Legendary off-road ability, instantly identifiable design and iconic status…no it’s not the new Land Rover Defender but its nemesis from across the pond.
Unveiled today in the US, it’s the new Jeep Wrangler, fourth-generation of a line that goes back to 1986, so just a new boy in Defender terms though in some ways its can claim connections with the original WW2 Willys Jeep. The Wrangler has always been the butch one of the Jeep bunch.
And the new version? Not too much is known so far; its surprise unveiling at the SEMA performance car trade show in Las Vegas is meant as a teaser for its main debut at the Los Angeles Motor Show at the end of November.
What is clear that it is resolutely a hardcore 4x4 – trail-rated, as the Americans say – in both its rugged looks and its off-road ability. With its boxy profile, round headlights, seven-bar grille and exposed door hinges it’s as traditional looking as ever, albeit with what Jeep says are better aerodynamics. Less barn door, anyway.
Amid what in the US at least will be a large range of configurations is a model with a fold-down windscreen, as before. But this time Jeep says it is a lot more convenient to fold down; it appears that the glass drops forward, leaving the A-pillars in place. Jeep says the new model will have “dozens of different door, top and windshield combinations”.
Engines, currently 3.6 petrol and 2.8 diesel, need to smarten up their mpg act and will likely be in line for down-sizing, but in other ways – manual gears, manual transfer case, locking diffs – it is an much of an extreme of-roader as ever. Jeep says more hi-tech features expand its capability and make it “the most capable SUV ever”.
With the notable exception of Land Rover’s mega Discovery SVX launched at the Frankfurt Show this year, pure off-road ability has taken bit of a back seat to SUV comfort and convenience. But this new Jeep is the real McCoy – all we want now is the reborn Defender to pit it against!