Jeep has a long association with India, however the connect has been through Mahindra. The Indian importer of Jeep-design based products— in reality the Willys. Now, the American company is back in India with Fiat, as the company has procured the Chrysler and Jeep brands. Jeep has been the best and first-off-roading vehicle in the world made for the American army during the Second World War. The company still continues to make its trademark off-roader, but now it under the Wrangler badge. We get our hands on this model and test some of its capabilities.
The Wrangler carries forward the seven vertical slat design on its front grille. The design resembles the first vehicle, however it is contemporary and has grown with time. The circular headlamps, the large front bumper and the muscular fenders make the Jeep Wrangler extremely rugged. The concept of 4x4 began with the Jeep, and most of the SUV try to beat the capability that Jeep did decades ago.
The Wrangler has a very simple side profile retaining the boxy-styling, however the design doesn’t feel out dated. There is short wheelbase two-door and a long wheelbase four-door version. The two-door is a convertible with a hard-top. The rear has the spare wheel attached, which is another styling cue picked by several SUVs.
The Wrangler has very basic interiors. The vehicle has been designed to go off the road, and doesn’t come embellished with any other luxuries. The interiors are functional as the buttons are large in size, which makes it easy to operate when while wearing gloves, when in snow.
The instrument cluster has four dials, and the three-spoke steering wheel is multi-functional with those controls for the audio system at the front and the back and even buttons for cruise control. The music system has aux-connectivity, however there is no Bluetooth support. The seats lack thigh support especially the second row seats and even the space they offer isn’t fantastic. The knee room in the second row isn’t that great and it feels tight for tall people. The boot is tiny in the two-door, when the rear seats are up.
A 3.6-litre V6 petrol engine powered the Wrangler two-door that we drove. Now, there is also a diesel engine on offer and is a 2.8-litre oil burner. This is available with the four-door option. The petrol produces sufficient grunt to push you back into your seat, despite the heavy weight of this SUV. Dump the clutch and this SUV can even cause its rear wheels to spin. It doesn’t any excess power to drive in the city or even for that matter cruise on the highway. The torque produced at most of the rev range can pull the Wrangler out from any kind of off-road challenge. The engine is much bigger than what the Wrangler actually needs and this means off-roading is a breeze despite no electronic back-up like the other luxurious off-roaders.
The Wrangler we drove came mated to a six-speed manual transmission. The transmission is a bit too notchy and the gear lever is too tall for our liking. It also low and high gear ratios for four-wheel drive. To increase the fuel-efficiency on the road, it is being offered with a two-wheel drive option too.
The short wheelbase of the Wrangler has stiffer suspension; else the ride of this SUV will be bad. The ride is a bit bouncy, but that’s about it. It has been stiffened on purpose so it is better off the road. IF you remember even the Gypsy has a stiff ride quality.
The handling is good for its size, however the extra power at the rear wheel can make you lose control. That is one reason why the Wrangler comes quipped with ESP that forgives all your driving mistakes. The brakes on the Wrangler are a bit spongy but they bite progressively. The Jeep Wrangler’s ability to off-road is still one of the best and most of the places we drove it in, it moved without any kind of struggle.
Making off-roading capable vehicles has been in the DNA of Jeeps and Wrangler is another perfect example of an extremely accomplished off-roader. There is no doubt or questioning on what can the Wrangler can do, but when it comes to the cost it is a bit of a hit for Indian customers, as a pricing in excess of Rs 20-25lakhs might turn down purchase decision of many.