The Wrangler Unlimited’s running gear is an amalgamation of various bits. The 2.8 litre motor is sourced from VM Motari (owned by Fiat Chrysler) which features Common rail direct injection and electric Piezo injectors. The automatic transmission on the other hand is an old 5-speed Mercedes sourced torque converter unit, previously known as the 5G-tronic. The 2776cc engine produces a healthy 197bhp and 500Nm of torque at 2000rpm.
As soon as you get going you realise that there is some turbo lag but the motor soon gets in its stride past 2000rpm. The short first three ratios though help overcome this and the Wrangler accelerates in a linear manner. Thanks to this, the Wrangler feels comfortable when driven at low speeds and the punchy motor helps it shoot into gaps without any hesitation. In terms of flat-out performance, the Wrangler takes an impressive 10.11 seconds to reach the 100kph mark and thanks to the torquey nature of the engine, in-gear times are impressive too. The five-speed automatic gearbox though feels old and is quite slow to react. This makes overtaking quick moving traffic a tricky affair. Another weird bit of the Wrangler is the throttle travel which is unusually long and tiresome to use.
In a straight-line the Wrangler displays good stability and it feels quite secure. As expected, ride from the stiff suspension is quite bouncy and undulating roads have to be tackled with some caution. The ride gets quite choppy especially for the rear passengers and it is not the most comfortable SUV to be in. In terms of handling despite its massive height and the old school ladder frame chassis, body control is impressive and it feels predictable. But the limitations of the Wrangler's dynamic envelope soon become apparent as you encounter mid corner bumps, where the non-independent suspension struggles as this heavy SUV skips and slides unnervingly. Thankfully it does come with ESP which really helps in these situations.
Wrangler’s usability takes a further hit when you drive it on congested city roads. The massive wheel arches makes it difficult to judge where its extremities lie. Also the wide turning circle and lack of parking sensors makes it quite a handful.
Enough of the boring stuff. Lets talk about what this car was made for in the first place - off-roading. For what it lacks in refinement and on-road enjoyment, there's absolutely nothing that can touch the Jeep Wrangler off-road. The incredibly tough ladder frame chassis, 238mm of ground clearance, amazing axle articulation and four-wheel drive with low range gearing means, it can cope with almost anything you can throw at it. We first played it cautious (as we didn’t have any back-up in case we got stuck) and took the Wrangler on some easy 4WD trails. But on realising we weren’t even close to maybe 10 per cent of the Wrangler’s potential we bulldozed our way onto a wet river bed which was deeply rutted, had deep slush and some uneven landscape. The Wrangler, in low range simply crawled up and down every obstacle we threw at it and its astonishing off-road capabilities alone will justify its high asking price.