Review: Jeep Wrangler a macho machine

Loud, heavy and thirsty, this Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Willys edition isn’t suited for life commuting through the city. But it does a great job at showing other motorists where you’d rather be.- it’s a Jeep thing.

  • Jeep Wrangler (6)


    • What’s best: Macho image, great off-road driving, cheap convertible
    • What’s worst: Thirsty, loud, tiring on the highway
    • What’s interesting: Jeep began sales in India last month for the first time ever

It can be tough to be objective about the Jeep Wrangler. Any criticism that might offend an owner or fan gets a bumper sticker thrown back at you: “It’s a Jeep thing — you wouldn’t understand.”

So let’s just put it out there. The Jeep Wrangler is noisy, gluttonous, heavy, unstable and impractical. It makes no sense for any driver who does not venture often down an off-road trail.

But let’s try to be objective here. Why is it so loud that passengers must raise their voices to be heard, and the sound system must be cranked to overcome the noise? It’s because the windshield is almost vertical, slamming into the wind, and the hard plastic roof of the convertible is thin and light enough to be easily removed. There’s very little soundproofing.

Why is it so thirsty for gas? I recorded an average of 16.4 L/100 km during a week with the Wrangler.

It’s because the new 3.6-litre V6 engine is one of the toughest around, low-stressed but creating 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft. of torque. That’s actually not that much for such a large engine, but it’s shifting a lot of weight that’s shaped like a brick: the four-door Wrangler (called the “Unlimited”) clocks in at 1,848 kg. That’s more than a Ford Escape and more than a Honda CR-V.

There’s no comparison, though, because the Jeep is tougher than either of those SUVs. That’s why it’s so heavy, because it uses solid steel underneath and reinforces everything with more steel, so you can bash it over rocks all day long.

And that’s why it’s successful — so successful that Jeep keeps setting sales records.

It’s a Jeep thing — you wouldn’t understand.

What the Wrangler is really offering is image — the rugged, dishevelled backwoods adventurer, or the tough GI. The Willys edition I recently drove had its glovebox cover stamped with “Since 1941” in military-style, cargo-box lettering. It had “Willys” written in carefully-scratched military lettering on the side of the hood — clear stickers over the paint.

Willys is a nod to the original manufacturer of the Jeep, before Chrysler bought it years ago, and before it became the most successful brand under the current Fiat Chrysler Automobiles umbrella.

Yes, it will go anywhere you want, and your choice of specifications is almost endless, especially with all the aftermarket options available. The base Wrangler Unlimited has an official price of $35,495 for the six-speed manual, and the Willys Wheeler edition I drove starts at $39,890.

The Willys comes with an upgraded suspension and a 3.71 rear-axle ratio, which means it has more grunt for towing and rock-crawling, but it’s thirstier for fuel on the highway. I took it off-road and splashed through some puddles and chewed up some rocks that I’d avoid with anything else. It was a lot of fun.

There are many Wrangler owners out there who use their vehicles to the fullest, but there are far more who just want to feel macho about their commute. That’s OK — it’s their money, and in the summer, the Wrangler is the only production vehicle that lets you remove the roof, the doors, and even the windshield.

But there’s another price to be paid for this open-air freedom: road noise, non-dampened doors, awful fuel consumption, and an impractical two-piece rear cargo door.

Also, the Wrangler is tippy around corners, thanks to its tall rock-clearing chassis and soft suspension. The longer four door is better than the two door, but it’s still unstable enough to warrant a warning label on the sun visor.

And ultimately, that’s why I don’t own one. I don’t want my teenage sons learning to drive in a macho Wrangler, so I own a boring, first-generation Hyundai Tucson. Once they’ve left home, however, I can’t wait to get one — it’s a Jeep thing.


Base price/as tested: $35,495/$44,380

Add-ons: $995 Delivery

Type: Four-door off-road-focused SUV

Propulsion: Four-wheel drive

Cargo: 892 L / 1,999 L

Engine: 3.6L V6

Transmission: 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic

Power/Torque: 285 hp / 260 lbs.-ft.

Fuel consumption (L/100 km, Regular): 14.8 City, 11.7 Hwy., 13.4 Comb., 16.4 Observed

Tires: LT255/75 R17 BF Goodrich M&S

Standard features: Removable doors and lowering windshield, Dana 30 solid front axle, Command-Trac shift-on-the-fly 4WD

Accessibility: Tall climb up into the seats

Competition: None really, but perhaps Nissan XTerra while it’s still available

Manufacturer’s website:

Looks: Macho

Interior: Comfortable and suits image

Performance: Adequate on-road, terrific off-road

Technology: Not much for the highway, but lots for the trail

What you’ll like about this car: It’ll make you feel like an adventurer

What you won’t like about this car: Fuel-consumption and interior noise

Score: 4/10 onroad, 10/10 offroad

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