Jeep Wrangler Review in South Africa

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For the 2012 model year, the brand with the seven-slotted grill has updated its iconic 4x4 which actually remains a real 4x4 and not a play-play one. I took a call from the people at Chrysler Group who asked if I’d like to try out the latest Jeep Wrangler. The man on the phone insisted it was a different car altogether since the upgrades.

Colour me interested.

Why update the Jeep Wrangler?

The 2011 and earlier Wranglers had a bit of a reputation for being underpowered and sluggish on the road, not ideal for a 4x4 in today’s age of school runs and pavement climbing outside the rugby.

Not only that but the 4.0-litre straight six, popular with people who like to climb over boulders in forests for YouTube, had the fuel consumption of a punctured oil tanker. Something needed to be done.

Jeep has responded and literally put the car on steroids, adding over 40% more power and a new gearbox to this edition. And despite the extra power, the car is also much kinder to your wallet.

The new oily bits

Your Jeep Wrangler will still have six cylinders burning your precious petrol but now they’re arranged in a V and they only displace 3.6-litres. Still nothing to sniff at. The aluminum Pentastar V6 is lighter than the unit it replaces and drives all four massive tyres through a new five-speed automatic gearbox.

0 – 100km/h drops to 8.1 seconds, which doesn’t sound fast, but in a car that’s noticeably high off the tarmac, with less than optimal offroad-biased tyres and suspension, that 8.1 seconds feels relatively frightening. In-gear acceleration is even more impressive and to be honest I ran out of bravery a few times after putting my foot to the floor.

Acceleration is aurally enjoyable though, with a gnarly V6 growl filling the cabin, and suddenly you’re going a lot faster than your brain thinks is a good idea. It’s actually quite fun.

New Jeep Wrangler 3.6 V6 power specs

With 209 kW and 347 Nm available, it’s no slouch. However, even though the engine is more efficient, the car is still not set up for ideal consumption. With the aerodynamic properties of a shed, coupled with offroad tyres, claimed consumption is 11l/100km on average, but I saw around 15 as a result mostly town driving (and stabbing the throttle).

However, customers can choose between various axle gear ratios, to optimize for on-road efficiency or offroad prowess. The Jeep Wrangler is available with 3.21, 3.73 or 4.10 to 1 ratios depending on the model.

It’s much quieter

The engine is noticeably quiet at idle. Apparently, the new engine has all-new externals (power steering pump, alternator and air-con compressor) to be mounted directly to the engine with no accessory brackets. That worries me a little come servicing time but it does make the car more pleasant to live with.

The interior has also been upgraded

If you’re the sort of person who has a power-hose tucked away in the garage for spraying the dog or your kids or whatever, you’ll love the Wrangler’s utilitarian interior spec. It’s a little plasticky in places but it feels pretty bulletproof and of course hose-downable.

All the creature comforts are stacked in a huge centre, um, stack, which lords over the top of the dash like a Michigan skyscraper. Newly redesigned for this model, it certainly brings the range more up to date while retaining that indestructible feel.

I’m not a huge fan of the seats. They’re very upright, quite thinly padded and I don’t think I’d want to travel from Johannesburg to Pretoria sitting in them, never mind Durban. They look the part but my arse doesn’t care about looks.

The roof panels are not just roof panels. They’re FREEDOM PANELS, ya hear. They can be clipped on and off to give you more FREEDOM. Why do Americans love spreading the idea of freedom so much? Anyway, they’re actually damn cool and you can then drive past Camps Bay and everyone can see your face better, you good looking so and so.

4x4 features and capability

The Jeep Wrangler still offers much to the serious off road enthusiast. With a lowered first gear and customisable axle ratios as mentioned, coupled with excellent approach (35degrees), breakover (22) and departure angles (28), you can feel confident in going out and making Youtube videos for yourself.

I do like the way the tyres protrude from the car at each corner. The bodywork is well out of the way. Sticking the tyres to the rest of the car of the Wrangler Sport and Sahara models are the Dana 30 front axle and Dana 44 rear axle.

The Command-Trac® NV241 part-time, two-speed transfer case features a 2.72:1 low-range gear ratio. The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon model features heavy-duty Dana 44 front and rear axles and the Rock-Trac® NV241 two-speed transfer case with a 4.0:1 low-range gear ratio. Rubicon also includes electric front and rear locking differentials and disconnecting front sway bar.

Should you buy a Jeep Wrangler?

I do believe that most, if not all, of the time people buy cars that fit their personality. The Jeep Wrangler has a lot of personality. It remains a very “cool” 4x4 in world full of German luxo-barges and our dear South African bakkies. It has strong presence on and offroad and remains a seriously capable machine.

That said, it is difficult to live with one a day to day basis, unless you have very large biceps and enjoy being uncomfortable. As a daily drive, I couldn’t live with it, but to disappear into the wilderness, I don’t think it gets much better than this.

Jeep Wrangler Price in South Africa

The range starts at R450 990 for the 2-door Sahara.

Jeep Wrangler 3.6L V6 Quick Specs

Engine 3.6 litre V6 petrol
Power 209 kW @ 6 350 rpm
Torque 347 Nm @ 4 300 rpm
Transmission Five-speed auto
Wheels 18-inch
0-100km/h (Claimed) 8.1 seconds (claimed)
Fuel economy 11l/100km (claimed on the combined cycle) 15.1l/100km (tested mainly in urban conditions)
We like: - Solid feel, new interior - All that American muscle - Speed!

We dislike: - Clumsy on road manners - Plasticky feel in places - Engine thirst around town

Jeep Wrangler Gallery