Unlike many modern off-road wannabes, the Jeep Wrangler is a true go-anywhere, any way four-wheel drive with a distinctly retro feel. A style icon that creates an impression in any company. The Wrangler was inspired by the Jeep of World War Two and has been updated for the modern 4x4 generation. It breaks all the rules to achieve great comfort, safety and practicality and is well-equipped to tackle motorways or mountains.
The chunky old looks of the wartime Jeep have been gradually updated through the decades. Underneath these minor changes lies the hardcore rugged charm of the Wrangler. As of 2007, it comes in two-door and a more usable four-door model, with a longer body to make the car better suited to daily driving. The off-road icon still has its removable parts, however, so it can be driven as a doorless open-top on a sunny day.
The latest refresh in 2021 made the Wrangler more user-friendly and slightly less outrageously styled compared to more genteel crossover rivals. Even the latest models feature a simple boxy body, however, which comes bolted onto a tough chassis.
There aren’t fancy SUV styling panels – this is the real deal. The design includes sturdy hinges clearly visible on the outside of doors, big open wheel arches and running boards, plus a signature tailgate-mounted spare wheel. The Wrangler is also proudly utilitarian with its upright windscreen, circular headlights and flat curve-free body panels.
The chunky old looks of the wartime Jeep have been gradually updated through the decades.
What’s it like to drive?
With heavy-duty four-wheel drive, pliable suspension, chunky tyres, high ground clearance and a protected underbody, the Wrangler has epic off-road capabilities to tackle snow, sand, rock, mud, water and gradients. Anything really.
Back on the road, it drives unlike any other car. The normal standards of smooth, quiet motoring are disregarded. You sit high and feel like you’re driving a truck or a tank. It feels unstoppable. It can be fun to control the Wrangler as it wallows and bounces, roars and grumbles. It seems to turn a simple journey into an expedition.
Back on the road, it drives unlike any other car.
Like a cowboy mounting his trusty steed, you climb up into the Wrangler – though you’re given a hand with the running boards as a step. That old-fashioned upright windscreen sets the tone – high and upright. Older versions are more truck-like with a big steering wheel and vertical utilitarian dashboard. More recent models have been gentrified a little. The 2021 version has gone as far as soft-touch materials and a small, sporty steering wheel. Despite the touchscreen infotainment system, the cabin still feels suitably retro overall.
The original Jeeps had fold-down windscreens and no roof - and here the traditional has stuck. Even the 2021 model has a fold-down screen and removable doors. There is a choice of roof options - manually removable panels, an electric sliding roof or a full hard top that can be lifted off.
The sound equipment has been good for many years. Wrangler owners like a good loud stereo. Some versions have speakers built into the roof bars and the latest model comes with an eight-speaker Alpine sound system with steering wheel controls. The intrepid style of the Wrangler means there isn’t a lot of high-tech safety kit. Owners may like the simplicity, but EuroNCAP testers gave the 2018 version just one star.
Front seat space is good and the longer four-door model provides plenty of space in the back seats. Accessing the rear seats in the two-door model is an adventure in itself, however, so this version of the Wrangler may suit those planning to drive solo or as a couple most of the time.
The rugged Wrangler is not a car for those cautiously checking fuel bills. Older versions struggle to return close to 30mpg. The latest models claim to return 31mpg (petrol) or 38mpg (diesel). Insurance, tax and maintenance costs will be higher than average. The best financial news is that Wranglers keep their value for decades. Depreciation is very low.
Running costs and reliability
Reliability is usually considered differently by Wrangler owners. Rattles and clunks are just part of the experience. Electrical and mechanical problems aren’t unheard of, however, and used models will sometimes show the effects of off-road use.
What we love
Outside a smart restaurant or halfway up a mountain, parked on the beach or cruising through the city at night – the Jeep Wrangler can make its drivers feel like movie stars. This car isn't a match for the mundane – groceries and Grandma might be more at home in a hatchback. Buyers make sacrifices to enjoy its retro charm and in return they get masses of potential. We all love the Wrangler’s existence – a lifestyle statement as much as a motoring one, and a dream chaser’s ideal car.
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If you want a Jeep Wrangler, you’ll buy one. Doesn’t matter what we think. You either love the looks, style and off-road prowess or you’ll tot up the price, and running costs and notice areas where it’s less refined than more practical 4x4 rivals. The Wrangler has a cult following and there are some motorists who wouldn’t even tolerate clambering up into the driver’s seat.
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