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Driven: Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. Image by Jeep UK.

Driven: Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
This is a fantastic big 4x4, it really is. Finally, itís a modern Jeep we can happily fall in love with.

 



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Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: the looks, the charisma, the surprising comfort levels on road, the off-road prowess, the fact it's a big, rough SUV one minute and then a sunshine-seeking convertible the next...

Not so good: no left-foot rest, some tyre whoop on the Rubicon's 32s, ride can be tad unsettled, getting that roof off requires a degree and a willing team of assistants for removal

Key Facts

Model tested: Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 2.2 MultiJet II (200)
Price: Wrangler range from £39,955; Rubicon 2.2 MultiJet II from £48,365, car as tested £49,640
Engine: 2.1-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive with twin locking diffs and ultra-low-range gearbox
Body style: five-door convertible 4x4
CO2 emissions: 206g/km (VED Band 191-225: £1,280 in year one, then £465 per annum years two-six of ownership, then £145 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 36.2mpg
Top speed: 99mph
0-62mph: 10.3 seconds
Power: 200hp at 3,500rpm
Torque: 450Nm at 2,000rpm
Boot space: 548-1,059 litres

Our view:

Praise be! A fantastic Jeep product in the 21st century! It has taken a while and if, like us, you've been confused as to what this storied American marque actually stands for in the FCA era, as you watch it turn out acceptable, cuboid crossovers, deeply disappointing premium SUVs and madcap V8 anachronisms in a jumbled product-release schedule, then understand that the mighty Wrangler is everything a Jeep should stand for: rugged, unbeatable off-road, pretty good on it, comfortably appointed within and stuffed to the gunwales with incontrovertible charisma.

What the Wrangler, tested here in longer-wheelbase and wilderness-adventuring-focused Rubicon spec (cross this one, then, Caesar...), is underneath is a proper 4x4. It is not some SUV masquerading as a rufty-tufty machine, because the Rubicon sports 32-inch all-terrain tyres on its 17-inch alloys, it has proper locking diffs on each heavy-duty axle and a separate low-range transfer 'box, it's packing the ladder-frame chassis set-up (rather than a monocoque) that allows it to venture further into the wild than your common-or-garden BMW X5 could ever hope to.

That means it weighs in at a hefty 2,122kg kerb weight. And, perhaps, an even heftier-looking £49,640 as tested, for a 200hp/450Nm 2.2-litre (it's 2,143cc, we've been over this elsewhere, FCA - it's a bloody 2.1!!) machine which is simply massive in size (4.9 metres long, 1.9 metres wide. 1.85 metres tall) and likely to be not very good on the roads. So why do we think this is a machined to be feted, rather than avoided?

Well, all in good time. But, as ever, it's not all sweetness and light. There are a few flaws with the Wrangler Rubicon, as there must be with cars this characterful. It's not quick, that 10.3-second 0-62mph time and modest 99mph top speed speaking volumes about how a 200-horsepower turbodiesel has to manfully do its best to shunt around a vehicle with zero concession to aerodynamics, an eight-speed gearbox and high-drag, knobbly tyres. Quick, the Rubicon most emphatically ain't, but it is just about brisk enough to allow it to keep up with ebb-and-flow A-road traffic without too much difficulty.

Then there's the total lack of a left-foot 'clutch' rest (there's no clutch as it's an auto, of course, but you get the point). We're obviously going soft in our old age, mollycoddled as we are by dual-clutch automatics with somewhere supportive to put your left leg when it isn't required for miles on end, but 526.7 miles and 17 hours 50 minutes at the wheel of the Wrangler saw us conducting about a third of that distance/time on longer-haul journeys - whereupon the dearth of a clutch rest became particularly wearing after about 50 miles. Shame, because otherwise, ergonomically the Jeep is pretty decent; the seats are very comfortable, for instance.

We could go on. The two-piece boot's lower barn-door section opens a long way out, so don't park too close to the vehicle behind if you want to get something out of the Wrangler's cargo bay. Those BF Goodrich A/T tyres are impressively subdued for most of the time, but there are occasions (at higher speeds, on rougher surfaces) where their mud-favouring tendencies are revealed by increased whoop in the cabin. The ride is excellent, for this type of vehicle, somewhere between an unladen one-tonne pick-up truck and a mid-level premium SUV for comfort, but it's still going to annoy those who are used to plush, air-suspended luxury. Or, in other words, don't look at this if you were otherwise going to buy a used Mercedes GLE for pure, on-tarmac commuting.

But none of these matters were deal-breaking for us. And then there's so much to love. Just getting in and out of the Rubicon is an event, so high off the deck is it. Therefore, once you're installed behind the wheel, in a cabin which is actually nicely put together, well-equipped and pleasant to use, you feel like you're sitting about three miles above other road users. This imbues a sense of imperiousness in the occupants, which is only aided and abetted by well-judged major controls and good visibility out in all directions (that rear-mounted spare-wheel and the interior roll-over protection in the boot notwithstanding) - all of which combine to make piloting the Wrangler easy, despite its immense dimensions.

It's therefore just terrific fun to drive it, even if you're doing nothing more than covering miles down the A17 on your way into Norfolk for a few days. The brakes are good and strong. The ride is generally supple, while wind noise isn't a major issue because you're never really going fast enough for it to announce its presence to any significant degree. The steering is a recirculating ball affair, which means it's slow to react and takes 3.3 turns from lock-to-lock, but actually it didn't feel appalling (by modern EPAS standards) and had more precision and consistency to it than we were expecting. Crikey, despite that bluff exterior, we even managed to coax the Wrangler into returning a best economy figure of 37.4mpg, set against an overall number of 34mpg. Commendable.

And we should really talk about the looks. Which are superb. OK, it might not be very correct of us to say this in the enlightened present, but it's surely a car which is going to win more appeal with a male audience than female. Its chunky appearance and brilliant Rubicon graphics look great set against the nice, bright, oh-so-American-in-name colours you can choose for the Wrangler - for instance, our test car was in £675 Firecracker Red Clear Coat paint, which beautifully set off the black detailing, although the Hellayella Clear Coat of the Rubicon in the images looks equally splendid. At some point, someone is inevitably going to make the 'Tonka Toy' reference about the Rubicon, but we couldn't care less; it's big, it's beautifully brash without being tasteless, and if you've got plenty of time to spare and some strong helpers to lend several hands, you can whip its roof panels and rear section off and have a convertible, five-seat off-roader. Sensational.

Undoubtedly, you have to accept compromises with on-road refinement if you're going to choose a pukka 4x4, over and above a more elegant SUV with a monocoque frame. But, with the Wrangler Rubicon, we can genuinely say those compromises do not feel as severe as they often can on other 4x4s and pick-up trucks. Indeed, we could probably live with it easily on a day-to-day basis, as long as you didn't make us drive more than 100 miles, every single day... as then we'd probably have to saw our left leg off below the knee in preparation. But other than that, there's not much about the fabulous Wrangler Rubicon we dislike, and very, very much which we love. It's a truly marvellous modern Jeep. For that, it should be widely revered.

Alternatives:

Land Rover Defender: yes, the new, sanitised one is inbound, but you could buy an old Landie, if you so wish. There is no doubt, though, that the Wrangler is the superior product in nearly every key regard.

Mercedes-Benz G-Class: another long-serving machine which has been modernised for the 21st century, like the Wrangler, without losing its idiosyncratic looks. Absolutely beautiful to sit in and drive, but it's basically a six-figure vehicle. Oof.

Suzuki Jimny: all of the Wrangler's off-road prowess and appealingly chunky looks, only in microcosm and on offer for sub-£20k. The Jimny's maybe more compromised on the roads than the Jeep, but - unless you've got a heart of stone - you'll still adore the tiny Suzuki.


Matt Robinson - 15 Jul 2019









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2019 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon UK test. Image by Jeep UK.2019 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon UK test. Image by Jeep UK.2019 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon UK test. Image by Jeep UK.2019 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon UK test. Image by Jeep UK.2019 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon UK test. Image by Jeep UK.

2019 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon UK test. Image by Jeep UK.2019 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon UK test. Image by Jeep UK.2019 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon UK test. Image by Jeep UK.2019 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon UK test. Image by Jeep UK.2019 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon UK test. Image by Jeep UK.








 

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