Off-roading has been synonymous with the Jeep Wrangler nameplate since the first unit rolled off the production line in 1984. With its spiritual roots in the World War 2-era Willys Jeep, the Wrangler has always been about unhindered access to the great outdoors, enabled by its durable body-on-frame construction, rigid live front and rear axles, and trail-worthy suspension architecture.
The Wrangler’s styling has also been consistent throughout four generations with its tapered nose, flared fenders, flat windshield, and choice of removable soft or hard tops. With its purpose-built engineering, the vehicle has always appealed to enthusiasts who have yearned to see how far they can go when they explore the great outdoors. Unapologetically adventurous, the Wrangler is for the driver who isn’t afraid to get dirty and who, in fact, looks forward to getting all muddy.
In recent years, however, the model has kept up with the changing times with a nod to more comfort and efficiency without sacrificing its go-anywhere capability. Chief among its modern improvements is a 2.0-liter turbocharged in-line-four engine rated at an impressive 268hp at 5,250rpm. Mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox, it also churns out 400Nm at just 3,000rpm, giving it the ability to crawl up the steepest slopes without breaking a sweat.
As always, its full-time four-wheel-drive system lets you apportion the optimal amount of power between the front and rear axles. Coupled with 245/75R17 all-terrain tires, there’s nothing much that the Wrangler can’t roll over. Electronic aids such as traction control, hill-descent control, and hill-start assist further aid the driver in precisely navigating his way through a trail.
Excellent off-road performance is a given with the Wrangler, of course, but Jeep has also gone the extra mile to making the riding experience as pleasant as possible. Today’s model is a cocoon of luxury compared to the spartan interior of the first generation. While the cabin design still prioritizes function over form, a closer look at the details reveals high-quality fabric upholstery, precise panel gaps, and soft plastics for a positive, tactile experience.
Modern conveniences include push-button engine start and an eight-speaker audio/navigation system. Managing the latter is done via the Uconnect 3 software and its five-inch display. Belying its rough and ready appearance, getting the perfect driving position is easy with ideally spaced pedals, a tilt and telescopic steering column, and a six-way adjustable driver’s seat.
Indeed, it’s easy to forget the Wrangler’s adventurous nature just a few minutes after acclimating in the urban jungle. Apart from the high driving position, getting the Wrangler going is as easy as driving any other SUV. Throttle response is smooth and syrupy, and the automatic gearbox changes ratios quickly and silently. Every-day maneuvers such as lane changes and parallel parking are no-brainers, with the power steering giving good feedback and just enough assist without feeling numb.
Ride quality from the off-road focused suspension is surprisingly good, with very little of the high frequency jitters that hardcore 4WD vehicles are known for. A dual-battery start-stop system further helps fuel efficiency, and is so quick to respond that you barely notice it’s working.
With plenty of power under the hood, and combined with that refined suspension, road trips are not only possible but even enjoyable. The Wrangler’s box-like cabin affords plenty of room for passengers or cargo, and it’s well insulated to provide a serene atmosphere.
But when the going gets rough and messy, all it takes is the appropriate 4WD mode and the Jeep takes care of business. Skid plates under the transmission, fuel tank, and transfer case give added piece of mind over rocky trails, while tow eyelets are there in case you need a little help (like extracting stuck vehicles).
After a long day of adventuring, getting the interior clean again is easy with its purposely designed hard plastic flooring. The blacked-out fenders aren’t there just to look good; they’re also trimmed that way to make the inevitable scratches and battle scars easier to hide.
Finally, while the standard ground clearance of 9.7 inches will be plenty for most prospective owners, some of you might want to go a little higher. For that, Jeep has a two-inch lift kit by Fox specifically engineered by Jeep Performance Parts. An optional seven-inch LED headlamp and four-inch foglamp package also provide additional illumination because sometimes, not all adventures are finished before sundown.
With all of these features engineered into such a capable package, it’s no wonder that the Wrangler remains to be one of the most desirable, off-road capable SUVs today. Schedule a test drive with your nearest Jeep dealer to find out how truly evolved it has become, and get a quote as the next step to bringing your very own Wrangler on your next adventure.
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This branded article was produced in partnership with Auto Nation Group.