Jeep Wrangler Review
Car Tested: 2013 Jeep Wrangler Sport Petrol (2-door)
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 25 lakhs (est.)
The Jeep Wrangler can literally go anywhere while also offering terrific straight line performance.
We have got it in various forms but finally the original is coming. We are talking about the legend, the icon, the vehicle which makes off-road enthusiasts skip multiple beats all at once, the Jeep Wrangler, the vehicle whose ancestors started the off-road cult. Fiat owned Chrysler is soon entering India and the Wrangler is going to be offered in 2-door and 4-door guise. A quick glance at the 2-door model and you have an immediate connection to what people in India understand as ‘Jeep’, after all, Mahindra started assembling Willys Jeeps in India in the 1950s and that’s the reason why the Thar (CJ5) has striking resemblance to the Wrangler. The Jeep Wrangler descends from the Willy’s Military and Civilian Jeeps (CJ) and although all new underneath, it carries the same design forward. The Jeep Wrangler was first introduced in 1986 just before Chrysler bought AMC (the parent company of Jeep) from Renault. Manufactured at Chrysler’s Toledo facility in Ohio, USA, the Wrangler is produced at the same place where Jeeps have been assembled since 1940s. Does the Wrangler have enough to pull off-road enthusiasts to the Jeep brand? A drive around Mumbai roads helps us find out if the legacy of Jeep will work in India.
Motor Quest: The Jeep Wrangler is in its third generation and got a facelift only recently. The latest generation Wrangler (codenamed JK) was launched in 2007 and also made the debut of the 4-door Wrangler.
Exteriors – The Jeep Wrangler has massive presence, so much that even though it strikingly resembles previous Jeep models sold in India, people instantly draw a crowd around it. Wherever we went, people turned around and admired the car. Jeep not being sold in India currently does add to the exclusivity factor which makes people want to have a dekho of this brute SUV. The styling itself is based on the original Jeep and the retro appeal is undeniable. The front of the Jeep Wrangler sports round headlights (excellent light spread at night), indicators and fog lamps with a seven hole slotted grille. The side indicators are placed on the wheel arch which itself is massively protruding. The matte black paint finish looks rich with the bumpers and the wheel arch not getting any paint. The hinges are exposed but no chance of rusting here.
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The side flaunts the short length and the massive wheels with the Wrangler and Sport badge only on the sides, right ahead of the doors. The antenna is placed on the side as well, near the hood. The Wrangler has an almost flat windscreen and the boxy dimensions are very pleasing, specially when you are treading over boulders of rocks. The rear is simple with the spare wheel mounted on the hatch door covered by a cloth cover with JEEP written on it. The tail lights are small and reflectors are placed on the bumper. A high mounted stop light is placed right above the spare wheel. The huge ground clearance of the Jeep Wrangler can be seen from all angles and you sit quite high. The big tyres can be seen from the side quarter angle and boy they are BIG. Jeep keeps launching special editions of the Wrangler like Polar, Arctic, Call of Duty, etc, which get cosmetic tweaks to further boost appeal. Overall the Wrangler’s retro design does strike well and makes people turn and gawk at it with admiration.
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Interiors – Push the button on the door knob and open the heavy doors of the Jeep Wrangler, climb in and you will be greeted by a cabin which has good quality and excellent fit and finish levels although some wiring is exposed at the rear. The doors are solid and are held open by old school wired rope (otherwise the door would open 180-degrees). The door unlock/lock buttons are placed on the front doors and they aren’t illuminated at night making it difficult to find them. The door pocket is a different kind, it has a net, a similar net is placed right ahead of the gear lever. Mirrors are big offering good visibility of what’s behind and internal one dims too. The front seat belts are height adjustable as well. No grab handles on the roof but there is a handle right above the glovebox which proudly states “since 1941”, the year when the Willys MB, aka the first Jeep made its debut.
The seats and steering get manual adjust and the front seats are quite comfortable offering generous headroom and good under thigh support. The headrest is a bit stiff though and the plastics on the dashboard are very hard. The flat-ish dashboard is very functional. Getting in the rear is a challenge, it’s best for kids and there is little legroom and under thigh support although headroom is good. There is no arm rest at the rear but the massive wheel arch intrudes inside and is a good place to keep your arm. Large window area at the rear gives good visibly but the windows don’t open, not even in butterfly flap style. No front cabin light but there is one in the centre which can also be operated by using the left stalk (the one which operates the headlights) and you can also vary the intensity. The wipers themselves are very good and the washer fluid does a fantastic job of spraying across the front windshield which is likely to get very dirty off-road. The rear wiper works well but the fuel filler lid is complicated to open as it doesn’t open from inside the vehicle but you need to insert a key and turn it (not in a straight forward way).
The Jeep Wrangler is a hardtop convertible and you can remove the roof panels manually to enjoy an open top experience. Removing the roof panel takes some time as 4 switches need to be turned while one screw knob needs to be rotated quite a bit for opening one side of the panel. So once you are in open top mode, you can also open the covers on the bars and use that as a handle. The power window switches are placed on the centre console and there are plenty of storage spaces inside the cabin including a decent sized globe box and space below the centre arm rest. Bottle holders are placed right next to the gear lever and on top of the dashboard, there is a small storage bay. Right below the AC controls is a cigarette lighter, mirror adjustment (heated), hazard switch, headlamp leveller and traction control switches. No parking sensors offered which should come as standard at this price.
The boot opens in two parts (door with spare wheel and rear windscreen separately) and the rear seats fold in one piece to yield lots of boot space. The steering wheel has an array of buttons, on the front right are cruise control buttons while on the left are menu buttons to operate the multi-information display on the instrument cluster which has four pods. The tachometer and speedometer (marked in both MPH and KPH) are in the centre and very easily visible on the move. The display shows distance to empty, tyre pressure, timer, compass, mileage, car settings, follow me home headlamps, hill assist (available on the automatic), door open warning, etc. Controls for the audio system are placed behind the steering wheel and the unit offers decent output. 6 speakers are placed on the dashboard and rear roof and the U-connect system doesn’t have Bluetooth audio steaming. The horn button is a bit hard and the sun visors have no light but they do have mirrors.
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Performance – Anybody can open the engine bay of the Jeep Wrangler as you simply un-click the rubber straps on either side of the hood and voila, the bonnet opens (key or no key). Jeep will offer the Wrangler Unlimited in diesel guise but the 2-door Sport only gets a petrol engine. The all aluminium 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 engine belts out an impressive 285 HP of power and 350 Nm of torque. Although the Wrangler might be a 2-door but it weighs quite at a bit at over 1.7 tonnes. The power to weight ratio might not be very impressive and the car isn’t aerodynamic either but the performance is going to pleasantly surprise you as the way this Jeep accelerates is pure savage. Driving at sane speeds on the highway, you are going to leave people spellbound if you suddenly decide to accelerate. Let’s talk numbers, the Jeep Wrangler hits 100 km/hr in a claimed 8.1 seconds and has a top speed of around 195 km/hr, yes, that’s a Jeep which can out accelerate any SUV of its price by a comfortable margin.
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The motor starts with a bit of a vibration, revving the engine to 1200 RPM before settling into a 1000 RPM idle. NVH levels are good at low speeds but at around 2500 RPM, a hum can be heard while at 4000 RPM, all hell breaks loose and the Wrangler’s mill comes into its own, making a complete aural racket with a deep growl all the way to its 6500 RPM redline (the gear lever vibrates a lot when you are at higher revvs). First gear is good enough for 60 km/hr, second for 110 km/hr while third will get you to 160 km/hr. The only fly in the ointment is the 6-speed manual gearbox. It isn’t notchy, it’s just out of sync and quick shifts are a tough task as it seldom slots into gear smoothy. The clutch is light though and Jeep have a 5-speed automatic unit which might be offered in India at a later date. Cruising on the highways is an easy job as the motor feels at home, ticking along at 1800 RPM at 100 km/hr in sixth gear. Even city driving is a breeze as the gearing is tall and you can comfortably slot the vehicle in third gear at just 20 km/hr. There is an ECO mode and under sane driving you can expect 7 km/l but when you rev the nuts out of this beast, mileage will drop considerably (5-6 km/l).
Driving Dynamics – The Wrangler sits on a body-on-frame chassis with solid front axle and heavy duty rear axle. The underpinnings are chosen to enable crazy articulation levels but that does take a toll on the on-road experience. The Wrangler has far from impressive on-road dynamics but that’s little to complain since this vehicle isn’t your corner craving machine. Handling isn’t predictable and body roll is pronounced. In fact at triple digit speeds, you don’t feel confident enough and a lot of wind noise creeps into the cabin from the roof. Traction control system, electronic stability program and electronic roll mitigation help in keeping you safe around the bends.
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The 3-spoke steering wheel is big and offers little feedback, it is extremely light which is a boon when going off-road and driving in congested city conditions but out on the highways, it feels dead and conveys little to the driver. The high side wall of the tyres (75 profile) doesn’t help handling and this makes the Jeep Wrangler a muscle car, terrific fun in the straights but not so in the corners. The ride quality is no great shakes either. The Wrangler is properly stiff which isn’t a big concern on good roads but when you hit a bad patch, the vehicle shakes completely and rattles you to the bones. The brakes offer strong stopping power but the tendency to leave the lane and sway forward under hard braking is quite evident.
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Where the Jeep Wrangler is simply unmatched and terrifically brilliant is its off-road capabilities. It can do all what a Range Rover can without any of those electronics and then it can do many other things which a Range Rover simply can’t. Rock, boulders, slush, mud, you name it, the Wrangler can conquer them all. A manual lever for drive selection is present on the left side of the gear lever with 2WD, 4WD High, Neutral and 4WD Low modes (ESC turns off in 4L). The Command-Trac Shift-on-the-Fly 4WD System uses a NV241 GII transfer case with 18 bolts to boost structural stiffness. The brake-lock differentials help prevent wheel spin when off-roading and the higher models (Rubicon which is not being bought to India) gets proper locking differentials as well. The petrol motor has plenty of low end pep which helps in low speed off-road driving. The rugged body, massive ground clearance and protective skid plates means you never have to worry on off-road trails. Some eye popping numbers, approach angle of 38.7 degrees, break over angle of 21.7 degrees and departure angle of 28.9 degrees, that’s insane and which ever off-road course we took the Wrangler, it looked like child play for this SUV. On/off road Goodyear Wrangler tyres further help in grip on the slipperiest of terrain and the water wading capacity is impressive at 760 mm.
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Verdict – So the Jeep Wrangler comes across as a car with average on-road dynamics but when you factor in the off-road expertise, you simply can’t fault the vehicle. While a petrol powered Jeep might not have many takers, we feel the Wrangler has everything in it to create a niche and vow off-road enthusiasts who don’t want to live with the compromise of poor reliability and quality in their off-road machines. The Wrangler offers the best of both worlds, it has timeless looks, modern interiors, potent engine and the ability to create its own route. Being a CBU is not going to make pricing competitive but there is nothing which can match the sheer capabilities and desire which the Jeep Wrangler has to offer and that’s enough to seal the deal for those who tread their own path.
The Jeep Wrangler’s straight line performance is pure savage while its off-road prowess is simply unmatched.
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* Retro appeal
* Straight line performance
* Off-road ability
What’s Not So Cool
* On-road dynamics
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2014 Jeep Wrangler Specifications
* Engine: 3.6-litre, V6, VTT, 24-valve
* Power: 285 HP @ 6400 RPM
* Torque: 350 Nm @ 4800 RPM
* Transmission: 6-speed manual
* Top Speed: 195 km/hr
* 0-100 km/hr: 8.1 seconds
* Fuel Consumption: 6-7 km/l (City), 8-9 km/l (Highway)
* Fuel Type: Petrol
* Suspension: Leading Link (Front), Trailing Arm (Rear)
* Tyres: 255/75/17 On/Off
* Brakes: Ventilated Disc (Front), Disc (Rear), ABS
* Safety: ABS, TCS, ESP, Front Airbags, Tyre Pressure Monitoring
2014 Jeep Wrangler Dimensions
* Overall length x width x height: 4171 mm X 1877 mm X 1798 mm
* Wheelbase: 2424 mm
* Turning Radius: 5.3 metres
* Ground clearance: 230 mm
* Boot Volume: 170 liters (est.)
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 70 litres
* Kerb Weight: 1740 kgs