Modernising an Icon

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Tracing its roots back to the original Willys MB ‘Jeeps’ and CJ-series open top cruisers, the Wrangler is the modern take on Jeep’s iconic heritage and design. The round headlights, tall, slatted grilled and open top 4x4 stance have defined the Wrangler’s lineage over the years, with each iteration becoming a more refined version of its predecessor, and here is their latest effort. The 2019 Jeep Wrangler JL.  

Continuing in Jeep tradition, the outgoing JK and incoming JL share many of the trademark Jeep features which have defined the Wrangler silhouette. On this new model, Jeep are offering three spec levels for Australia, the ‘Sport S’, the ‘Overland’ and range topping ‘Rubicon’.

Today's subject, sits perfectly in the middle of the pack in the ‘Overland’ guise. With colour coded wheel arches and roof, the Overland is easily the most elegant of the new Wrangler range. It has been fitted with a new set of 18” wheels wrapped in a 255mm width tyre, giving it an aggressive stance. In true American fashion it has the world's largest bottom jaw being fitted with oversized bumpers, but otherwises draws on the successful formula of its predecessors.

While it appears Jeep’s Exterior designers have been on an extended holidays since the 1960’s, the interior designers have worked double-time to modernize the JL Wrangler and bring it firmly into 2019. Opening the driver’s door, you can instantly tell that their hard work has paid off. Jeep have continued with their familiar utilitarian design language, with round air vents and centre dashboard symmetry, while modernising every tactile surface. The interior is covered in great quality material, neatly stitched black leather and vinyl, plastics and metal trimmings. It feels built to last, and as durable as the Wrangler name should suggest.

The Overland package is also a welcome upgrade to the interior with leather seats, steering wheel and upgraded stereo. Sitting in the driver's seat at first feels a bit like you’re in a church confession booth, at first the driving position feels a bit upright and firm with a hint of boxy chlorstephobia but once the roof is off and you’re enjoying the wind in your hair and spray from the coast, it is easy to full into the Wrangler’s driving experience. The JL isn’t a far stretch from the TJ’s or JK’s driving position but is simply much more refined, Jeep really have spent the extra years removing the harsh materials and build quality to make sure the Wrangler is much nicer place to be.

And not only is the car an overall refinement, Jeep like to remind you of its heritage by littering the car in easter eggs for enthusiasts to find. From my last few experiences with Jeep it has become almost like trying to find Stan Lee in a Marvel movie, there is always some hidden gem tucked away. There are a few pictures here in the gallery, but I won't ruin them all for you, get down to Rockingham Jeep and see for yourself. Kudos to Jeep to reliving their history!

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Under the bonnet the Wrangler offers two engine options, the 3.6L Petrol Pentastar V6 (as standard in the Sport S & Overland) and if you opt for the Rubicon, you can choose the 2.2L Turbo Diesel. Gone are the days of lazy American five speed autos and in its place the JL comes with a smooth 8 speed automatic. While not all Jeep purists will be happy that the US marque has ditched the manual option, it must be said that the 8sp auto is an absolute ripper. It is responsive, smooth and always ensures you’re in the ideal rev-range to get the best out of the car. While we didn’t get to test offroad, we are sure the gearbox will hold its own very easily.

Both the Sport-S and Overland are fitted with the Selec-trac 4x4 system, however the Rubicon gets the much more advanced Rock-trac 4x4 system, however as this was a ROAD test only, we will have to revisit the JL’s off road prowess at a later time.

I love pretty much everything about the JL, Jeep have managed to refine a formula that has become one of the most popular off roaders in the market. Where the TJ was leaps and bounds form the CJ , the JL is miles ahead of its JK predecessor. All but in one area... it's safety rating.

Now before people start thinking that 3 x goats and a pallet is a safer way to commute than the JL’s one star safety rating, there are reasons behind the less than ideal score. Firstly, the lack of Autonomous braking, lane support and speed assistance is fast becoming the norm in modern cars. It is setting the benchmark for what is offered and for some reason Jeep have decided to do away with all of these.

Another reason that wouldn't help their score is the fact that the roof, doors and windscreen are all removable. And when you start taking panels away, it softens the rigidity and safety of the vehicle. As with all good things of novelty, it is a compromise for the Wrangler and I hope that it doesn’t dissuade potential buyers from looking seriously at the Wrangler.

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I really enjoyed my time with the new JL, it is definitely a breath of fresh air from the masses of cookie-cutter SUV’s that you see on the road. The JL has presence and real-world utility, with the upgrades the new model has received bringing it firmly into the year 2019 as a true replacement to the outgoing JK. Jeep have excelled themselves in making a very comfortable, very smooth and capable 4x4.

Once again, thank you to Rockingham Jeep for the car for the day!