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Jeep Wrangler 2020 review: Rubicon diesel

Jeep's Wrangler Rubicon is powered by a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine, outputting 147kW/450Nm.

Daily driver score

3/5

Urban score

3.2/5

Arguably no other model distils Jeep’s ‘go anywhere’ and ‘adventurous’ spirit more than its iconic and enduring Wrangler large SUV.

Now in its fourth-generation form, the JL Wrangler introduced to local showrooms in early 2019 scores updated the tech and equipment, but keeps styling, off-road ability and functionality largely the same as its predecessors.

A big hurdle to overcome for the new Wrangler though, is its sub-standard safety rating, notching an initial one-star rating from ANCAP.

The rating has since been revised to three stars thanks to the inclusion of extra standard safety equipment, but, if you are after an off-road-ready SUV to tackle the path less travelled, should you look beyond the Wrangler?

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

Priced at $70,950 before on-road costs, the Wrangler Rubicon diesel is certainly on the expensive end of the spectrum for something that might just be an off-road weekend lifestyle vehicle.

To Jeep’s credit though, the Wrangler Rubicon is stacked with equipment including push-button start, automatic headlights, leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel and dual-zone climate control, but most of the cost will be for the off-road-skewed equipment.

Chunky 32-inch BFGoodrich tyres, a dual-range transfer case, Rock-Trac 4x4 select system, heavy-duty front and rear axles, rock sliders and a front sway bar disconnect make the Wrangler Rubicon ready to tackle the path less travelled straight from the showroom.

We like the 17-inch wheels with chunky off-road rubber. We like the 17-inch wheels with chunky off-road rubber.

The multimedia system is displayed on an 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen that includes satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity and nine-speaker Alpine sound system.

Inside, there's a 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen. Inside, there's a 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen.

Our test car also has the $1950 Rubicon Luxury pack, which adds leather across the seats, shifter and handbrake. Heating elements get added to the front seats and steering wheel, while the door trims are upgraded to more premium elements.

A Mojito exterior colour, a $975 option, as well as the Trail Rail Management System ($450) and 17-inch black wheels ($950) also feature.

Is there anything interesting about the design?

Jeep has taken an ‘if it isn’t broke’ approach to the latest Wrangler, which retains much of the styling and character of its predecessors.

Boxy dimensions, squared-off fenders and the aerodynamic profile of a brick carry-over as before, but look a bit closer and you will see that the Jeep designers have incorporated subtle tweaks to drag the Wrangler well and truly into the 21st Century.

Up front, the new Wrangler’s headlights are now incorporated into the familiar seven-slot grille – a homage to the original Willys Jeep of the 1940s and one of many Easter eggs littered throughout.

Jeep has taken an ‘if it isn’t broke’ approach to the latest Wrangler. Jeep has taken an ‘if it isn’t broke’ approach to the latest Wrangler.

Our top-spec Rubicon test car also scores LED head- and foglights to keep the face of the Wrangler fresh – the latter of which is now more integrated into the steel front bumper.

A set of ‘Rubicon’ decals are also emblazoned across the bonnet to denote the variant, while a ‘Trail Rated’ badge can also be found on the front fenders for those questioning the Wrangler’s off-road credentials.

Wearing 17-inch wheels with chunky off-road rubber also helps the Wrangler’s purposeful look and, in the rear, it scores LED tail-lights and a swinging tailgate with mounted spare wheel to add to the Jeep’s robust character.

Adding to the Jeep’s robust character is the mounted spare wheel on the tailgate. Adding to the Jeep’s robust character is the mounted spare wheel on the tailgate.

Overall, we dig the styling of the Wrangler – especially in our test car’s head-turning ‘Mojito’ paintwork – which retains the right amount of throwback styling with modern touches, much like the BMW-era Mini or current Fiat 500.

Inside, the Wrangler adopts the familiar design of its predecessor with call-backs, such as the large passenger grab handle, door nets and chunky switchgear.

Stain-resistant materials feature throughout, which might not look or feel that great, but take into consideration that the Wrangler is one of the world’s only convertible SUVs.

With two panels above the front passengers that can be easily unclipped and stowed in the boot, the Wrangler can turn from enclosed SUV to open-top off-roader in a matter of seconds.

Inside, the Wrangler adopts the familiar design of its predecessor with call-backs. Inside, the Wrangler adopts the familiar design of its predecessor with call-backs.

After those two pieces are removed, the rest of the roof can be detached, though it is a tedious process that requires the use of the included torx tool kit.

Taking it to another level, the doors can be separated and the windshield folded down for a driving experience unlike any other.

While these features might work for consistently hot and dry conditions, it’s less suited to a Melbourne autumn, and the steps to get all pieces off the Wrangler are very involved and time-consuming.

We appreciate that the option is there, and it would be fantastic for a beach drive in the summer, but the use cases might be limited.

How practical is the space inside?

Measuring 4882mm long, 1894mm wide, 1848mm tall and with a 3008mm wheelbase, the Wrangler is classed as a large SUV, alongside the likes of the Kia Sorento, Toyota Kluger and Ford Everest.

In five-door form, such as we have here, the Wrangler does feel every bit its large dimensions suggest, but, surprisingly, doesn’t make good use of its interior space.

Up front there is an average-sized glovebox and lockable centre storage cubby, as well as two cupholders, but that’s about it.

The model featured below is the 2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Limited

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited
 

There is a very shallow storage nook in front of the shifter, but the door storage is relegated to small nets because, we’d guess, the doors are removable.

At least there is plenty of room for the front occupants, even with those thick rollbars around the frame of the Wrangler.

The backseats also offer ample room for adults, including the in the middle seat, but again, storage options are a little lacking.

The backseats also offer ample room for adults. The backseats also offer ample room for adults.

Peppered throughout are four USB ports, as well as three USB-C outlets.

The split-fold boot, which features a swing tailgate below and fold-up glass section above, can accommodate 898 litres of volume, expanding to 2050L with the split-fold rear seats (60:40) stowed.

While the numbers might seem generous on paper, keep in mind that the Wrangler Rubicon features a big rollbar in the boot that can eat into storage space of taller and wider items.

Don’t go expecting to fit any big and bulky Ikea items with ease, but the Wrangler can certainly accommodate a week’s worth of groceries or large suitcases.

Also keep in mind that the front roof panels can be stowed in a storage bag in the boot, also eating into practicality.

As mentioned earlier, our test Rubicon has the Trail Rail Management System, which adds sliding tie-down points to the boot.

With the roof off, this boot floor also becomes a bit like a small ute tray, making the Trail Rail Management System much more useful.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

Powering the top-spec Wrangler Rubicon is a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine, outputting 147kW/450Nm.

With drive sent to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission, the 2160kg Wrangler Rubicon diesel will accelerate from zero to 100km/h in 9.6 seconds.

Official fuel-consumption figures for the diesel-powered Jeep Wrangler Rubicon are pegged at 7.5 litres per 100km. Official fuel-consumption figures for the diesel-powered Jeep Wrangler Rubicon are pegged at 7.5 litres per 100km.

Peak power is available at 3500rpm, while maximum torque kicks in at 2000rpm, meaning the Wrangler feels peppy enough coming away at the line, but will never blow you away with performance.

A manual mode is also available, but the Wrangler lacks steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, relegating gear changes to the shifter.

How much fuel does it consume?

Official fuel-consumption figures for the diesel-powered Jeep Wrangler Rubicon are pegged at 7.5 litres per 100km, while we managed 9.9L/100km during our week with the car.

We drove the Wrangler exclusively in inner-city environments though, with the urban fuel consumption rated at a closer-to-our-figure 9.3L/100km.

The stop/start engine system and extensive use of aluminium in the bodywork also contribute to a fuel-consumption rating, which is lower than its predecessor's.

What’s it like to drive around town?

Being a large SUV designed primarily to get off the beaten path, the Jeep Wrangler might not be the first vehicle that comes to mind when looking for an inner-city runabout.

However, owners will inevitability need to traverse the concrete jungle on occasion, even if it’s just to grab a soy latte on the way out to the bush.

Around town, there is no hiding the Wrangler’s bulk, which is especially evident in the narrow streets and driveways of Melbourne’s trendy north.

With off-road suspension fitted, the Wrangler can feel a little bouncy on-road, while the steering also strays towards the numb end of the spectrum.

Don’t get us wrong, there is enough feedback under foot, hand and bum to know what the car is doing, but it’s certainly not as engaging or dynamic as even a mainstream small hatchback or sedan.

Measuring 4882mm long, 1894mm wide, 1848mm tall and with a 3008mm wheelbase, the Wrangler is classed as a large SUV. Measuring 4882mm long, 1894mm wide, 1848mm tall and with a 3008mm wheelbase, the Wrangler is classed as a large SUV.

Small ergonomic idiosyncrasies also get in the way, such as surprisingly small indicator stalks that can make it hard to reach the turn signals or wipers due to a large-diameter steering wheel.

A 12.4-metre turning circle also makes manoeuvrability tricky, but the high-defintion reversing camera and excellent visibility actually make the Wrangler a breeze to park.

We also like the 17-inch wheels with chunky off-road rubber, which all but eliminates the fear of curb rash as the tyre sidewall is often taller than the gutter.

Overall, driving the Wrangler around town is a bit of a mixed bag, but, having experienced the vehicle at its best out in the bush in previous reviews, we’d say the trade-off pays off.

The Wrangler certainly doesn’t feel as agricultural or old school to drive as its aesthetics might imply and, on the weekends, it will happily ferry you off the beaten path.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The Jeep Wrangler was awarded a three-star ANCAP crash-safety rating, which is applicable to models after November 2019 that include autonomous emergency braking and blind-spot monitoring.

When the Wrangler was first tested in April 2019, it scored a one-star rating.

The Wrangler scored 60 and 80 per cent in the adult occupant and child occupant protection tests, while the vulnerable road user and safety assist examinations yielded a 49 and 51 per cent result respectively.

Standard safety equipment on the Wrangler Rubicon includes four airbags, hill-start assist, hill decent control, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, tyre-pressure monitoring, front and rear parking sensors, and reversing camera.

ANCAP says the AEB system is not designed to detect pedestrians or cyclists, but works between 30-130km/h.

Of note, the Wrangler is not available with lane-departure warning or lane-keep assist, while traffic-sign recognition is also left off the spec list.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

While the inner-city suburbs might not have been what the Jeep Wrangler’s creators originally intended for it, no doubt some will serve a life ferrying its occupants to cafes, shopping centres and the hair salon.

It’s admirable that an SUV focused almost solely on getting off the bitumen can function quite well on the blacktop.

Sure, the handling and dynamics might be a little lacking, but the diesel engine does an admirable job propelling the two-tonne SUV around town, and the updated in-cabin technologies also make the Wrangler interior a better place to be.

$70,950

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3/5

Urban score

3.2/5