Jeep’s most capable sports utility vehicle, the Wrangler, has been given a complete overhaul, taking on advanced safety and technological features while maintaining its roots in 75 years of unrivalled off-road heritage.
The JL Wrangler Unlimited comes in six variants – including Sport S, Overland petrol and Rubicon petrol and diesel – in two and four-door configuration. The four-door-only Rubicon at $63,950 ($65,045 as tested), costs $10,500 more than the previous model. The only diesel engine in the range adds a further $5000.
Jeep says the new Wrangler Rubicon adds more than $14,000 of content, including LED reflector headlights, a premium black Sunrider soft-top and winch-ready steel front bumper.
There are a host of options offered across the Wrangler line-up including heated leather seats and steering wheel for the Rubicon, and more than 100 Mopar accessories. Key items range from tow bar and roof rack kits to chromed bonnet latches and 17-inch Satin Carbon Wheels. A three-inch suspension lift kit is coming.
(NOTE: Rubicon stems from the infamous eponymous trail, a 22-mile route, part road and part hellish 4×4 trail, in the Sierra Nevada of the western United States, which all genuine off-road Jeeps have to endure during testing).
There’s no missing this vehicle, with ‘Jeep’, ‘Wrangler Unlimited’ and ‘Rubicon’, the last plastered on the bonnet twice, cropping up all over the place, inside and out. While styling has been modernised, there’s no getting away from the traditional upright Wrangler stance.
However, the whole box and dice can be deconstructed by removing the standard three-piece hardtop and full metal doors. A Premium Black Sunrider soft-top, also standard, can be added.
At the rear there’s a half barn door with a top-hinged window above, the spare wheel being mounted on the door. Visibility behind takes a back seat.
The test car instrument panel was the twee-titled ‘Redi-cal’, matching the exterior paint of Firecracker Red, the latter a $745 option. Black premium fabric seat upholstery was matched with easy-care all-weather rubber floor mats.
Leather wrapped steering wheel is standard, while similar treatment of shift knob and hand brake handle is optional, as are heated front seats and steering wheel.
An 8.4-inch touchscreen works well, with satellite navigation, a nine-speaker Alpine audio with AM / FM and DAB+ radio, Bluetooth connectivity and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There’s also a 7-inch driver information screen and steering wheel-mounted controls.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
The test vehicle was powered by Jeep’s 3.6-litre Pentastar petrol engine putting out 209 kW at 6400 rpm and 347 Nm at 4100 revs, mated with an eight-speed automatic transmission, Jeep’s Rock Trac 4×4, plus a two-speed transfer case.
The maker claims the Wrangler will reach 100 kilometres per hour from standstill in 7.4 seconds and cruise on to a top speed of 180 km/h. With the engine stop / start system to help, fuel consumption is put at 10.3 litres per hundred kilometres on the combined urban / highway cycle.
A meagre one-star Euro NCAP score is the result of missing curtain and head airbags and Wrangler’s trademark folding windscreen and removable doors and roof. All is not lost, however, as autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are all standard on the Rubicon.
There’s no missing the fact that the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is a left-hand drive vehicle modified for right-hand drive operation. Steering-wheel stalks are about face; the hand brake is on the left of the transmission tunnel, which also makes for a cramped driver’s footwell, squeezing the pedal space, and there’s no left footrest to brace against in tough off-road going.
Upright seating may not be to the liking of everyone and all-round vision and steering wheel adjustment are limited. A plethora of switches, knobs and levers can be intimidating to start with, and don’t search for power window switches on the doors. They are on the centre stack.
Then there’s the frustrating fuel filler cap, which would be a challenge to remove for any crook, never mind the average motorist. Instructions on the cap talk about giving the key a quarter turn, the cap two clicks and . . . in my case, nothing. Sorry, Jeep, I flunked safecracking at school of hard knocks.
On the plus side, the dash-mounted 8.4-inch touch screen is clear and concise, and as easy as ABC to navigate.
While the petrol engine is quiet enough, the real refinement comes with the eight-speed transmission, which on the road, approaches the smoothness of a luxury sedan. Fuel consumption during general usage on test topped out at 10 litres-plus per 100 kilometres.
Steering shows some vagueness, the result, no doubt, of engineering veering towards off-road ease of operation in difficult going. A more rigid chassis and redesigned all-coil suspension reduce body roll in corners and wheel whack over bumps.
The Rubicon features a super-robust Rock-Trac 4×4 system with locking front and rear differentials, heavy-duty axles, heavy-duty rock slider, front stabiliser bar disconnect, steel front bumper with a spot for a winch and 32-inch BF Goodrich off-road tyres. Towing capacity is up to 2495 kg.
Much improved on the bitumen and with added tech and safety features, the MY 2019 JL Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon maintains the Jeep tradition of producing genuine off-roaders with go-anywhere potential. However, premium pricing could pull up sales.
AT A GLANCE
Wrangler Sport S 2dr 3.6L petrol: $48,950
Wrangler Sport S 4dr 3.6L petrol: $53,450
Wrangler Overland 2dr 3.6L petrol: $58,450
Wrangler Overland 4dr 3.6L petrol: $62,950
Wrangler Rubicon 4dr 3.6L petrol: $63,950
Wrangler Rubicon 4dr 2.2 diesel: $68,950
Options: Trail Rail Management System: $350
Firecracker Red paint: $745
Note: These prices do not include dealer or government charges. Contact your local Jeep dealer for drive-away prices.
(Jeep JL Wrangler Rubicon 3.6-litre V6 petrol, 8sp automatic, 4dr AWD SUV)
Capacity: 3600 cc
Configuration: V6, eight-speed automatic, Rock Trac 4×4, 2-speed transfer case
Maximum Power: 209 kW @ 6400 rpm
Maximum Torque: 347 Nm @ 4100 rpm
Fuel type: Unleaded petrol
Combined Cycle (ADR 81/01): 10.3 litres per 100 km
CO2 emissions 239 g/km
Drivetrain: 8-speed automatic, Rock-Trac 4×4 system with Tru-Lock front and rear differentials
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4882 mm
Width: 1894 mm
Height: 1848 mm
Wheelbase: 3008 mm
Tare weight: 1992 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 81 litres
Turning circle: 12.4 m
5 years / 100,000 kilometres