2-dr 70th Anniversary
owned by Italian automotive
group Fiat, the all-American Jeep
celebrates its 70th anniversary this
year. So does that make the latest
2011 Jeep Wrangler memorable
RECOVERING FROM THE DECIMATION of the US motor industry caused by the global
recession, the hike in oil prices and the anti-4x4 lobby, Jeep models in the
UK currently sell in their hundreds rather than their thousands
but expansion is on the horizon.
For a start, dealers are being increased from the current 46 to 70 by the end
of 2012. By 2014 there will be 90, by which time a much wider product range
will be in showrooms. UK sales so far this year for all Jeep models total around
1,200 in other words, Jeep remains a niche brand which explains
why only 220 Wranglers will be available for UK customers this year.
Nobody can be in any doubt as to the iconic Wrangler's DNA it
can track its heritage all the way back to the original Willys jeep of 1941
that went to war and saw action with American and Allied forces. After WW2 the
Willys jeep became Jeep and became one of the forerunners of today's 4x4/SUV
and four-door Wrangler models cover two extreme sectors: firstly in a workhorse
capacity, competing against the standard and long wheelbase Land Rover Defenders
and 4x4 single cab pick-ups. However, they are more likely to appeal to lifestyle
owners where they compete against most other 4x4s and large numbers of double
also to its iconic
retro styling and a wide
range of styling
accessories, the Jeep Wrangler also appeals
buyers so it is just
as likely to be spotted
of St Tropez, Monte
Carlo or Brighton...
In its two-door form, the Wrangler still appeals to a minority of hardcore off-road
enthusiasts due to its immensely strong chassis (with separate
body construction), huge suspension travel and durable 4x4 traction, it makes
a supreme off-roader.
But, due also to its iconic retro styling and a wide range of styling accessories,
it also appeals to fashion-conscious buyers so is likely to be
spotted 'cruising' the streets of St Tropez, Monte Carlo or Brighton.
The larger four-door version takes on the middle ground, appealing to families
with diverse lifestyle needs recreational activities, farming,
fashion-statement city-slickers and even commercial contractors.
Just like its two-door stablemate, the extended four-door, five-seater version
retains authentic Jeep core mechanical and styling features such as huge suspension
travel, solid axles, removable doors, exposed hinges, a fold-down windscreen
and removable convertible hard or soft tops. The Wrangler four-door is also
unique in that it's the only four-door convertible 4x4 on the market.
For 2011, the two- and four-door Wranglers are being offered in three versions:
Sport, Sahara and 70th Anniversary. All are powered by a 197bhp 2.8-litre CRD
four-cylinder turbodiesel. The Sport version runs with a six-speed manual 'box
with stop-start function and pumps out 302lb ft of torque. Sahara and 70th Anniversary
models come with a five-speed automatic transmission with torque increased to
339lb ft from 1,600rpm.
Standard equipment on all versions is the Command-Trac transfer 'box that allows
for the manual selection of 2 or 4 wheel drive high ratio on the fly (4WD low
ratio gearing has to be selected whilst stationary).
All models also have Traction Control and, additionally, Sahara and 70th Anniversary
models gain Hill Descent Control for downhill driving without braking. Hill
Start Assist for all versions holds the vehicle stationary for up to two seconds;
long enough for the driver to safely move his or her foot from the brake pedal
to the accelerator. The Wrangler also has power steering, variable-mode selection
electronic stability control, multistage airbags, halogen headlights and tyre
all the safety kit and softer spring rates to improve on-road ride comfort,
the Wrangler hasn't been sanitised too much and retains its body on a strong
chassis with underbody protection plates and heavy-duty, long-travel suspension
with gas-filled shock absorbers and front and rear anti-roll bars.
Despite all the safety kit,
the Wrangler hasnt
been sanitised too much
and retains its body
on a strong chassis with
plates and heavy-duty,
with gas-filled shock
absorbers and front and
rear anti-roll bars...
Not much has changed externally for the 2011 Wranglers they are
still fronted by the set back, six-bar vertical slatted grille flanked by circular
headlamps underlined by a prominent front bumper and, at the side, huge wheel-arch
extensions and steps.
The Wrangler's all-new interior retains the high level fascia 'retro' styling,
but generally the ergonomics have been improved and the quality of the materials
and trim upgraded so it now can compete against modern 'softer' 4x4s and the
popular double cabs.
The Wrangler also scores over its hardcore Land Rover Defender competitor by
giving the driver and front seat passenger much more room between the seats
and the fascia. That said, the Wrangler driver will not appreciate the lack
of space in the footwell there just isn't anywhere to comfortably
place your left foot. For the record, the two-door version offers boot space
of 142 to 430 litres and also benefits from a lift-up glass rear window over
a low, side-hinged tailgate door.
The Wrangler also doesn't transfer well from its heartland left-hand to right-hand
drive design; both the transfer 'box lever and the handbrake are positioned
for easy reach for the left-hand drive layout. Good news is that noise intrusion
into the cabin has been improved and the bigger rear and rear-side windows offer
Sport spec includes cloth seats, air conditioning, cruise control, electric
windows, heated door mirrors, on-board computer, leather-trimmed steering wheel
with control buttons, rear cabin sports bar and cage with padding, audio/CD
unit with six speakers, 16-inch steel wheels and all-terrain tyres.
Sahara versions are upgraded with 17-inch alloy wheels, anti-lock braking, automatic
lights, side steps, body-coloured wheel-arch extensions, a better sound system,
and additional interior brightwork trim.
The 70th Anniversary Jeep Wrangler gains a body-coloured hard-top, black leather
upholstery, heated front seats, tinted glass, 70th Anniversary badging and 18-inch
not the Wrangler hasn't gone totally soft. As an off-roader
particularly over rocky terrain its performance and capabilities
remain immense. However, these days that's a very limited niche. Today's market
for the Wrangler has more to do with exclusivity, 'hardcore' showmanship, and
fashionable 'country' lifestyle even if it spends its entire life
in towns and cities.
Despair not the
As an off-roader
particularly over rocky
However, these days
market for the
Wrangler has more
to do with exclusivity,
even if it spends its
entire life in towns
Despite all the improvements, the 2011 Wrangler is a far cry from the driving
refinement offered by virtually all other SUV/4x4s. In point of fact, it's very
much on a par with the Land Rover Defender its only real competitor
still running in today's rugged 4x4 market sector.
I have just driven a 70th Anniversary two-door version, priced at £27,595 (the
family-sized four-door costs £28,995). Although the outstanding off-road capabilities
are still there, this version is all about fashionable on-road style; it's very
much a 'look-at-me' model.
Of course, this Anniversary version is not going to be a major seller
many will be added to motoring collections and no doubt a few 'celebrities or
'wannabe' owners will use them as high-profile personal transport. For me, the
two-door Wrangler was a drive down memory lane; a nostalgic trip back to what
driving was really like a few decades ago.
The Wrangler is still great off-road, the interior is well equipped and seems
well put together and there is no doubt it's a distinctive set of wheels. But
although it is Euro 5 compliant, the diesel engine comes from a past age: it's
noisy, slow, and not very economical and its high CO2 emissions incur heavy
Being mated to an old-tech five-speed automatic doesn't help; gearshifts are
slow and ponderous. Zero to 62mph takes 12.9 seconds and the maximum speed is
107mph. Officially, the Combined Cycle fuel consumption is 34.9mpg but the best
I saw was 26.9mpg.
Worst of all the CO2 emissions are 213g/km the First Year road
tax costs £580 but it does reduce to £260 from year two onwards. Should this
all-American Wrangler Jeep find itself being driven as a company car, then the
Benefit-in-Kind tax bandits will charge you 35 per cent for the privilege.
On-road handling is all 'rock 'n' roll' understandable because
of the high ground clearance and long travel suspension and there's
little feedback from the vague steering. Neither do the 18-inch wheels help
as wheel-wobble is induced after hitting deep potholes and the big wheels and
fat tyres faithfully try to follow all the ridges and cambers present on our
poor-quality roads. The smaller 16- or 17-inch wheels would be better.
bearing in mind it is a heavyweight 4x4, the ride comfort isn't too bad. I was
amazed though, given just how tough and strong the Wrangler is, at how low the
maximum braked towing weight is for all models: just 1,000kg. That's a third
of what other 4x4 heavyweights can tow, so boat, caravan, and horse trailer
owners are not likely to be customers.
Buyers have to accept that it's slow and noisy, has vague steering and rock-and-roll
handling, a very low towing weight (for a 4x4) and high emissions and taxes.
In return they get a durable 4x4, iconic Jeep styling, fantastic off-road ability,
and a much improved interior.
Such is the strength of the Wrangler's image that I was left feeling that a
potential owner would have to suit the Wrangler rather than the other way round.
It was indeed memorable to drive for many reasons, but in reality it's a piece
of motoring memorabilia. David
Jeep Wrangler 2-Dr 70th Anniversary | £27,595
Maximum speed: 107mph | 0-62mph: 12.9 seconds | Overall Test MPG:
Power: 197bhp | Torque: 339lb ft | CO2 213g/km