Anytime a company reinvents an icon, there’s the risk of ruining it. Adding a new diesel engine to the venerable Jeep Wrangler? That’s either inspired or insane. Here’s what you need to know before taking the Wrangler Unlimited Sahara, with an EcoDiesel engine, for a spin:
1. It’s a “Jeep Thing”
Perhaps you’ve seen the “It’s a Jeep Thing” stickers and thought: “Not my thing.” But the success of the one true Jeep, the Wrangler, is undeniable. Jeep’s Toledo plant works three shifts a day due to demand. Where I live, a suburb whose greatest off-road obstacles are the curbs at Whole Foods, you can barely look left or right without seeing one. What moves them off dealers’ lots is the go-anywhere, anytime ability, best in industry resale value, and rugged good looks. Be honest. You probably want to try it at least once.
2. It’s properly modern
The Wrangler has been steadily improving for decades, but this most recent version is a paradigm shift for the rugged off-roader. While its exterior might look like a more refined version of every Wrangler that’s come before, it’s the interior that’s from another world: modern and made with quality materials, along with easy-to-use infotainment graphics. This Wrangler even drives like a proper car with quick and direct steering, a plush ride, and decent handling, all things considered.
3. It’s fun
A Wrangler is nothing if not fun. It’s fun to look at, fun to drive (in its own special “I’m in a truck” kind of way) and, perhaps most importantly, it can take you fun places and make any trip feel like an adventure — especially if you have kids or are one at heart. Our test car had the Sky Top option, which is basically a giant fabric sunroof that peels open like a tuna can. You can, of course, take the roof and doors off. And, provided you’re handy enough, you can fold the windshield down (that’s only recommended if you enjoy the stinging agony of getting a pebble in the face at high speed). Of course, the Wrangler boasts more fording depth, breakover and departure angles, low-range gearing, and electronic off-roading aids than you will ever likely need, but it’s nice to know they’re there if you need them, intentionally or otherwise.
4. It’s for everyone
Our test car was fitted with the new EcoDiesel engine and, frankly, it’s the one to get. While it doesn’t increase the Wrangler’s towing capability, it is smooth, powerful, and shockingly efficient. Averaging around 8L/100km is possible because you can just waft on the engine’s prodigious torque. What little diesel clatter there is suits the Jeep. It is a truck after all, not a Lexus. But if that isn’t your thing, there’s 4-cylinder turbo, V6, and plug-in hybrid options too. Beyond that, there’s two-door, 4-door, and Gladiator pickup versions. All can be had with half-doors, and canvas or hard roofs. There’s even a new 470-hp HEMI V8 called the Wrangler Rubicon 392, which gives off a G63 AMG vibe for a quarter of the price.
5. It’s still a Jeep
Despite all our cooing about quality and refinement, don’t expect to confuse a Wrangler for a Range Rover. And, well, that’s the point. Shaped like the box that other SUVs get shipped in, the Wrangler isn’t designed to thrive at elevated highway speeds. It’s far better than ever before, to be sure, but it doesn’t egg you on to go faster and faster — which is probably a good thing. At its core, the new Wrangler can do everything its predecessors could, while being infinitely nicer to drive every day. You really should try this “Jeep Thing” at least once.