Off-road there’s simply nothing like a Jeep - they look great, work with stunning efficiency and are part of automotive history

Off-road there’s simply nothing like a Jeep – they look great, work with stunning efficiency and are part of automotive history

Jeep Wrangler is like nothing else on the road these days. It’s a genuine descendent of the WWII Jeep, though it has grown up and become (slightly) more sophisticated over the years. When you get behind the wheel it still has a rugged feel that gives the impression it simply wants to get off-road to show its stuff.

When you do get behind that wheels you soon discover Jeep Wrangler’s steering is vague, suspension is on the harsh side and the cabin isn’t the quietest place in which you’ve ever travelled. Which may sound like we are critical and looking for faults but in fact we just love the way the American Jeep doesn’t shield you from the action, instead you’re sitting amongst everything that’s happening.

Our test Wrangler was powered by a new V6 petrol engine introduced in 2012. Displacing 3.6 litres, this modern twin-cam unit develops up to 209 kW of power, with 347 Nm to torque. Almost all the torque is on tap from just 1800 revs, thus providing diesel-like grunt that’s perfect for off-road driving.

Jeep’s test figures say the new petrol powerplant accelerates from rest to 100 km/h in almost 30 per cent less time than the old 3.8 petrol unit it replaces, yet uses significantly less fuel. Far more important than going from zero to 100 km/h is that acceleration like this makes overtaking fast and safe.

A five-speed automatic transmission is likely to be the biggest seller and though it seems to be cheating in some ways to drive a tough 4WD with a self-shifter there’s no doubt it’s simpler to drive in the tough on-road conditions that are likely to be the playground of the typical Wrangler. At least, let’s hope so, it’s always sad to see how many Jeeps are only used as show ponies and never reach their true environment.

Jeep designers have tried playing games with the Wrangler’s shape in the past, but the purists have protested in no uncertain manner and the chances of the so-called stylists being silly again seem remote.

So, visually the 2012 Jeep Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited – the Unlimited being the long-wheelbase four-door model – are pretty much as before. The seven-slot grille has become an iconic part of the Jeep and the Wrangler has the flat bonnet with rounded sides and the squared-off mudguards that Jeep owners just love.

We got a loan of a Jeep Wrangler from the Australian importer and took it over terrain that would have stopped many vehicles whose owners think they are in 4WDs, but which are only on-road toys with macho body styling. Rock shelves were scrambled over, with low-range providing huge amounts to torque that let the Jeep work its way up and down at far less than walking speed.

Indeed, during a stunning trip to the famous, ultra-though Rubicon Trail a few years back we actually had the experience of hikers overtaking our Jeep. He and she walked hand in hand, he with a gun in the holster on his hip, she calling out to the large dog that was wandering too far ahead. Only in America…

Our Aussie adventures took us deep into the bush, onto beaches and through scenic fire trails that only real trucks and true 4WD can traverse. Great fun.

To be honest, I’m not sure I could live with a Jeep on a daily basis – something to do with advancing years and an increasing love of comfort, but if I had enough cash for more than a single vehicle then a Jeep would certainly sit high on my list of weekend automotive toys.

Jeep Wrangler prices range from $32,500 for a manual Sport 3.6-litre petrol two-door soft to $49,000 for an automatic Unlimited Rubicon 3.6-litre petrol four-door. These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Jeep dealer for driveaway prices for all models..

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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