is a car which, in the current climate of fuel efficiency and safety, shouldn’t really exist anymore. Its square stance, chunky off-road tyres and big bumpers hint at this car’s off-road potential and give it great road presence.
However, presence is the only thing the Wrangler has going for it when it comes to its on-road handling. This generation is better than the old version, whose ride was rough enough to warrant a trip to the chiropractor after every journey, but it is still no Rolls-Royce.
This is a car is an irrational purchase you buy with your heart, not your head
When the Tarmac ends, however, the Wrangler really comes into its element. The Rock-Trac 4×4 system has three differential locks to ensure drive goes to all four wheels no matter the terrain. The Rubicon even has a system that allows for extreme axle articulation – letting it traverse huge dips with all four-wheels staying safely on the ground.
There is a choice of two engines, the most popular being the 2.8-litre diesel unit with 197hp and 339Ib ft of torque, which pulls well enough, especially off road, but is a little on the agricultural side, even in this application. There is also a 3.6-litre petrol V6, but we would advise sticking well-clear of that because fuel economy drops from 31.4mpg to a frankly scary 25mpg. Any modern crossover will run rings around the Wrangler in this department.
As far as practicality is concerned, there are both three and five-door body styles available and the latter version is decently spacious inside – even if cheap plastics and dodgy build quality dominate the interior theme.
In terms of trim levels, you get Sahara, Overland, and Rubicon models to choose from. All come with cruise control, a premium sound system and alloy wheels. Satellite navigation is standard with the Overland model.
For more in-depth information on the Jeep Wrangler, read the interior, practicality, driving and specifications sections of our review over the following pages. Or, to see what sort of offers are available on the Wrangler, click through to our deals page.
You can get a Jeep Wrangler with reasonable space inside for a family, but that’s the four-door version. If you need any more than the lowest level of space and practicality, avoid the smaller two-door model
The four-door Wrangler is reasonably practical, but if you need space, the two-door model is about as much use as a chocolate teapot
The four-door Wrangler is the car to go for if you regularly carry four passengers. There is a large amount of room in the back for three people with plenty of headroom too, not to mention it is far easier to get in/out of compared to the smaller three-door. In it, there isn’t much room for rear passengers and the bench fits two rather than three people.
Inside, the utilitarian theme continues with lots of storage compartments. There are big door bins, storage on top of the dashboard, a series of nets for holding maps etc and a lidded-storage area that’s big enough for a tablet. The rear door bins are also fairly large and there are map holders on the backs of the front seats.
You’d expect the four-door Jeep to have a fairly sizeable boot and it does, but, 498-litres with the seats up, it is still 52-litres less than a Nissan X-trail. The two-door Wrangler has a fairly pitiful 152-litre seat-up boot capacity.
The Wrangler drives exactly how you’d imagine, suitably vague and harsh on road, but more than capable enough off it.
The Wrangler is limited to just two engines – a 2.8-litre diesel or a 3.6-litre petrol V6. The diesel, if you’re mad enough to still be considering the Wrangler, is the engine to go for. It pulls the car along fairly nicely and is ideal for off-roading – maximum torque of 339Ib ft comes in from a lowly 1,600rpm, so there’s plenty of grunt even at low speeds. When accelerating hard the diesel can go from 0-60mph in 10.6 seconds, noisily, and in doing that you can forget about achieving the 36.7mpg official fuel figure!
The petrol V6 option is slightly more powerful, with 209hp – it is a full 2.5 seconds faster from 0-60mph, taking a respectable 8.1 seconds. It is also quieter, some may even say ‘refined’, and far smoother than the diesel offering. However, fuel economy of no better than 25mpg means you certainly pay for degree of sophistication it brings.
Both petrol and diesel are teamed to a smooth-shifting, five-speed automatic gearbox, which helps to explain their low fuel efficiency. It harks back to times gone by where three-speed gearboxes were the norm, but just emphasises the Wrangler’s old design.
It’s worth noting that five-doors models make the better tow cars – the larger diesel can pull a maximum of 2,200kg compared to the smaller versions 1,500kg limit.
Comfort and handling are two words that don’t feature in the Jeep Wrangler’s vocabulary. On the road it crashes about thanks to its unforgiving suspension and chunky off-road tyres. It is nowhere near as good to drive as the aforementioned modern offerings, then again that’s missing the point of the Wrangler.
It is also lacking, unsurprisingly, in the handling department. The steering is incredibly vague which makes you question whether the front wheels are actually connected to the steering. Like riding a stubborn horse, the Wrangler never leaves you feeling like you’re in complete control of what it is doing.
What it will do, though, is take you just about anywhere off-road you want to go, and even on seriously rough surfaces the ride remains acceptable.
There are lots of typically American dark, cheap-looking plastics surrounding the cabin.