Described as the “most capable 4×4 production SUV on the planet,” the 2019 Jeep Wrangler “JL” would technically have a lot to prove; that is, if the iconic brand didn’t possess over 75 years’ worth of tried and tested off-road performance. Still, we weren’t just going to take their word for it.
Travelling north along Tasmania’s west coast, the remote, picturesque landscape of Trial Harbour and Climes Track proved the perfect stretch of terrain to take in stunning coastal views while testing the new Wrangler Rubicon over dirt, rocks, mud and countless water crossings. A heavy dose of rain the previous day elevated the challenge and consequently, the feelings of accomplishment. The lack of phone reception meant if anything went wrong, we’d be digging our way out.
Jeep tested its latest SUV over 6.3 million kilometres across the USA, Italy, Brazil, China and Australia throughout Alice Springs. The Wrangler is said to offer the best-in-class approach angle of 41.7 degrees, 60mm of water fording and up to 2,495kg towing capacity.
Despite these impressive stats, there were some touch-and-go moments along the 20km stretch of track; mud tyres briefly losing grip on steep, wet rock was the common occurrence. Making use of traction control, front and rear diff lock and deactivating the sway bar was enough to make this beast near unstoppable.
The drive was no leisurely cruise through nature. Climes Track can be brutal. Especially during many of the ascents and descents. The Jeep’s suspension and bash plates performed their roles adequately, although each vehicle in our convoy required extensive buffering and touch-ups before going to dealerships. To be fair, there was one occurrence of a Jeep being bogged-down in mud, and another Wrangler was required to tow it out.
On the asphalt, to and from Trial Harbour, the Jeep Wrangler provided a smooth and comfortable ride. Handling felt a little loose and unresponsive, which likely had something to do with the mud tyres.
Ultimately, the new Wrangler exceeded off-road expectations. Even the car journos seemed pleased. Though it’s not surprising. The SUV is named Rubicon after one of the world’s most challenging trails. What did surprise us was the refined and spacious interior.
Wrangler’s Rubicon cabin is now equipped with all the tech and luxury features of a high-end SUV. Heated leather seats and steering wheel are perfect for that dreary Tassie weather. An Alpine subwoofer was found in the rear and is available as an optional extra. An 8.4-inch infotainment system is centred in the dash with Sat Nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. When off-road, drivers can flip between screens displaying pitch and roll and drivetrain specs. The push-button starter also debuts in 2019.
Collision detection is deactivated via a button on the dash making off-road a quieter alarm-free experience. The AUX switch bank is designed for floodlights, and other accessories. LED headlamps and tail lamps also feature as standard on the Overland and Rubicon.
There’s plenty of legroom for the back seats. The removable hardtop splits down into three sections so a driver and front passenger can enjoy the benefits of open-air driving without having to remove the entire roof. Each section is small enough to be stowed in the rear. The boot offers plenty of space for eskies, groceries or whatever else needs hauling.
The JL Wrangler closely resembles the previous 2007 JK model, although 95% of parts are used for the first time. Like all Jeeps, the JL retains the silhouette of the original 1941 Willys military unit.
Under the hood, the JL features a class-leading 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 Petrol Engine paired with a new TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission and Stop-Start (ESS) technology. There’s no manual transmission this time around.
Alternatively, the Wrangler is available with a 2.2L MultiJet II Turbo Diesel engine, providing 147kW of power and 450Nm of torque. Testing both powertrains in Tassie, our preference was the diesel, although it does carry a higher price tag.
Significant improvements have been made to the on-road driving dynamics with subtle changes including a slightly tilted windscreen, tilted keystone-shaped grille, vented hood and a tapering C-pillar. These modifications have considerably reduced wind noise and improved fuel efficiency by over 13%, without straying from the classic boxy body. But let’s face it. No one buys a Jeep for fuel efficiency.
Over 100 optional accessories can be added, plus dozens of different door, top and windshield combinations for that personalised touch. There are no options for half doors, at least in Australia. Blame our government, not Jeep.
Fans of hidden easter eggs will be pleased to know the Wrangler has plenty. A small decal of the Willys is found in the corner of the windscreen with another red one displayed on one of the rims. There’s also a pair of thongs (or flip-flops), and Jeep says there’s even more to discover.
Now let’s talk price. The Jeep Wrangler starts at $48, 950 for the two-door Sports S model and works up to the four-door Rubicon diesel priced at $68, 950. Overland pricing starts at $58,450. Purchases include lifetime roadside assistance if the vehicle is always serviced with Jeep. The 5 years/100,000km warranty is not as impressive as some new cars, but most are not designed to go off-road.
What’s interesting is that in 2019, Jeep has no direct competition in the high-performance off-road category. The 2019 Land Cruiser is more of a family SUV that’s too pretty to scratch, and the FJ Cruiser is discontinued. Even though Ford’s Ranger and Holden’s Colorado are more than capable off-road, neither is likely to reach the performance of the Wrangler across the toughest terrain. There is no other 4×4 quite like it in 2019.
The 2019 JL Wrangler began arriving in Australia back in April, but stock is still quite limited. It’s part of Jeep’s business model to keep demand high. Still, that’s a wait list worthy of your details and possibly a deposit. Whether you’re a keen outdoors enthusiast looking to put that testosterone to good use, or just looking for a menacing grocery hauler for the burbs, you could do a helluva lot worse. Now bring on the 2020 Gladiator!
Man of Many travelled to Tasmania as a guest of Jeep.