Jeep Wrangler (2007-2018) Review
The Jeep Wrangler is the classic off-roader - proving impressive off-road, but less competent on-road - but it also feels very old-fashioned
Strengths & weaknesses
- Impressive off-road ability
- Classic design
- Tough parts and engines
- Noisy and bouncy
- Not as practical as it looks
- Guzzles fuel
With the Land Rover Defender no longer on sale, the iconic Jeep Wrangler is pretty much unique, with only the far-more expensive Mercedes G-Class offering similar military off-roader attributes. This is a tough and traditional 4x4, which towers over crossovers like the Nissan Qashqai, and is fitted with suspension designed to ford rivers and climb mountains.
While this is all well and good, its ageing design and a singular focus on dominating the great outdoors, means the Wrangler is definitely not for everyone. It might have been updated in 2011 to make it comfier, connect to your phone and stay cool on hot days, but this is still a very utilitarian vehicle. With no reversing camera in sight and a poor turning circle, it can also be tricky to park.
Get behind the wheel, and the diesel engine clatters at idle and roars as you press the accelerator, which is characterful if you’re feeling in the mood, but fatiguing if you get stuck in traffic. You are reminded of its off-road tyres and steering as soon as you turn a corner too, with lots of steering lock required and little feedback from the road. Bouncy suspension and a sluggish automatic five-speed gearbox don’t encourage you to pick up the pace either, so tarmac is best thought of as the boring bits between fields, tracks and quarries, where the Wrangler is almost unstoppable, thanks to its permanent four-wheel drive.
You’ll need to be an off-road fan to appreciate the Wrangler’s merits, because comparing it with a newer SUV like the Land Rover Discovery Sport is almost impossible. For example, despite the Wrangler’s huge size, the smaller Discovery Sport manages to cram in seven seats and a larger boot, while its 2.0-litre diesel engine gets it from 0-62mph more quickly and returns 53mpg, almost double the Wrangler’s fuel consumption.
Getting into the Wrangler requires a big step up, and while there’s plenty of room for front passengers, the back row is short on knee room, even if head room is ample. Access to the boot is via a glass tailgate and side-opening door, which is heavy and limits access in tight parking spaces.
Unlike the rest of the Jeep range, the Wrangler has never been crash tested by Euro NCAP, which makes its safety a bit of an unknown quantity. Standard safety kit includes anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control and a tyre pressure monitor to detect punctures, but none of the advanced lane-keeping or autonomous emergency braking systems seen in the latest SUVs.
The Wrangler is certainly tough, though, so reliability shouldn’t be too much of a concern and Jeep has shot up in recent consumer satisfaction surveys.
Starting at around £34,000 new, the Wrangler cost roughly £5,000 more than a basic Land Rover Discovery Sport and £2,000 more than a Hyundai Santa Fe. In contrast, the somewhat rarefied and equally boxy Mercedes G-Class cost almost £90,000 at the time. So whether you see it as an outdated, expensive family car, or a great value, iconic retro 4x4 is down to how you look at it.
With little change in its looks or specification, a used or nearly new Jeep Wrangler can be a wise choice, but you’ll need to be committed to off-roading to choose the Wrangler over a more conventional SUV. Even the more sophisticated 2018 Jeep Wrangler model lags behind new SUVs for refinement and ease of driving.
|Boot size||498 litres|
|Tax (min to max)||£500 per year to £515|
Best Jeep Wrangler for...
Best for Economy – Jeep Wrangler 2.8 CRD Sahara two-door
Official tests claim the diesel Wrangler can return 31mpg, but real-world figures show it’s actually possible to exceed this figure by a few miles per gallon.
Best for Families – Jeep Wrangler 2.8 CRD Overland four-door
Choose the four-door Overland for the most comfortable Wrangler, with the best blend of interior space, convenience features and technology, along with the lowest running costs.
Best for Performance – Jeep Wrangler 3.6 V6 Rubicon two-door
The Wrangler is all about off-roading, and the Rubicon model is loaded with special features to make it go even further up hills, down dales and through rivers.
One to Avoid – Jeep Wrangler 3.6 V6 Sahara two-door
Only choose the two-door if you are serious about off-road driving and nothing else. The Sahara trim makes little sense, as for only £1,400 more the Overland is far better equipped.
Understanding Jeep Wrangler names
Trim level Overland
The Wrangler trims tell you the amount of equipment fitted. Sahara is the entry-level, while Rubicon is more specialised towards off-roading.
Engine 2.8 CRD 200PS
The size in litres of the engine is shown here, while power is shown in horsepower, which can also be called PS. Jeep refers to its diesel engines as CRD, which stands for Common Rail Diesel.
Auto is an abbreviation for an automatic gearbox, which is the only type available in the Wrangler.
Driven wheels 4x4
The Wrangler is often described as a 4x4, because all four wheels are permanently driven by the engine.
Jeep Wrangler Engines
Petrol: 3.8 V6 280PS Diesel: 2.8 CRD 200PS
With just two engines available in the Wrangler – a four-cylinder 2.8-litre diesel and a V6 3.6-litre petrol. Both are showing their age, with poor refinement and less performance than some much smaller but more advanced engines found in its rivals.
The diesel is easily the better choice, even if its economy of 31mpg is a far cry from most rivals, which are approaching double its efficiency. With 200hp, it certainly has a reasonable amount of power, but the way its five-speed automatic gearbox hesitates between shifts and the raucous noise from under the bonnet, means the diesel Wrangler only feels quick if you are brave enough to hold down the accelerator.
But in a way, it’s hard to judge the Wrangler against newer models like the Land Rover Discovery Sport, because the way this iconic model is built and drives hasn’t changed a great deal in more than 20 years. Many of the Wrangler’s closest rivals, including the Land Rover Defender, are no longer on sale, but are still popular on the used market. Viewed through this lens, the Wrangler can be charmingly retro, and once taken off-road, its permanent four-wheel-drive system makes the Wrangler almost unstoppable. Here, the low-engine-speed muscle of the diesel engine also comes into play, sending the nose skywards and allowing you to keep going up seemingly impossible inclines.
In terms of refinement, the 3.6-litre V6 has a natural advantage over the diesel, because it’s much quieter at idle and feels smoother on the move. Thanks to its 280hp, the petrol engine also feels significantly quicker, with 0-62mph in 8.9 seconds being plenty fast enough for a rugged SUV with balloon-like tyres that make the steering less than precise. The automatic seems to respond better to the more flexible power delivery of the V6 too, with less hunting for gears in town driving, or as you tackle a twisty country lane.
Most British buyers will baulk at the petrol engine’s high road tax band and economy, which is claimed to be up to 25mpg, but is likely to be far less in real-world driving. However, if you are simply buying the Jeep as a weekend toy rather than a commuting vehicle, then the petrol may actually be the more enjoyable choice.
Jeep Wrangler Trims
Sahara, Overland, Rubicon
Before choosing the trim level, there’s an even more important decision – whether to get a two-door or four-door Wrangler. While the two-door was around £1,700 less new and might be better if you only plan on off-roading, the four-door works far better as an SUV, with a much more practical interior. For both versions there are just three trim levels for the Wrangler, called: Sahara, Overland and Rubicon.
The Sahara is the entry-level model, which comes with a three-piece removable black hardtop, 17-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights and underbody skid plate protection. There are some luxury features you might not expect too, including cruise control, a leather steering wheel, climate control, keyless entry, Uconnect mobile phone connectivity and an Alpine stereo system. There weren't many options available, but you could add a 6.5-inch touchscreen media system with sat-nav for £1,250.
Overland is the next step up, adding tinted glass, a body-coloured version of the hardtop, 18-inch polished alloy wheels, leather upholstery, heated front seats and the aforementioned media system, all for a reasonable £1,400 extra new.
Lastly, there’s the Rubicon model, which is aimed squarely at off-roading fans and only comes with the V6 petrol. Its wheels go back down in size to 17-inches, while special ‘Rock rails’ help protect the side sills from impacts during rock crawling. A shorter-ratio set of gears, tough axles and disconnecting front anti-roll bar will all appeal to people who spend more time away from tarmac than on it, but won’t be for you if you just want a family SUV.
Jeep Wrangler Reliability and warranty
The Jeep Wrangler itself didn’t appear in the 2019 Auto Express Driver Power survey, but Jeep as a brand made a resurgence, coming 11th out of 32 manufacturers, and beating the likes of BMW (15th), Toyota (16th) and Land Rover (22nd).
On sale in its current form for around a decade, and evolving over many years, the Wrangler is built on tried and tested technology using older components, so any issues are likely to be niggling faults rather than serious failures.
Jeep supplies a standard warranty of three years or 60,000 miles in length (whichever passes first), which is considerably shorter than the five-year warranty you’ll get with a Hyundai or Toyota, not to mention the seven years offered with a Kia. Jeep’s warranty also covers against paintwork defects for two years, while painted panels are guaranteed against perforation from rust for seven years, regardless of mileage.
Used Jeep Wrangler
While the Jeep Wrangler has been on sale for a considerable time, limited production in right-hand drive has kept the supply low, making them quite a rare sight unless you visit an off-road centre.
The fact the Wrangler isn’t particularly common and tends to be bought as a hobby vehicle, has kept used prices reasonably high. Like the Land Rover Defender – its biggest used rival – residuals have also been boosted by the iconic design of the Wrangler, with older models looking little different to a brand new vehicle. Even a model from 2010 isn't likely to be worth that much less than a newer model.
There haven’t been a host of changes to the Wrangler, but in 2011 the interior was given an overhaul, improving the quality of materials and introducing heated seats, climate control, steering wheel controls, a USB interface, Bluetooth and voice command system. In July 2016 the 75th Anniversary model was launched, with unique styling tweaks, paint colours and interior trim.