The Wrangler is an icon that Jeep, sensibly, hasn’t messed with too much. If you want a road-biased SUV then stop reading, as the Wrangler is very much a utility vehicle first, which just so happens to be allowed on the road. It can trace its roots back to the vehicles the GIs drove in WWII, though 2006 saw the firm modernise its most famous vehicle. Those au fait with Jeep’s coding will know that this Wrangler, introduced in 2006, is referred to as the JK, replacing the TJ that ranged from 1996 through to 2006 - and the YJ and CJ before them.
If you’re even considering a Wrangler, the chances are you’ll know as much about them as we do - they do appeal to a specific type of knowledgeable buyer. While the TJ generation before this JK model was stymied by limited engine choice, this Wrangler brought with it a 2.8-litre turbodiesel option, which immediately increased its appeal in Ireland and the rest of Europe alike. Rivals are few, but obvious, the Wrangler a useful alternative to Land Rover’s Defender - and no less useful off-road, too. Indeed, it’s surprising that, while there’s a glut of Defenders in our classifieds, there are very few Wranglers for sale. Surprising, because, despite its relative lack of sophistication, it’s a significantly better car than the expensive, often unreliable Defender.
Significantly, the JK Wrangler comes as a four-door model, a stretch in the wheelbase allowing it far greater practicality - though a two-door model is still on sale. The Wrangler also has the unusual distinction of being the only four-door convertible available, as it's possible (with a bit of muscle and the correct tools) to entirely open up the interior to the elements.
That interior feels like it’s built to withstand them, too; it’s crude by modern standards, but feels tough - as you’d expect. Trim levels include entry-level Sport, Sahara, Unlimited and fully-loaded Rubicon and there have been numerous special editions in its model cycle. It’s better than that Land Rover rival to drive, but all that off-road ability comes at a price, so most will find the ride a bit bumpy and bouncy and the steering vague, while the engine’s not exactly the smoothest, either.
If you can find one, go for a Rubicon, simply as it’s the best equipped. We’d avoid the Sport, as it does without some basics - air conditioning, for example. All can tow brilliantly, the braked limit being 3.5 tonnes.
Jeep Wrangler 2.8 CRDi
Engine: 2,768cc 4-cylinder turbodiesel
Maximum speed: 180km/h
0-100km/h: 10.9 seconds
Fuel consumption: 9.9 litres/100km
Euro NCAP: n/a
- Iconic style
- Tough, built to work
- Open-topped if you’re patient
- Economy and emissions are high
- Pretty crude to drive
- Good luck finding one
The Wrangler is rare here and that’s a shame, as it’s a tough, capable work vehicle for those needing its ability. Certainly it’s a step on from its key Defender rival, though many buyers are likely to opt for a crew-cab pick-up if they really need the sort of towing and tough ability the Wrangler offers.