Jeep has been aiming more upmarket with new launches like the road-biased Compass, but the models featured here are a different kettle of fish entirely.
While the Compass is aimed at user-choosers in the small SUV sector, the new Wrangler family is unashamedly utilitarian.
The family consists of the two-door Wrangler and four-door Wrangler Unlimited.
Both are on sale now and both, unusually, are convertibles. They come fitted with what Jeep calls the Freedom Top – a three-piece hard-top which allows several ways of removing the roof.
The doors are also removable and the windscreen can fold down to create a n unusual proposition. What this offers is unique in the world of motoring, a four-door four-wheel drive convertible.
The sector is dominated by the evergreen Land Rover Defender which itself has just gone through a thorough revamp.
Although its fleet proposition will be limited, Jeep sees some potential among fleets needing a rugged, capable off-roader that has little in the way of thrills.
To this end, prices range from £17,995 to £23,090, undercutting the Defender which costs between £19,480 and £27,730.
What will help is that the Wrangler is available with a diesel engine – a 2.8-litre unit offering 174bhp allied to either a six-speed manual or automatic gearbox. A 3.8-litre V6 petrol unit will also be offered, but Jeep expects virtually all Wranglers to be specified with the diesel option.
In its old two-door only guise, Jeep sold around 100 Wranglers last year, but with diesel power, an expanded range and keen pricing, it expects to do better. Although it won’t match the Defender in sales terms, it gives Jeep a more viable prospect in this utility sector.
Behind the wheel
Extreme off-road ability and comfortable road manners are not happy bedfellows as the extra ground clearance and weight of the off-road hardware do not contribute to a well-mannered car on the road.
However, in five-door guise the Wrangler Unlimited makes a decent stab at it. While it could never be described as comfortable or luxurious, it has enough torque to keep it moving at a decent rate.
At corners the Jeep stays fairly well planted – there’s still some roll but it does surprisingly well.
The interior continues the utility theme. The USP will be the removable roof which gives a number of options – full convertible, “targa” style for the front passengers and completely stripped of doors and windscreen for those “lifestyle” moments.
The Wrangler is a car without pretensions. It’s a rough, tough 4x4 and doesn’t try to be anything else.
The diesel engine with manual gearbox is the combination to go for, and the longer-wheelbase Unlimited version offers the better drive, as well as being a more practical option.
Model: 2.8 CRD
Max power (bhp/rpm): 174/3,800
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 302/2,000
Max speed (mph): 112
0-62mph (secs): 11.2
Fuel consumption (mpg): 28.5
CO2 emissions (g/km): 268
On sale: Now
Prices (OTR): £17,995-£23,090