2019 Jeep Wrangler
– Classic good looks
– Improved onroad civility
– Unflappable offroad
– Hard to tell old from new
– Not totally civil
– Expensive high-spec versions
The 2019 Jeep Wrangler — or Wrangler “JL,” as it’s known among enthusiasts — is considered to be a big step up from the old “JK” model. It’s been on sale since last year, even overlapping with the old JK-Series for a bit as both were called 2018 models, but we never drove it in our home ground. So Jeep invited us to the KT Desert Drive event in the UAE a couple of weeks ago, we saw it as a great opportunity to try it out on local terrain.
Looking at the exterior, it is instantly recognisable as a Wrangler. Outside they have added some elements from generations past, such as the headlight corners bulging into the radiator slits inspired from the Jeep CJ-Series, and the slight bend in the front grille which is taken from the YJ-Series. The windshield also has more of a slant to it for better aerodynamics. It is also slightly bigger, stronger and lighter overall.
The Jeep Wrangler still retains the ability to remove doors and the roof, as well as fold down the windshield. With the previous generation, the roof removal was quite a tedious process but with the new one, there are just a few hooks to unlatch. Unfortunately there is no easy way to store the roof panels in the boot of the 2-door with the rear seats in use, as they are loosely made to stand upright. If you want practicality, go for the 4-door Unlimited.
We had a stint with the 2-door Jeep Wrangler Sahara initially, followed by the 2-door Wrangler Rubicon. Unlike the base Sport trim, the Sahara gets LED headlights, soft-touch materials on the dash and doors as well as a bigger UConnect touchscreen, some insulation padding on parts of the hard-top ceiling, and leather upholstery, among a few other features. That raises the price a fair bit above the base model though. The pricier Rubicon additionally gets metal bumpers with removable corners on the front one, different wheels and lockable differentials, among a few other offroad-oriented upgrades.
In terms of space, it’s fine up front, while the 2-door’s rear just about fits adults, although getting in and out of there is a massive undertaking. The aforementioned boot is tiny unless you fold down the rear seats. Being an American vehicle, there is no shortage of cup-holders, aside from a couple of storage cubbies and door pockets.
The available tech is more than can be expected from a Wrangler, with the class-leading touchscreen, power windows, Bluetooth and USB ports, cruise control, front and side airbags, ESP and ABS, blind-spot monitoring, smart keyless entry and start, and even a rear camera nestled in the spare wheel. A few old-school oddities remain though, such as the unretractable flexi-antenna on the right front fender and the power-window switches on the centre console.
Powered by a 285 hp 3.6-litre “Pentastar” V6 with 352 Nm of torque, the big revelation is the 8-speed automatic. Adding 3 more gears has made the Wrangler noticeably quicker, so it doesn’t feel sluggish like it used to. We’d estimate a 0-100 kph time of 7.5 seconds for the 2-door. Fuel economy was at 14.5 litres/100 km (6.9 km/l), including our offroading run. Expect the 4-door Unlimited’s figures to be a bit higher. There is a 2.0-litre turbo motor as well that is not offered in the GCC, while a plug-in hybrid version has also been announced for the global market.
Handling is acceptable onroad, with decent grip, moderate body roll and good brakes with linear pedal feel. However, the steering is too light and lacks feedback, leading us to make constant corrections on the open highway.
The Sahara is clearly the best option for a daily-driven Wrangler, as the ride seems to be smoother than before, while it is quieter inside as well. Still, it’s not as smooth or quiet as, say, a Cherokee, so it’s not the best option if you’re looking for ultimate comfort. The Rubicon is far worse for long drives, with constant road noise and somewhat jittery ride thanks to the serious offroad tyres.
It’s off-road that the new Wrangler shines. After deflating the tyres and entering the desert near Umm Al Quwain for the KT Desert Drive event, the Wrangler Sahara barely ever struggled. Now with even better ground clearance and approach angles as well as the addition of three extra gears, the Sahara is capable of riding any dune (within reason). It just requires judicious use of the throttle, as leaving the gearbox in automatic is enough in most cases. Using a mechanical shifter, you can choose from 2-high, 4-auto, 4-high and 4-low, the last of which was only required once on a tall dune that ate alive everything from Pajeros to Land Cruisers, all of whom we had to rescue due to the lack of official marshals at the event. The Wrangler Rubicon is fitted with BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 tyres and three lockable diffs, so it can be pushed even harder. The 4-auto mode, in particular, was fun on flatter trails as it allows for tail-swinging wheelspin fun without the risk of digging into the sand too much.
The new Jeep Wrangler is simply an evolution of the old one, but it is truly all-new under the familiar styling and does everything so much better. With the demise of several body-on-frame offroad models from other brands, we are glad the Jeep Wrangler is still around and continuing to buck the trend.
Current Model Introduced in:
Test Acceleration 0-100 kph:
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