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The square-rigger soldiers on

The Wrangler was launched in Australia in 1996 in a basic package, but the range has since expanded to embrace 13 models, with a host of optional variants.

Jeep WranglerThe Jeep Wrangler owes its origins to warfare, but today is bought almost entirely by non-military users. Military Jeeps took a different design path in the 1960s, beginning with the M151 that featured monocoque construction and all-independent suspension.

Jeep has exhibited prototype independently-suspended, recreational Wranglers, but has not introduced production versions.

The Jeep brand, like Land Rover, has had several corporate owners since WW II and has followed a broadly similar path to that followed by Land Rover.

Today’s Wrangler is noticeably a development of the WW II Jeep quarter-tonner, while the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee models follow the SUV wagon path pioneered by the Jeep Wagoneer in 1963.

At first glance the latest Jeep Wrangler looks the same as its post-2011 predecessors, but there are significant changes to the skin and under the skin.


2018 upgrades

The 2018 Jeep Wrangler two-door model is available in three different trim configurations: Sport, Sport S and Rubicon. Wrangler four-door models are available in four different trim configurations: Sport, Sport S, Sahara and Rubicon.

For the first time in Wrangler’s history there’s Selec-Trac full-time four-wheel drive available and there’s also a 2.72:1 low-range gear ratio on the Sahara model.

On Wrangler Rubicon, a Rock-Trac 4x4 system features heavy duty next-generation Dana 44 front and rear axles with a low-range ratio of 4:1. A 4.10 front and rear axle ratio is standard as are Tru-Lok locking differentials.

Wrangler Rubicon models have improved articulation and suspension travel, compared with the previous generation, thanks to an electronic sway-bar disconnect.

With the standard six-speed manual transmission, Wrangler Rubicon has an improved crawl ratio of 84.2:1, and 77.2:1 on Rubicon models equipped with the new eight-speed automatic transmission.

Every Wrangler model receives a Trail Rated badge and features skid plates;front and rear tow hooks; front and rear steel winch-ready bumpers; available 17-inch off-road wheels and nearly one metre of water fording ability 

The windshield’s rake has been increased for slightly improved aerodynamics and features a new four bolt design at the top of the windshield’s frame to allow the windshield to fold down quickly and easily.

New high-strength aluminium doors are fitted and body-colored sport bars are welded to the body.

A new Sunrider soft top has two additional bows to manage the fabric.

Wrangler Sahara and Rubicon models have a body-colour hardtop option (black on Sport and Sport S) and a black three-piece hardtop is available on all models.

A push-button starter, featuring a weather-proof surround, makes its debut on the 2018 Wrangler.

Cloth or leather-contoured seats feature accent stitching and now feature adjustable bolster and lumbar support. Available comfort features include heated front seats and steering wheel.

A 7.0- or an available 8.4-inch touchscreen – the most advanced and largest display Uconnect system display ever offered on Wrangler – houses the fourth-generation Uconnect system and now sits prominently atop the centre stack. Two USB ports up front and two in reach of occupants in the back seat connect to the media centre. Proven body-on-frame design is the foundation for legendary Jeep capability

For 2018, Wrangler continues to utilise the proved five-link coil suspension configuration. A best-in-class approach angle of 44 degrees, breakover angle of 27.8 degrees, departure angle of 37 degrees and a ground clearance of 10.9 inches allows Wrangler to go anywhere.

An all-new 2.0-litre turbocharged in line four-cylinder engine joins the Wrangler lineup, while the 3.6-litre Pentastar V-6 petrol engine is upgraded for 2018.

The 2.0-litre engine with eTorque technology is rated at 200kW and 400Nm. The eTorque system’s mild hybrid functions include auto stop/start, electric power assist, extended fuel shut-off, transmission shift management, intelligent battery charging and regenerative braking.

The 3.6-litre Pentastar V-6 engine delivers 212kW and 350Nm, and now features Engine Stop-Start (ESS) as standard equipment.

A 3.0-litre V6 EcoDiesel engine will be available in 2019, with 194kW and . Wrangler 4-door models will offer the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 engine, rated at 260 horsepower and 600Nm, with Engine Stop-Start (ESS) standard.

The 2018 Jeep Wrangler has an eight-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual.

Safety and security were paramount in the development of the all-new 2018 Jeep Wrangler. Available features include: Blind-spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Path detection, ParkView rear backup camera with dynamic grid lines, electronic stability control (ESC) with electronic roll mitigation and four standard air bags.


PHEV coming

Jeep plans to release a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) Wrangler in 2020. This is not the currently available 48-volt mild-hybrid system that's attached to the two-litre petrol engine, but a new development. The electronic power module will be produced in-house, at the company's Toledo, Ohio, plant.

The introduction of a plug-in hybrid has pundits guessing about the likely powertrain layout, but Jeep's own press release gives us a few clues. For instance, the electronic power module will be: 'located in a protective structure under the vehicle, between the exhaust and the propshaft'. That suggests that the rear axle will be mechanically driven, even if the front one is mechanically/electrically powered or purely electrically powered.


Post-2011 models

The traditional appearance of the post-2011 Wrangler belied the fact that it incorporated modern technology: state of the art turbo-intercooled, electronically injected diesel; ABS brakes and electronic traction control; modern sound systems; and air conditioning.

The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited four-door was a more spacious version of the two-door, but its basic ‘fun’ purpose was unchanged. The Wrangler Unlimited had a light, half-tonne payload and was aimed principally at the urban dweller, who wanted daily transport that could be transformed into a weekend and holiday ‘escape’ machine.

Some versions of the Wrangler continued to be offered with the Euro V compliant 2.8-litre CRD turbo-diesel.  

A Stop/Start function was standard with the CRD manual.

The 2013 Jeep Wrangler range included short-wheelbase Wrangler Sport, Rubicon and Overland variants, as well as the long-wheelbase Wrangler Unlimited which was also available in Sport, Rubicon and Overland form. 

Overland and Rubicon versions were availale only with petrol power.

The 2012 Wrangler adopted the Pentastar 3.6-litre V6 that had been available in the Jeep Grand Cherokee, with maximum power of 209kW – up 63kW over the previous engine – and 347Nm of peak torque – up from 315Nm.

The Pentastar V6 Wrangler came with a manual six-speed or five-speed automatic transmission with adaptive electronic control and Electronic Range Select (ERS) driver-interactive manual control. Jeep claimed the six-speed manual’s combined fuel figure was 11.2L/100km and the automatic’s was 11.3L/100km. CO2 emissions were 259 g/km and 263 g/km respectively.

The short front leading arms of all beam-axle Jeeps means the vehicles suffer from unwanted steering inputs of axle-bump reactions more than designs that have long leading arms, such as those fitted to GU Patrols and Defenders. Jeep rear trailing arms are also short, so lumpy roads cause front and rear axles to ‘steer’ somewhat, creating a slightly wavering course.

Handling was very good on road, with all three capable of cornering speeds in excess of most people’s requirements. Electronic stability control compensated for the Wrangler’s part-time 4WD system that provided only rear wheel drive on high-friction surfaces.

The post-2011 Wrangler had better ergonomics than its predecessors, apart from one crucial problem: the discrepancy in height between the accelerator and brake pedals and the lack of space for a clutch foot rest – all worse in RHD than LHD models.

Reaction time between loud pedal and brake was badly affected by this layout that has persisted in Wranglers for many years. Why?

Pedal positioning causes vertically-disadvantaged people a further problem, because in order for them to depress the Jeep Wrangleraccelerator they have to have the seat forward to the point where their knees hit the dashboard.

My better half is 1.57m tall and cannot drive a Wrangler in comfort.

The Jeep’s interior space is compromised by a traditional long-bonnet design, with extended front bumper apron.

These design cues take up more than a third of its overall length, detracting from cargo space. Fortunately, in the Unlimited, rear seat room isn’t compromised.

The Jeep’s updated VM diesel was frugal, averaging 9.5L/100km in on and off road driving and hovering around 9L/100km on freeways. Towing didn’t knock it around much, either, with a 13L/100km average, pulling a 1500kg trailer.

Off-road vocations for the Wrangler are most likely to be weekend frolicking, relatively close to home.

The Wrangler isn’t really designed for long treks in remote areas, for carrying much freight or for towing caravans or large camper trailers. As such, it’s well specified and has enough off-road ability to satisfy the vast bulk of buyers.

The Jeep Wrangler continues to exhibit traditional 4WD characteristics that have undoubted market appeal and the Unlimited four-door model has managed to retain that DNA, while making more room for passengers and some freight.

However, the RHD conversion work hasn’t been well done since 1996, leaving Anglophiles at an ongoing disadvantage.

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon


Jeep Wrangler Rubicon


The Rubicon Model was launched in late 2002 at the Paris Motor Show, but wasn’t released in Australia until five years later. It was named after one of the USA’s most famous and toughest off-road trails. The Wrangler Rubicon was engineered to take on the most demanding trails, including those previously reserved for highly modified vehicles.

In response to the demands of hard-core off-road enthusiasts, the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon model featured Dana 44 axles with Tru-Lok locking front and rear differentials, and a 4:1 low-range transfer case. When unlocked, the rear axle’s torque-sensing, limited-slip action provided better traction and handling on-road.

Jeep Wrangler RubiconWe drove one of the release models on the actual Rubicon Trail and came away highly impressed with the capabilities of this purpose-built vehicle. Unfortunately, it has been available only with petrol power, severely limiting its appeal to Australian enthusiasts.

The 2012 Rubicon model got upgrades that include a body-coloured three-piece hardtop, body-coloured fender flares, leather-trimmed seats, heated front seats with height adjustment and map pockets behind the front seat backrests. Sadly, there was still no diesel Rubicon model.

To mark the 10th anniversary of the Rubicon model in 2014, Jeep  released a limited-production Wrangler Rubicon 10th Anniversary Edition, in two-door and four-door versions.

Only 30 examples of the limited-run Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 10th Anniversary Edition were secured for the Australian market, with 12 two-door versions and 18 four-door versions available.

The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 10th Anniversary Edition had a slightly hiigher ride height than standard Rubicon model and sat on  Goodyear Wrangler tyres on 17-inch Rubicon aluminum wheels, finished in satin black with polished faces and a red Jeep Wrangler  logo. 

rubicon 10th anniversaryA three-piece, body-colour Freedom hard top and a soft top were standard. Exterior paint colours were white and an exclusive 10th Anniversary Edition colour called Anvil.

The interior boasted red leather seats with ‘Rubicon 10th Anniversary’ embroidered into the front seat backrests. A unique gauge cluster features a ‘10th Anniversary’ signature as well as a premium Electronic Vehicle Information Center (EVIC).

Previous Models

Jeep WranglerThe Jeep Wrangler was launched in Australia in October 1996, in three trim levels. All Wranglers could be converted into hard or soft-top and all featured coil-spring suspension, a modernised interior and twin airbags.

The Wrangler was powered by the same proved four-litre six-cylinder petrol engine that propelled other Jeep models and had part-time-4WD, with low-range 2.72:1 gearing and an optional Trac-Loc locking rear differential. The engine put out 130kW and 290Nm of torque.


Jeep Wrangler In 2003 a new 42RLE four-speed automatic transmission made its debut in the Wrangler. An all-new interior incorporated front seats with an additional 20mm of rearward travel and easier access to the rear.

The top-shelf 2003 model also had an electro-chromatic rear view mirror, map lights, temperature and compass display.

Safety features standard on all 2003 Jeep Wranglers included SRS airbags, a driver’s side constant-force seat belt retractor and height-adjustable lap/sash belts.

Jeep WranglerThe 2005 Jeep Wrangler featured a six-speed manual transmission, with a lower-speed first gear for brisker acceleration and a taller top gear for quieter and more economical cruising at speed.

The four-speed auto option carried over. There was also a limited edition Renegade model, with cruise control, dual top roof, auto-dimming rear view mirror with map lights, overhead compass and temperature gauge, leather wrapped steering wheel and side steps.

 Pricing was: Wrangler Sport six-speed manual $29,990; four-speed auto $31,990; and Renegade six-speed manual $31,990.

Jeep launched four new Wrangler models in 2007, bringing the total to seven. The all-new Jeep Wrangler and Jeep Wrangler Unlimited arrived in March. The Wrangler Unlimited featured a four-door, open-air design that offered space for five adult passengers and the most cargo space ever offered in a Wrangler.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited had a 2947mm wheelbase, achieved by adding 523mm to the standard all-new Wrangler’s 2424mm wheelbase. There was also a 2.8-litre common-rail turbo diesel option, in addition to a 3.8-litre V6 petrol engine.

Offered in three models – Sport, Renegade and Rubicon – the 2007 Jeep Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited were available with different top, door and windshield combinations in a choice of nine exterior colours and on 16- or 17-inch wheels.

Standard equipment on the Sport included Electronic Stability Program (ESP), Electronic Roll Mitigation (ERM), four-wheel-disc brakes with Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), four-wheel brake traction control (4BTC), Sentry Key Theft Deterrent System, driver and front passenger multi-stage front airbags, cruise control, fog lamps, power locks with keyless entry, power front windows, soft top, 16-inch wheels, skid plates for transfer case and fuel tank, easy access tip-and-slide seats, driver-seat height adjuster, rear folding seat, air conditioning, mini floor console, locking glove box, compass and temperature gauge, 12-volt auxiliary power outlet, tilt steering wheel and AM/FM CD radio with MP3/Auxiliary input and six speakers.

Options were four-speed automatic transmission, half doors and front-seat-mounted side air bags. In addition to standard features on the Sport, Renegade included a dual top with soft-top and three-piece modular hard top, deep tint glass, six-disc CD/DVD player, premium speakers with subwoofer and tubular side steps.

Jeep WranglerIn addition to standard features on the Jeep Wrangler Sport the Rubicon model included electric-disconnecting front sway bar, 4:1 part-time transfer case, heavy-duty front and rear axles, locking front and rear differentials, 4.10 axle ratio, rock rails, 17-inch machined, cast-aluminium wheels with 225/75 Goodyear All Terrain tyres, tough seat fabric and premium speakers and subwoofer.

Pricing ranged from Jeep Wrangler Sport 3.8L V6 Petrol six-speed manual at $30,990 (RRP) up to Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 3.8L V6 Petrol 4-spd automatic - $45,990 (RRP)

For 2010 the Wrangler range picked up a standard tyre pressure warning system and 17-inch wheels. The 2.8L CRD with automatic transmission went up to 460Nm of torque, while the 2.8L CRD with manual transmission remained unchanged at 410Nm. A 3.73:1 axle ratio replaced 4.10:1 on Sport models equipped with automatic transmission. Unlimited models scored an 85-litre fuel tank and a Dual Top became standard on Rubicon and Rubicon Unlimited. 

A $1500 Off-road Group was available as an option on both petrol and diesel models and combined an electronically controlled rear axle differential lock, 3.73:1 axle ratio and electronic front sway-bar disconnection.  

For 2011 the Wrangler lineup had improved sound insulation, a redesigned instrument panel, lockable centre console and heated, power mirrors. A leather-wrapped steering wheel mounted CD/DVD/MP3 audio and cruise control switches. A USB interface was included, along with Bluetooth audio. Larger rear windows were incorporated into the ‘Freedom Top’, three-piece hardtop option.

The 3.8-litre V6 petrol engine continued, but our test vehicle was powered by an  upgraded 2.8-litre CRD turbo-diesel, with 147kW at 3600rpm – up 17kW – and 460Nm of peak torque in the 1600-2600rpm band, when fitted with the Grand Cherokee’s  five-speed automatic transmission. (Manual six-speed diesels are limited to 410Nm in the 2200-2600rpm band.)

Claimed economy was 7.1L/100km when mated to the six-speed manual transmission. A Stop-Start function shut down the engine when the vehicle was in neutral with the clutch released, then restarted when the clutch was depressed.

Standard equipment included: multi-stage driver and front-passenger SRS air bags; ABS with off-road calibration; electronic stability control (ESC) with brake assist; traction control, electronic roll mitigation; brake locking differentials (BLD); 17-inch aluminium wheels; tyre pressure monitoring (TPM) warning lamp; manual headlamp levelling system; part-time four-wheel drive; mono-tube shock absorbers; and transfer case and fuel tank skid plates.

The Wrangler Unlimited RRP list started at $36,000, but our diesel auto test vehicle with Renegade Pack (three-piece hardtop, soft top, tinted glass, side steps and six-speaker media centre with sub-woofer) had a RRP of $45,500.


Bush Modifications

Jeep WranglerJeeps can be kitted with a host of Mopar and after-market equipment, but high lifts need to be avoided, or on-road stability will suffer.

Buyers looking for optimum bush-ability could look for a Rubicon model and put up with the petrol thirst.






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