There’s no missing the latest incarnation of Jeep’s iconic 4x4 as it conquers the countryside. Charlie Flindt finds he’s having a lot of fun
Though the new Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 2.0T may be rather overqualified and anger the Aga louts, Charlie Flindt finds himself having a lot of fun.
For more on Jeep, despite its ‘kooky’ apperance, Charlie Flindt insists you will want the Jeep Renegade Trailhawk when you hit a bumpy patch off-road.
JEEP WRANGLER RUBICON 2.0T
Here’s a little challenge: assemble, in your head, the ultimate ‘fish out of water’ vehicle. One that, in theory, would look about as at home in a sunken Hampshire lane as I did at the Royal Opera House on my one and only visit.
It would need to be big – big enough to send walkers and cyclists scurrying up the chalky banks. It would need removable body parts – doors, roof sections, boot covers – and a fold-down screen; all dead handy for one afternoon in a year, assuming you’ve got somewhere to store all the bits.
It would, of course, have four-wheel drive but the sort of set-up that makes my John Deere have a crisis of confidence and hide in the back of the barn. Throw in a less-than-economical petrol engine and a selection of ’70s throwback colours (scouring calf yellow and vivid lime green), charge halfway to six figures, and there you have it: the sort of machine to inspire angry letters to the South Downs National Park Authority. The good news is that Jeep has already built such a machine: the Wrangler Rubicon. The even better news is that it’s rather a lot of fun.
It’s a special, top-end edition of the latest incarnation of Jeep’s iconic off-roader, still instantly familiar after all these generations. The Wrangler is capable enough as it is, but someone at Jeep decided to throw the heavy engineering books at it and see what sticks. So it has fantastically heavy-duty axles, diff locks and shock absorbers, huge knobbly tyres and an electronically disconnectable front sway bar. Yes, I had to look it up, too.
I don’t think I’ve ever driven round the farm in a vehicle so overqualified for the job. It was a tad embarrassing to take it along our toughest tracks and ruts. It sighed and looked nonchalantly at its fingernails, as if waiting for a better challenge. Doing a U-turn in a narrow ride was just as easy – the turning circle was astonishingly tight. And it slid through the stickiest clay without a thought. It’s a vehicle truly honed on rock-infested, 1:1 slopes by drivers wearing Stetsons. My flat cap didn’t seem quite right.
On road was slightly different – but not a problem. You just treat it with respect as a big, tall, square machine and try and give it notice of impending corners. There’s lots of noise at speed from the panels and doors (while they’re on), and the tyres bring a bit of a din to proceedings, but with that sort of tread pattern it’s inevitable. Petrol-powered driving both on and off road is never going to be cheap – low-ratio crawling is always thirsty and Jeep isn’t pushing the Wrangler for its aerodynamics. A Honda Civic it is not.
You can call the Wrangler Rubicon a lot of names: big, brash, over-engineered, expensive and even iconic. But one thing you can never call it is ‘dull’. Get one in scouring calf yellow and wallow in the disapproval of the curtain-twitching Aga louts. It’ll be worth every penny.
JEEP WRANGLER RUBICON 2.0T 4-DR
♦ Engine: 1,995 petrol
♦ Power: 272hp
♦ Max speed: 99mph
♦ Performance, 0 to 62: tbc
♦ Combined fuel economy: 28.2mpg
♦ Insurance group: 18
♦ Price: £48,365