The four-door Unlimited petrol V6 manual is priced from $36,000, or $42,000 for the diesel. Photo Gallery
Stuart Martin road tests and reviews the new V6 Jeep Wrangler.
Heritage and cred abounds when the seven-slot grille of the Jeep Wrangler looms into view. The US brand that is steeped in history from its humble military beginnings is looking to improve its reputation under the new regime and as they said - the only way is up in terms of how its seen by Australians, with a wave of new product coming to Australia, starting with the new petrol V6.
Chrysler Australia managing director Clyde Campbell says the brand sold 12,000 cars last year - the brand's highest year ever - and there's new Chrysler product on the horizon.
"We think the sales were a really good result in a market that didn't move much - one of our brands we had no product, but the other two brands were well up. "We've set the foundation to repeat the same sort of results this year and we're excited about that," he says.
The mildly-updated range kicks off with unchanged prices - starting $32,000 for the two-sport six-speed manual V6, rising $2000 for the five-speed auto; go the diesel path and the impost is $6000, although adding the auto to the diesel only increases the price by $1000. Jumping up to the Rubicon - which adds the hard-core offroad bits - pushes the starting price to $42,000 for the V6 manual and there's no diesel option.
The four-door Unlimited petrol V6 manual is priced from $36,000, or $42,000 for the diesel. Among the standard fare are hill start and descent control systems, air conditioning, a six-speaker sound system, 17in wheels and a tyre pressure warning system, but there's no standard Bluetooth (it's part of the Connectivity group at $490) and no standard side airbags (they cost $450) so you know why the pricetag looks lean.
Premium paint ups the pricetag by $450 or the options list also includes the Renegade Pack for $3000 (which adds a black three-piece hard top, a black folding soft top, tinted-sunscreen glass, tubular side steps and the upgraded six-speaker sound system)
The petrol-only Rubicon Unlimited manual is priced from $46,000, which adds things like the upgraded sound system, automatic headlights, side rock rails,
The new 3.6-litre alloy 209kW/347Nm V6 has 24 variably-timed valves and double overhead cams to gazump the old engine by 63kW and 32Nm with comparable fuel consumption around 11l/100km. There are two part-time four-wheel drive systems on offer, both run rear-wheel drive and then with a centre diff locked in four-high, but the Rock-Trac system has a lower low-range.
Also on offer for a bit of extra off-road ability is what Jeep calls Brake Lock Differentials, which brakes individual wheels to reduce wheelspin and send drive to the wheels with grip. The Rubicon model gets the Rock-Trac transfer case as well as locking front and rear diffs, heavier-duty live axles and a rear disconnecting sway bar to help improve rear-wheel suspension travel.
Park a 2012 Wrangler next to any number of Jeeps stretching back to World War II and you'll see what sort of design progression has occurred - it's the ain't-broke-don't-fix school of styling that Porsche seems to apply to the 911 (another icon). Macho, broad-shouldered and solid, you can pick them a mile (quite literally) away.
The Wrangler has dual front airbags as standard - side airbags are optional - and the off-roader has stability and traction control, as well as the four-wheel drive system. There's not much in the way of crash test ratings for this car - but other Jeep vehicles have fallen well short of five stars in European NCAP tests.
The bumper sticker says it all - "it's a Jeep thing, you wouldn't understand." It's true in all manner of ways for the Wrangler, which has steadfastly refused to dilute its considerable off-road prowess to satisfy the soft-roader trend and retains icon status as a result.
The first few kilometres in the new 3.6-litre petrol V6 (with the six-speed manual) show the powerplant is a big step forward from the old petrol engine, with more power delivered in a smoother and quieter manner.
The manual gearshift requires something not far short of brute force and accurate throws as it's not forgiving of half-hearted gearchanges. We've started in the two-door short wheelbase model and it's a bit choppy on the tarmac and lolls around in corners, proving a bit twitchy if the pace is more than leisurely.
Unsealed surfaces need the part-time 4WD system engaged if you don't want to bother the stability control, but once driving through all four wheels the Wrangler hangs on.
The helm is not the most accurate or feelsome set-up, even among those vehicles with similar off-road prowess - recirculating ball steering and live axles were to blame, say Jeep crew, for the lacklustre manners when turning on-road, with far fewer issues arising off it.
Jeep talk about it being new but aside from the engine it's a mild change of model at best, as the diesel is unchanged. Switching to the longer-wheelbase auto petrol V6 four-door and the choppy ride is less evident, a bonus given we're about to engage in some off-road activities.
The transfer case lever is still on the wrong side for Australia (something that perhaps may be remedied with a more global approach from Chrysler) but once in low-range and in the rough stuffm the Wrangler feels far more at home. The ride is still little lumpy but it's clambering over sand and rocks (all at road tyre pressures apparently) with little fuss.
Inside the cabin, load space in either car isn't great (the SWB is tiny) and the ergonomics of the dashboard and controls leaves much to be desired. More than a few times my left knee put the automatic into manual change mode, the steering is tilt-adjustable only, the transmission housing intrudes on the driver's left foot and some of the in-cabin storage is awkward.
My first car was a 1974 ancestor of the Wrangler (I still have it) and the imagery of the modern car leans hard on that history. Off the beaten track there is considerable ability but a nagging doubt about reliability - Chrysler says the warranty claims have reduced massively in recent times as well, time will tell if the sins of past models are no longer being committed.
There are now other Jeeps in the range to join the school-run brigade, but if you still really want to get off the beaten track and can live with the on-road foibles, you'll understand this car.
Jeep Wrangler petrol V6
Price: from $32,000
Resale: 53% (est.) Source: Glass's Guide
Service interval: 12,000km/6 months
Safety: n/a Euro NCAP
Engine: 3.6-litre, V6 petrol, 209kW/347Nm
Body: 2 and 4-door wagon
Weight: from 1741kg (2-dr); 2073kg (4-dr)
Transmission: 6-speed manual or five-speed auto, four-wheel drive
Thirst: 11.4-12L/100km, 95RON, CO2 248g/km
"Uncompromising image-powerful off-roader that needs some work on its cabin."
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