WHEN the wind’s a-howling and the rain is bucketing down and it feels like Armageddon has arrived, that’s when you want one of these vehicles sitting in the driveway.
Jeep’s Wrangler is a car that speaks to the survivalist that lurks in all of us, a tough no holds barred off-roader that you and your family can make your escape in, one that’s not going to let you down.
This thing will climb mountains and take you down the other side, without breaking into a sweat.
But, when the sun’s shining and you’re sitting in city traffic, headed down to the local mall to get the groceries on Saturday morning, the Wrangler doesn’t make nearly as much sense.
It’s big and heavy and truck-like to drive and can be difficult to thread through narrow back streets and up and down the narrow aisles of underground parking stations.
Keep a firm grip on the door handle too, because when you push it open it’s liable to fly unexpectedly towards the next car, with only a bit of seat belt webbing to pull it up.
What I’m trying to say, is that if you’ve got your heart set on one of these babies (and let's face it plenty of people do), then you need to be aware of these considerations.
The Wrangler is a car built to go off road, to claw its way up rocky fire trails and splash through muddy bog holes, with few concessions to city living.
Jeep has recently upgraded the Wrangler with a more powerful 2.8litre turbo-diesel that now delivers 147kW and 460Nm.
The good news is that diesel is now available with the five-speed automatic transmission from the Grand Cherokee. In automatic form, it uses 8.1 litres of diesel per 100km (we got 11.4 litres/100km).
Off-road enthusiasts might turn their noses up at the auto, but trust me, it’s a good thing.
You can run the Wrangler in two-wheel drive, high range four or low range four, selected via a traditional transfer lever. The auto also provides the option of changing gears manually.
Hill descent control is included for tricky low range first gear descends and works surprisingly well.
I had to hold my breath a couple of times, but the anticipated crunch never eventuated.
The more I drove the more my confidence in the vehicle grew. With a 523mm longer wheelbase (distance between axles) you’d think the four-door would drop its pants more often, but is amazingly agile when it comes to the rough stuff.
Ground clearance front and back is 267mm and 257mm: just 2mm less than the two-door at the rear.
The only real difference between the two lies in the break-over angle, which is 20.8 degrees compared to the two door’s 25.1.
On the road the Wrangler’s ride is hard and unforgiving, with plenty of engine and wind noise and rattles at 110km/h.
Inside, it’s unfamiliar territory. We had trouble locating the switches for the mirrors and windows the first time.
The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport is priced from $43,000 plus on roads.