By BRENWIN NAIDU
PERHAPS it’s the rugged looks, retro shape and styling cues or the high driving position that allows one to lord over other road users – but there’s something awfully cool about the Jeep Wrangler.
One can easily fall in love with the Wrangler’s honesty: it doesn’t masquerade as a “Crossover” or something else with a new-fangled niche title. Simply, it’s a 4×4 for the modern era, that hasn’t forgotten where it came from: in design and functionality, the Wrangler shows respect to its progenitor that started it all – the original CJ – or “Civilian Jeep”.
We’ve had many opportunities to sample this iconic Jeep, and one of our most memorable encounters behind the wheel happened earlier in the year, in Nelspruit.
We attended the launch of the revised Wrangler – and the torrential rain and flash floods provided a setting conducive to the kind of adventure that Jeep products have become famous for throughout the world.
The most significant changes on this 2012 Jeep Wrangler are underneath the hood, where a new, more powerful engine features. This new engine also claims to be more efficient, but let’s face it: one can hardly expect single-digit consumption figures from an engine of this size.
The new engine produces 209-kilowatts and 347 Newton metres of torque, so one isn’t in need when it comes to power. The model we drove featured a manual transmission, which offered an involving – somewhat laboring – driving experience. The gearstick is tall, much like the variety you would find on a truck, and shifts are clunky and connected. The steering is surprisingly light,
One can feel the height of the Wrangler in the corners, where it tends to lean and bit. If you’re driving in heavy crosswinds as we were in Nelspruit, you can feel the unnerving effects on the Wrangler’s body. But, remember, the Wrangler is geared towards serious off-road driving, so it’s on-road dynamics are forgivable. You can also have an automatic transmission, which we think would make more sense in Johannesburg traffic.
Inside the Wrangler you’ll find a simplistic layout, although all the modern niceties are there. You get electric windows, air-condition, and even a colour screen interface with accommodation for your USB memory stick. While it might not be as plush as something like the Grand Cherokee, the Wrangler’s interior is functional and user-friendly.
The Wrangler remains a niche offering for those true off-road enthusiasts, and it has things pretty much all to itself in this regard – perhaps rivaled only by the Land Rover Defender.