The Jeep Wrangler is a very capable 4WD with real bush credibility, there's no disputing that, but just how much does something like the line-up's mid-range variant, the 2019 Overland, rest on the laurels of the brand's 'Trail Rated' heritage?
It's not a very practical daily driver and it has less safety gear and driver-assist tech than a lot of other modern 4WDs do, yet it still costs $60,000. Is it actually worth that much? Do its 4WD capabilities make up for a lack of real-world versatility?
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?
The Jeep Wrangler Overland is available in two specs: the two-door four-seat Wrangler and the four-door Unlimited. We tested the two-door, which is priced at $58,450 (plus on-road costs) but our test vehicle had Ocean Blue Metallic paint, adding $745 to the price-tag, bringing it to $59,195.
If you're interested, the four-door Overland Unlimited costs $62,950.
Is there anything interesting about its design?
The Wrangler's looks have been further refined over previous generations but it retains its old-school chunkiness, which is good. The Overland is less of a hard-core-looking 4WD (that's the Rubicon's job) and more of a lifestyle-suited off-roader. We've thoroughly covered styling, so I'll avoid beating the same drum.
The Overland is less of a hard-core-looking 4WD and more of a lifestyle-suited off-roader.
The appearance is impressive, whether you're a Jeep fan or not.
Suffice to say, its appearance, inside and out, is impressive, whether you're a Jeep fan or not.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?
It has a 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 engine – producing 209kW at 6350rpm and 347Nm at 4300rpm – and an eight-speed automatic transmission. It's an effective pairing for road driving and, more importantly on this occasion, low-speed 4WDing.
The 3.6-litre V6 makes 209kW/347Nm.
How practical is the space inside?
The Overland’s four-seater cabin is a basic space but functional and easy to feel at home in, right away. There's leather in the right places – seats, steering wheel, arm rests – but there's also ample durable outdoors-friendly surfaces everywhere.
Inside the Wrangler, there's leather in all the right places.
As usual in a Jeep, there's plenty of evidence that the designers actually know what's required to make life easier when touring the outdoors in a vehicle. There are a few deep and grippy small-storage spaces – ideal for keeping your bits and piece in the same spot while you bounce around (which we did a lot of) – as well as grab handles, including a big sturdy one in front of the front-seat passenger. There are also tensioned net pockets on the doors so you can throw some stuff in there, but beyond those there aren't a lot of storage options.
The Overland’s four-seater cabin is a basic space but functional and easy to feel at home in.
There's a 230V inverter in the centre console.
Dials, knobs and switches are all easy to locate and operate while jittering over corrugations or bouncing around on steep rocky hills.
Jeep Australia hasn't specify cargo capacities for the two-door Wrangler.
What's it like as a daily driver?
Let's get the dimension-related numbers out of the way first to give you an idea of size: the Overland is 4334mm long, 1894mm wide, 1839mm high. It has a listed kerb weight of 1762kg.
With its weight and stance, it remains composed on bitumen and gravel, on the way to your off-road destination. It's no sports car in terms of ride and handling but it's much better than many of us would assume prior to driving it.
While it's a whole lot more comfortable around town than previous iterations, inner-city streets are not its ideal playground.
Out on the open road, the good news mostly continues. The V6 keeps the Jeep thrumming along – plus it sounds cool when given the boot – and the eight-speed auto is pretty cluey and forward-thinking in its shifting.
It may be quite blocky but it manages to not produce too much in the way of in-cabin noise, from the road or engine, although its big wing mirrors generated some low-level wind-rush noise.
Our test vehicle was on road tyres so any noise emanating from those was minimal.
What's it like for touring?
I mapped out a 4WD loop which included gravel tracks, light to medium corrugations, undulating mud tracks and mud holes, some decent sections of low-speed 4WDing (in particular, a steep rocky hill), and a few other bits and pieces to see if it was able to do everything safely and comfortably. I wasn't expecting any strife because the Wrangler is a genuine 4WD with a dual-range transfer case, a ladder chassis, solid axles and proven 4WD heritage.
On gravel, there’s an unsettling amount of steering-wheel jitter over even minor corrugations and more so over considerable bumps – but overall the Wrangler feels solid and composed on the road, largely in part due to its 2459mm-long wheelbase and bulk.
The Wrangler has 260mm ground clearance and a standard wading depth of 760mm.
Coil springs all-round help soak up the lumps and, for a purpose-built off-roader, this Jeep yields a comfortable ride for driver and passengers. As a true 4WD worth its salt, the Wrangler is immediately more at home taking on low-speed 4WDing than it is prowling city streets.
Switching to 4WD High or Low range is still via a stubby stick to the left of the main shifter, so kudos to Jeep for sticking with tradition, albeit with a modern flavour. Its Selec-Trac 4x4 system, is, as expected, very effective.
The Wrangler is supremely sure-footed during low-range work but visibility can be a problem.
Again, the V6 engine comes into its own, delivering smooth even torque when needed, but not over-working to achieve that at any time. Considered driving is required and slow and steady throttle is the order of the day, but that's easily done in the Wrangler as its loud pedal is none too sensitive to a jiggling boot.
Steering has a nice weight to it at lower speeds.
Coil springs all-round help soak up the lumps and bumps.
The Wrangler is supremely sure-footed during low-range work but visibility can be a problem; over-bonnet visibility has improved slightly over previous generations but seeing out clearly to the front and side is still a bit pinched, making it at times difficult to visually pick correct wheel-placement, especially when driving steep, sharply-angled terrain, i.e. the rocky hill we tackled. It can go hard-core, no worries, but it simply requires a little bit more thought, which is fine because it makes the whole off-road experience more of an engaging one.
The Wrangler performed just as well through deep ruts and mud holes. It has 260mm ground clearance – plenty enough to clear most submerged obstacles – and a standard wading depth of 760mm. Its traction control system is effective, chirping in when needed.
The Wrangler Overland is not very practical in terms of day-to-day life and it certainly trails behind a chunk of the market in terms of safety gear, even though it has AEB. But it is a top-notch off-roader in its own right, great fun, very capable and very easy to drive in the bush.
If you’ve got your heart set on a two-door mid-size 4WD, then it’s difficult to over-look this Wrangler.
If you’re really keen to tackle real hard-core off-roading, then perhaps you should switch focus and check out the Rubicon – with its shorter low-range gearing, front and rear diff locks, BF Goodrich Mud Terrain tyres, stronger axles and a swaybar-disconnect set-up.
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