Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon
The modern descendent of the original US Army workhorse has been completely redesigned, although the styling is best described as evolutionary: you mess with the Wrangler’s looks at your peril.
The Jl-generation Jeep Wrangler will reach the UK in November. Once again, it is available in two-door and four-door Unlimited variants; we drove the latter on- and off-road, in range-topping Rubicon guise.
A ladder-frame chassis and Dana solid axles are retained but Jeep has used high-strength steel to take about 45kg out of the frame. It’s part of an overall 90kg drop in vehicle weight.
A new electrical architecture brings the Wrangler bang up to date not only in features such as the Uconnect infotainment system, but also through driver assistance tech such as a reversing camera and blind-spot monitoring. Two petrol engines are currently available in North America, the 3.6-litre V6 driven here and a 2.0-litre, fourcylinder turbo with an etorque 48V mild-hybrid system. The UK will get the latter and a 2.2-litre diesel.
The V6 was fine when crawling trails off-road but peak torque doesn’t arrive until 4800rpm and, on winding roads or hills, we found ourselves rowing the gears of the new-but-notchy six-speed manual gearbox to maintain momentum. All UK Wranglers will get an eight-speed automatic gearbox and we’d expect the etorque’s combination of turbo and electric motor to take care of the missing low-end oomph (and use less fuel in the process).
Road manners are much improved compared with the old JK model. The new electro-hydraulic power steering is light but has a more precise, carlike feel. The all-terrain tyres of this Rubicon are impressively quiet and there’s less body roll than you might expect. The front anti-roll bar can be electronically disengaged off-road.
On a challenging trail, the ride quality and effortlessness exposes car-like SUVS as the pretenders they really are. The new Wrangler’s performance is further extended by higher approach, departure and breakover angles than the JK and by the introduction of hill descent control. Meanwhile, the electric portion of the steering’s assistance and a tighter turning circle make it easier than ever to plot your course.
The on-road improvements and additional equipment, together with ergonomic upgrades to the soft top and passenger accommodation, should make this the most everyday usable Wrangler to date.
Switches on the centre stack can be configured to run floodlights and foglights