JL WRANGLER LANDS IN OZ

THE NEW INCARNATION OF JEEP’S ICONIC OFF-ROADER HAS FINALLY ARRIVED, WITH NEW A DIESEL DONK, OODLES OF NEW SAFETY TECH AND A BIG PRICE JUMP OVER THE PREVIOUS MODEL.

WORDS JUSTIN WALKER

NEWS AND VIEWS

THE ARRIVAL of the all-new JL Wrangler ends a long wait for Aussie Jeep fanatics, who have waited patiently for this all-new version of the Yank brand’s rugged, iconic offmodel.

And the wait has been worth it, with the JL boasting a raft of improvements over the previous-gen JK Wrangler including a new 147kW/450Nm 2.2-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine (only available in the Wrangler Rubicon) that accompanies the carried-over 209kW/347Nm Pentastar 3.6-litre V6 petrol donk - both backed by a ZF eight-speed auto and stop/start tech (there’s no manual gearbox option available). Jeep also claims more than 70 standard and optional safety features including autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and loads more.

Jeep is claiming a 13 per cent improvement in combined fuel economy on the Pentastar V6, while it is also claiming hefty increases in towing capacity: the two-door by 49 per cent (now 1497kg) and the four-door by 24 per cent (now 2495kg). Plus, the brand offers a five-year warranty and five-year capped price servicing for Wrangler.

Jeep thinks all these improvements mean the new Wrangler is worth a whole lot more, too. The starting price to get into any Wrangler is $48,950 (plus ORC) - a not insignificant increase of $10K over the outgoing JK. This sticker shock continues through the three-model range (Sport S, Overland and Rubicon; all available in two- or four-door configuration) with the top-tier Wrangler Rubicon four-door 2.2TD Wrangler Rubicon setting you back a lofty $68,950 (plus ORC), an incredible $15K over the previous top model, the 3.6-litre petrol-only JK Rubicon (for full Wrangler range pricing see The Asking Price sidebar). So, yeah, it sure ain’t cheap, and asks the question of just how much on- and off-road bang you get for your considerably higher bucks.

The Jeep Wrangler is one of the few live-axle equipped 4x4s left on the market and Jeep has gone to great pains to retain that ‘traditional 4x4’ DNA in the JL - and all that means in terms of off-road capability - while upping, engine, tech and safety levels, in what Jeep considers an ‘evolution’ of the model.

“The all-new Wrangler may have evolved, but its core DNA remains unchanged, making this the most capable production SUV on the planet,” says Guillaume Drelon, Head of Jeep Brand at FCA Australia. “The Jeep Wrangler sets a precedent by offering renewed levels of style, advanced technology and safety features while remaining true to its rich heritage.”

THE ASKING PRICE

WHATCHYA GET

THE Sport S features the new Selec-Trac full-time four-wheel drive and is standard with 17-inch alloys, auto headlights (halogen), rear park assist and reversing camera, seven-inch Uconnect touchscreen (with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) and a soft-top as standard (for a hardtop, you have to tick the box on the Sport S Group option, which includes a three-piece black hardtop, a higher-spec sound system and some other goodies). Sport S owners keen to head off-road should also opt for the Off-Road Pack ($1950) as it brings with it a limited-slip rear diff and beefier Dana M220 rear axle (as fitted to Rubicon), plus 17-x7.5-inch alloys and floor mats. Y ou don’t get the full raft of safety features in the Sport S, but it still offers all the usual: Electronic Stability Control, Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Control, Traction Control, Electronic Roll Mitigation, ABS, reversing camera, rear park assist, cruise control and the tyre pressure monitor. The interior is all cloth, there’s a 12V power outlet front and rear, the air-con is auto temp control, and the steering wheel is tilt/telescope.

The Overland ups the ante, rolling on 18-inch alloys and having a colour-coded hardtop as standard. It also adds leathertrimmed (and heated) front seats and steering wheel, a colour-coded hardtop is standard, the headlights are LED (as are fog and tail lights), safety is boosted via adaptive cruise control (with stop), full speed forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring, rear cross path detection, and front park assist. The stereo system is a nine-speaker jobbie, while the Uconnect touchscreen grows to 8.4 inches and the two 12V outlets are joined by a 230V outlet.

The big-bopper Rubicon takes all this and adds that hardcore off-road twist, reflecting its remit with the Rock-Trac 4x4 system, 17-inch alloys shod with 32-inch BFGoodrich rubber, beefier Dana 44 axles front and rear (with a final drive ratio of 4:1 for the petrol; 3.73:1 for the 2.2TD), Tru-Lock front/rear diff-locks, front stabiliser bar disconnect, the diesel engine option, the full raft of safety tech, winch-ready steel front bar, sat-nav and more. Oddly, leather seats are still an option as part of the Luxury Package ($1500 for petrol; $1950 for diesel) that also includes body-colour fender flares, heated front seats and steering wheel. There’s also an “Electrical Group” option, with auxiliary switches, 240-amp alternator and 700-amp maintenance battery.

LOOKING AHEAD

THE option of a diesel-powered Rubicon has been on the Aussie Jeeper’s wishlist for the past decade and is a welcome addition to that model. However, the oiler powerplant does come with somewhat of a caveat: the Wrangler has never been known as a load-lugger and this rings even more true with the diesel Rubicon’s paltry 470kg load capacity. Throw in four burly blokes and their luggage and it’s all over. The lighter-weight petrol Rubicon does slightly better, offering 570kg, but even then, once you add a bullbar up front, roof-rack on top and the aforementioned quartet of boofheads, you’re close to capacity.

The significant price increase across the Wrangler range can, perhaps, be slightly justified due to the increased tech featured in the vehicle added to the already highly regarded off-road capability. Whether this, along with the smoothing of the Wrangler’s previous ‘rough edges’ - and the availability of that diesel Rubicon - is enough in this evermore crowded mid-size 4x4 wagon market segment, remains to be seen. For the true Jeeper, though, and anyone else looking for a ‘traditional’ 4x4, it’s probably still one of the toughest and most capable outof-the-box off-roaders, and price may not matter.

MISSING

Australia doesn’t get the 2.0-litre turbo-petrol ‘eTorque’ engine, with its mild hybrid system that utilises a 48V generator to provide a short power boost when you put the boot in.