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Click to view picture gallery“You might be amazed
  to learn that the Jeep
  Wrangler is as ‘Green’
  as they come. More to
  the point, it’s as tough
  as old nails and puts
  real enjoyment back
  into driving...”

ONE OF THE MORE UNUSUAL stories to emerge from the motor industry in 2006 was that the all-American 4x4 Jeep Wrangler is the world's greenest car. Yes you read that correctly. This information came about after a 'dust-to-dust', cost-per-lifetime-mile analysis compiled over three years by the Oregon based CNW Marketing Research organisation. A truly remarkable piece of research when you consider the Wrangler is a 4x4.

Last year all manufacturers of cars and commercial vehicles of all sizes, in response to new EU legislation about emissions and green issues, bombarded us with information about their introductions of Euro IV compliant engines, the use of bio-alternative fuels, electric power, hybrid technology and even hydrogen power.

At the same time, we have been inundated with claims by the anti-4x4 lobbyists that these vehicles are not environmentally friendly and should not be used for anything other than farm work or by country residents.

Being seen to be 'green' is a big issue for vehicle manufacturers. So
the news that the iconic Jeep Wrangler is not only the 'greenest of
the green', but a 4x4 to boot, raised a few eyebrows and even a few protests from manufacturers such as Honda and Toyota, whose own hybrid models — according to the 'dust-to-dust' research programme — were not even placed in the top 50 of 'green' vehicles.

The Most Green Machine — So why Wrangler?
CNW Marketing Research argues their dust-to-dust yardstick measures the environmental impact of a vehicle from the date of its manufact-urer to the date it is scrapped. It takes in not just the car's fuel consumption and CO2 emissions but also the energy used in its design and production, both in car assembly plants and by suppliers of parts and sub assemblies. The energy used in transporting cars to dealers and in maintaining, servicing and finally scrapping and recycling them
is also taken into account.

So why aren't today's exotic hybrids at the top of the table? It's because vehicles like Jeep's Wrangler use established technologies which use less energy in manufacture and which share many parts among other vehicles. Both these factors contribute towards a noticeable reduction in the energy used in vehicle manufacture. Cars like the Jeep Wrangler also tend to have a longer life cycle, adding 'green value' at the end of the car's lifespan as well as at the beginning.

Applying this 'dust-to-dust' analysis of energy use shows cars with some of the lowest CO2 emissions and most friendly environmental credentials in quite a different light. Hybrid cars show up poorly because of the energy used in their manufacture and also in the disposal and replacement of high-energy-use items like batteries and electric motors; and also in their use of lighter weight construction materials such as lightweight steels, which again use more energy
and are far harder to recycle.

By contrast, the simple but strong construction of cars like the Jeep Wrangler make them a recycler's dream. Put simply, according to
CNW, while a modern hybrid uses less fuel and produces lower exhaust emissions, the price society pays in overall energy costs is higher.
The total energy cost rates of the most expensive vehicle in the survey (a luxury non-hybrid executive saloon) came out at 7.20p
per-mile — nearly 20 times higher than the Jeep Wrangler's winning
38p per-mile rate.

Jeep — 67 years of development pays 'green' dividends
In the UK we think of the Land Rover as the pioneer of lightweight 4x4 vehicles, even though they didn't come along until 1948.

Driven by supporting the war effort in Europe, in June 1940 the U.S. military told automakers that it was looking for a "light reconnaissance vehicle" to replace the Army's motorcycle and modified Ford Model-T vehicles. The American Army invited 135 manufacturers to bid on production, and developed a lengthy specification list for the vehicle. Including were the following: 600lb load capacity; a wheelbase of less than 75 inches; overall height less than 36 inches; a smooth-running engine from 3 to 50 miles per hour; a rectangular-shaped body; a two-speed hi-low ratio transfer case with four-wheel drive; fold-down windshield; three bucket seats; blackout and driving lights; and a gross vehicle weight below 1,300lbs.

At first, Willys-Overland and American Bantam Car Manufacturing Company were the only two companies answering the call. It wasn't long before the Ford Motor Company also entered the game, and competition began amongst the three over which company would receive the lucrative government contract.

Bantam built its Field Car within 49 days, while Willys-Overland design-ed the Willys Quad. Ford developed its Model GP (General Purpose), also known as the Pygmy, which was powered by an adapted Ford/ Ferguson tractor. Each company delivered its prototype to the Army in the summer of 1940 and received approval to build 70 sample vehicles.

The Army issued the next round of contracts in March of 1941. Bantam was to produce 1,500 Model 40 BRC vehicles, Ford would build 1,500 modified and improved GP Pygmies and Willys would build 1,500 Quads. Further testing and evaluation led to the Army's selection of the Willys vehicle as the standard.

Subsequently, most of the Bantams and Ford GPs produced were sent to Great Britain and Russia as part of the lend-lease program. In Great Britain, the Ford vehicle was popularly known as the 'Blitz Buggy'.

With modifications and improvements, the Willys Quad became the MA, and later the MB. But the Army — and the whole world — came to know it as the Jeep.

Some claimed that the name came from the slurring of the letters 'GP' — the military abbreviation for 'General Purpose'. Whatever its origin, the name entered into the American lexicon and, for quite a while, served almost as a generic title for off-road vehicles. The Jeep itself became an icon of the war.

Willys-Overland would build more than 368,000 vehicles and Ford, under license, some 277,000 for the U.S. Army. Thereafter the rugged, reliable olive-drab vehicle would forever be known for helping win a world war.

After the war, Willys trademarked the 'Jeep' name and planned to turn the vehicle into an off-road utility vehicle for the farm — the civilian Universal Jeep. One of Willys' slogans at the time was 'The Sun Never Sets on the Mighty Jeep', and the company set about making sure the world recognized Willys as the creator of the vehicle.

The first civilian Jeep vehicle, the CJ-2A, was produced in 1945. Willys advertisements marketed the Jeep as a work vehicle for farmers and construction workers. It came with a tailgate, side-mounted spare tyre, larger headlights, an external fuel cap and many more items that its military predecessors did not feature.

The rest, as they say, is history. Today we have the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Cherokee, Commander and Wrangler, with more models to follow — including an all-new Wrangler range due in the UK in April 2007, itself to be followed by the Compass and Patriot models.

Jeep Wrangler and Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

Completely redesigned for 2007, the iconic Wrangler returns with much improved on-road driving manners and a new 'Panther' 2.8-litre diesel engine which is being supplied by VM Motori.

Despite the changes, Jeep says it retains the classic looks and unrivall-ed off-road performance of its legendary predecessor. A unique four-door convertible, the Wrangler Unlimited builds on the strengths of its short-wheelbase sibling by offering a practical, hardwearing interior with space for five plus their luggage and the go-anywhere capability of a genuine Jeep.

Jeep are going to market the extended new Wrangler models at people who live in the country, who tow boats, caravans and trailers with their 4x4s and have a recreational lifestyle. The direct competition will be the Land Rover Defender. Jeep expect, with the addition of a diesel engine to the Wrangler range for the first time ever, around a 1,000 units will be sold each year in the UK — a big increase over the current 200 or so.

Today the Jeep, Chrysler and Dodge brands are marketed in the UK by Chrysler Group and 2006 turned out to be an all-time record year for sales, with 20,351 vehicles sold — a very substantial 38 per cent increase over 2005. With the addition of more models for all three American brands and an increase in the number of UK dealerships, Chrysler Group expect their UK sales to grow by another 40 per cent in 2007.

Current Jeep Wrangler
Official imports of the Jeep Wrangler to the UK started in 1993 and the latest generation was launched in 1997. Featuring coil spring suspens-ion for the first time, they retained the iconic Jeep looks dating back to the original 1940's military versions.

The latest models retain the original two-door body with the recognis-able seven-slot front upright grille, the round headlights, flat bonnet and extended wheelarches. The spare wheel is mounted on the rear tailgate. The Sport model, priced at 16,345, has a folding soft top with removable plastic side and rear windows.

For additional recreational enjoyment, the two doors (with wind-up windows) can be lifted out of their hinges and the front screen folded forward onto the large bonnet. The alloy wheels are shod with chunky all-terrain tyres. This, still, is the ultimate off-roader that is capable of taking any terrain or conditions in its stride. It is a tough 4x4, but it still looks cool. And when used on normal roads it's pure 'lifestyle'.

Inside, there's comprehensive instrumentation, air conditioning, a radio/CD player with multi speakers. And Yes, there are even carpets on the floor. But the Wrangler still retains its classic 'washout' role in life. The rear folding seats accommodate two passengers, although access is not that easy.

Equipment levels are high but operational refinement is low, as indeed it is meant to be. It takes you back to basic unrefined driving. It is not very comfortable, has a choppy ride, rolls during cornering and — even with anti-lock braking — wet road conditions can be hazardous.

The long-travel coil spring suspension provides an extra seven inches of articulation over previous leaf spring versions for endless comfort and grip off-road. But it is not so good travelling over metalled road surfaces and I found my few days re-living the Wrangler experience a total reality check. We get so used to driving more and more sophist-icated vehicles that the reality is that refinement can take the fun out of driving. I have to raise my hand and say that the Wrangler definitely put the fun back into motoring for me at the start of another New Year.

The current Wrangler range has three models: the soft-top plus two removable hardtop variants, one with automatic transmission. Top price for the auto is 20,055.

All models are powered by a Euro IV compliant, 4.0-litre, six-cylinder petrol engine which produces 174bhp and 218lb ft of torque at 3,500rpm. Top speed is 108mph and 0-62mph takes just 9.9 seconds. Fuel economy on a good day is around 21mpg. The engine is responsive and gutsy, as it needs to be for serious off-roading.

Manual transmission models have a six-speed gearbox and all models have a high/low ratio transfer gearbox coupled to Jeep's Command-Trac part-time four-wheel drive system.

While we are promised much more refinement and driving comfort with the next generation Jeep Wrangler models, they will still retain their unstoppable off-road capabilities. As I have said, I just hope they don't refine it too much. I though it was a great fun vehicle with distinctive, iconic looks to go with a proud heritage. Some will complain that it's unrefined, uncomfortable on-road and delivers dubious handling in the wet. But then, not everybody wants the same things from such a vehicle.

The majority will I feel sure, take their hats off to it for the unadult-erated fun it has put back into motoring. They will recognize the value of its honourable heritage, its accomplished toughness off-road and — especially handy in the rough — the removable canvas roof, lift-off doors and fold-flat windscreen. The maximum towing weight incident-ally, is 1,920kg braked. Well — is it an icon or archaic? Or both? Drive one yourself first, before you decide. — David Miles

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Jeep Wrangler Sport | 16,345
Maximum speed: 108mph | 0-62mph: 9.9 seconds
Overall test MPG: 21.7mpg | Power: 174bhp | Torque: 218lb ft

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