Jeep not only introduced the new-gen Wrangler in India, but the American carmaker has also started local assembly of the iconic 4x4 at their Ranjangaon plant near Pune, Maharashtra. This, the JL generation, is the first time that a Wrangler is put together outside the States in its four decades of history. This means the locally-assembled Wrangler is much cheaper than the older, previous-gen model, but it also makes a strong case for itself amidst other luxury SUVs for the same price.
We drove it recently in the off-road-focused Rubicon guise and you can read our first-drive review over here. This time around, we tell you five reasons why you should buy the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon and two reasons why you should steer away from it.
1. Off-road prowess
There are very few car makers across the globe that are known for their off-roading credentials and Jeep is at the forefront. Since the first Jeep rolled out in World War 2, the name has remained a synonym, a generic term for anything suitable for use on rougher terrains – especially in our country. And the Wrangler is one of that hardcore focused 4x4 SUV that is best enjoyed when the roads cease to exist.
With the Trailrated badge on the side on this Rubicon edition, you can be assured – when crossing a river, climbing up a mountain, punting in the desert, coursing through thick forest, or exploring any other wilderness – that you’d come out on the other side unscathed. Helping its off-road prowess are some purpose-built hardware like the heavy-duty Dana 44 solid axles with a sophisticated transfer case and locking front and rear differential, heavy-duty shocks, a full-time transfer case with low-range gear and full-fat 255/75 R17 knobby tyres. It also gets an electronically detachable front sway bar allowing 30 per cent more suspension articulation.
Now usually off-roading is reserved for the seasoned veterans who know a trick or two of getting unstuck in their 4x4. But Jeep has made the off-roading in the Wrangler a walk in the park even for a novice. Push a button on the dash reading ‘off-road+’ and if you are half as intelligent as the system, the Wrangler will take care of the rest. This sophisticated system can make adjustments to the throttle, traction control, and transmission shift so that you can crawl over rocks, pace through the sand, wade a river, trudge through slush or go mud-plugging without any hassle.
On the large centre touchscreen, there’s a dedicated off-road page that throws out vital information that’s useful when you are out scaling the wilderness. This includes tyre angle, drivetrain information, differential and sway bar setting, vehicle’s pitch and roll angles, and even latitude and longitude of your Wrangler.
2. Unmatched road presence
Measuring 4,882x1,894x1,848mm, the Wrangler Rubicon manages to even dwarf the Toyota Fortuner (4,795x1,855x1,835mm) on the streets. Being American, everything about the Wrangler is ‘BIG’. Its tall bonnet and imposing seven-slat grille isn’t something you’d want to see in your rear-view mirror. Since this is a four-door version, it’s long and as you can see in the measurement it is wider than it is taller – so it’s got a unique proportion that’s not conventional.
And this being the Rubicon edition (with better approach/depart and breakeven angles), you sit taller than everything else on the road. Its towering presence grabs attention and we didn’t find any road user not giving way to the Wrangler when it was out prowling the streets. There’s nothing on the road like the Wrangler and it commands the respect that not even full-size luxury SUVs can manage to. And that’s even before you get the roof off and make the Wrangler a fun, open-top machine.
3. Strong petrol engine
Currently on offer with the Wrangler is a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine from FCA’s Global Medium Engine (GME) family. This newly developed engine from the Hurricane family puts out 268bhp and 400Nm channelled through a ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard. Although there’s nothing like a rumbling V8 in a proper American, this four-cylinder is fairly impressive.
The output figure won’t sound exciting on the paper but the Wrangler has enough firepower underneath to propel the two-tonne behemoth effortlessly. For the starters, it’s a refined and vibe-free motor with a soundtrack that of a buzzing supercharger. Under 2000rpm, it’s as usable as the next car on the road going around its business with no fuss. This is good because that makes the Wrangler surprisingly easy to drive in the city. Floor the throttle and the Wrangler charges ahead with a fervour that’s unexpected of an SUV weighing 2100kg.
In our acceleration run, the 0-100kmph sprint time was just 8.58 seconds. It won’t punch you down in your seat but the acceleration could bring a wide ear-to-ear grin on your face every single time you give it some beans. We like the seamless shift of the eight-speed automatic. There’s a slight delay in shift actions – especially in the kickdown – in everyday driving this transmission won’t give any reason to complain. It also holds its own when off-roading which is commendable.
4. Feature List
Now with any off-roader that’s so focused and purpose-built, there’s usually one trade-off – cabin comfort. But that’s not the case with the Wrangler. It’s not like any other utilitarian 4x4 that’s barebone on the inside to help it tread in extreme conditions.
On the contrary, the Wrangler we have here comes fitted with leather upholstery, all-four power window (despite the fact that all four doors are removable), dual-zone climate control, an eight-speaker music system combined with an 8.4-inch touchscreen with voice command, navigation, along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It’s even got other creature comfort features like automatic LED projector headlamps, push-button start, reverse camera, colour MID screen on the instrument cluster, front and rear parking sensors, manual lumbar support for the driver’s seat, 60-40 flat-folding rear seats and massive storage under the centre armrest.
5. Pricing and Competition
Despite being a newer generation than the Wrangler that was sold in India between 2016-2019 – this current-gen Wrangler JL is more affordable than before. This is owing to the local assembly at the carmaker’s facility where the Compass was made and exported.
Jeep has started making the Wrangler for the first time outside its home country in its forty years history. Compared to the JL model which previously reached our shores as CBUs from the Toledo factory in Ohio last year, this Wrangler now saves you almost Rs 13 lakh on its on-road pricing. Thus it comes as an enticing buy over many luxury crossovers and SUVs that are priced between Rs 55-70 lakh.
1. On-road driving dynamics and fuel economy
Sitting on large knobby tyres, this Wrangler Rubicon isn’t exactly plush when you aren’t driving it off-road. Because on the road it’s otherwise supple and well-absorbent, the ride suffers from constant jitters owing to the tyres. That’s not all, when accelerating hard or under quick braking, it tends to quiver around which robs you of the fun. You also need to constantly work the steering to keep it pointed straight and that can become tiresome on a long journey. This issue could be solved to a great extent by getting the more road-biased Unlimited variant.
Then there's the fuel efficiency of the engine. Returning just 6.5kmpl of fuel efficiency in our city test (around 8kmpl on the highway), the Wrangler would drain its tank rather quickly. The engine is not inherently poor on fuel economy. It's just that the Wrangler is a heavy vehicle and that a petrol engine has to work harder than a diesel engine to pull all that mass, which makes it less efficient than expected. And with fuel pricing skyrocketing of late, owning the Wrangler Rubicon could turn out to be an expensive affair. We wish there was a diesel engine on offer as well. Not that this petrol engine suffers when off-roading, but having a torquey diesel for off-roading is quite assuring.
2. It’s a Lifestyle Product
The Jeep Wrangler – with its eccentric styling, quirky cabin, off-roadie personality and limited practicality – makes for a lifestyle product rather than a daily driver. For a large vehicle, the cabin space could sometimes leave you wanting more. Moreover, you don’t get in the Wrangler Rubicon with grace; you’d have to jump in and out every single time.
This makes it even difficult for rear passenger with such a narrow door. And once inside, the rear bench isn’t the most comfortable place to be. Since it can be an open-top, the roll cage at the back eats up some boot space too. But then again, the Wrangler isn’t made for hauling luggage. It’s made to grab attention each time you take the road. And then take you places as the crow flies.
The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is like a pair of hip-hop sneakers amongst the brogues and oxfords. With its competitive pricing, the India-made Wrangler takes on the likes of Land Rover Discovery Sport, Mercedes-Benz GLC, BMW X3, Jaguar F-Pace, and the Volvo XC60. But then, you can wear the sneakers to your university, barbeque or frat parties, outdoor picnics, countryside escapade, and even mundane commutes. And if you get some funky colours, it would surely grab eyeballs too.
Similarly, the Wrangler is made for grabbing attention, it’s made for going where the brogues and oxfords won’t trudge, and it has a cult following all around the world. Unlike the other luxury SUVs/crossovers mentioned above, the Wrangler is extremely capable off-road. Sure it isn’t as comfortable on the inside for the passengers and not the practical one of the lot either. And surely it can’t be the only vehicle in the garage. But the Wrangler Rubicon is an icon in its rights – one that comes off as a perfect toy for a grown-up boy!