Tried and tested: iconic Jeep Wrangler keeps rolling


Tried and tested: Jeep’s iconic Wrangler keeps rolling

The Jeep Wrangler 80th Anniversary Special Edition – quintessentially fun, with a refined interior and supreme off-road skill – is a fitting marker of the brand’s ability to survive and thrive.

What is the point of Jeep? A stylistically conscious vehicle that has much of its connection to WWII piece of military equipment couldn’t be more out of step with the modern era. Yet somehow Jeep survives and even thrives.

Perhaps the ultimate butch brand, Jeep’s origins date back to the 1940s, when John Willys’ company, the Willys-Overland Motor Company, began building the original military Jeep, alongside Ford and the company. American Bantam (who also designed the prototypes). More than 650,000 of these light army transports were built before the end of the war. Willys kept the design and the technology and attempted to transform the Jeep into a mainstream vehicle.

Eventually, the idea caught on, but not before a large number of imitators had sprung up around the world (including the UK Land-Rover). War surplus Jeeps also found their way into private hands, helping to create the market for rugged four-wheel-drive vehicles and its macho and military muscle foundations. The company has struggled, even making boxcar models that can claim to be among the first SUVs of all time.

Jeep joined American Motors Corporation in 1970, around the time its CJ (“civilian jeep”) models embodied the California ideal of carefree, anywhere outdoor driving, better suited. to the beaches as the battle fronts. The CJ-5 made Jeep fashionable and it remained in production for almost three decades.

The Jeep Wrangler replaced the venerable CJ Series in 1986, sharing the raw and ready mechanical setup of the original vehicle (such as a separate body and frame, as opposed to the conventional modern ‘unibody’ construction) with a more refined touch. and better road manners. The Wrangler was still a recognizable “Jeep,” with the familiar seven-slot grille and round headlights flanked by exposed wheel arches, and the spare tire mounted at the rear.

In 1987 the company name passed to Chrysler and then to what was then Fiat Chrysler, before becoming part of Stellantis, where it is now an unlikely partner for brands like Citroën, Maserati and Vauxhall.

This model is the JL, the fourth generation Wrangler. It is sold alongside the compact Renegade (also available as a hybrid) and the more classic SUV-type Compass. The US market also gets the Gladiator, a pickup version of the Wrangler, and the much bigger Grand Cherokee.

Jeep Wrangler 80th Anniversary Edition

The Wrangler debuted in 2018, but for 2021 a special edition has been created to celebrate 80 years of the original military Jeep. In this age of parametric design and sophisticated simulation, there is no earthly reason for a mobility product to look like the Jeep. It’s a deeply man-made design, with exposed door hinges, large plastic fenders, fat grippy tires, an exposed roll bar, and other cod-like utility details (the cross pattern on the taillights is supposed to evoke the jerry cans that were attached to the army originals, for example).

And yet it works. While it’s just as big and brash as the more lifestyle-oriented SUVs, the Wrangler feels more user-friendly and a lot less aggressive. It might be overkill for any urban situation, but it’s no more the case than countless other brands, and with its power retractable canvas roof, the Wrangler is also a lot more fun and fun. much less po-face. Sure, that’s a statement, but the point is, you don’t necessarily take yourself too seriously.

Get away from city roads and you’ll find the Jeep to be an extremely competent off-road machine, packed with things like a low-ratio gearbox and locking differentials, along with impressive ground clearance. All of this means you can take the Wrangler pretty much anywhere, as well as tow whatever you want.

The practical four-door model might not be very spacious, but the interior is well appointed, with plenty of storage lockers and power outlets, and even a touchscreen entertainment and information system. appropriate. It feels a bit rough on the road, and those big tires have a habit of roaming, but the flat windshield, great visibility, and comfortable seats make it a nice place to stay.

Coming soon: the Jeep Wrangler 4xe Rubicon plug-in hybrid

Stellantis still has a bit of a mountain to climb to demonstrate its aptitude for brand management. Compared to a stable mate like Maserati, Jeep may not look very sophisticated, but it’s even better for it. The new Wrangler 4xe hybrid model has yet to arrive in Europe, but when it does, it will represent the first step on the road to Jeep’s electrification. Admiration for electric off-road vehicles is growing rapidly, even within the notoriously traditional 4×4 community (even the infamous Hummer brand is being revived as a pure electric vehicle by General Motors).

Will an electric Jeep change the character of the icon? There aren’t a lot of octogenarian automobiles out there. But if Jeep can keep a grip on the great sincerity the Wrangler does so well, it will survive the Electric Age. It could even become the first car model to celebrate its century. §

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