What is it?
You’ve got to give credit to Jeep for always staying true to its roots. This American manufacturer has never deviated from its focus of producing capable 4x4s in all of its 80 years, and while in modern times you might be able to buy front-wheel-drive Jeep crossovers, there’s always been one ‘trail-rated’ option available on every model.
But the greatest of them all is the Wrangler – the monstrously capable 4×4 that heads up the brand’s range and remains symbolic of everything Jeep is about. With the firm celebrating its 80th birthday this year, the Wrangler has gained a new special-edition. But is it worth considering?
Eighty years is quite a big birthday so you might have expected Jeep to really push the boat out. Sadly that’s not the case, as instead we’ve got a Wrangler painted in a new green, along with new alloy wheels and some different stitching on the interior.
Other changes have also been made for 2021 to the entire Wrangler range, which includes a slightly more efficient engine and further standard safety kit, including adaptive cruise control, high beam assist and autonomous emergency braking. There’s also a new ‘off-road cruise control’ feature too.
What’s under the bonnet?
While Jeep used to offer a turbocharged diesel engine, the only Wrangler option now available is a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine. Combined with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, the Wrangler also gets selectable four-wheel-drive as standard, depending on the conditions and the surface you’re on.
Kicking out a punchy 268bhp, the Wrangler can reach 0-60mph in 7.4 seconds, though Jeep doesn’t give out a top speed – presumably because it doesn’t want you to try…
While Jeep promises efficiency savings compared to before, the Wrangler is still an impressively thirsty option – returning just 25.2mpg, with sky-high CO2 emissions of 252g/km. You do get a large 70-litre fuel tank, though, which offers around 400 miles from a fill-up.
What’s it like to drive?
The Wrangler’s stand-out point is its off-roading ability, and though this 80th Anniversary Edition isn’t even the most extreme version, nothing could trouble it during our time with the car. Even on standard road tyres, challenging Moorland green-lanes proved no match, while you can lock the differential to help you out if things really start to get tough.
Never been green-laning before, but when in a Wrangler… pic.twitter.com/pKCSK5qwKm
— Ted Welford (@TedWelford) December 5, 2021
Jeep has also improved the Wrangler’s on-tarmac performance, too, and it’s nowhere near as coarse as you might expect. The 2.0-litre petrol engine is strong and smooth, and is a real asset – offering far more performance than it probably needs to. If you do a lot of driving, though, there are a lot better options available, as the Wrangler’s vague steering and excessive road noise could become quite tiresome.
How does it look?
You’ll either love or hate the way the Wrangler looks, but we’re firmly in the ‘love’ category. This anniversary model really does hark back to the original Willys Jeep with its cool Sarge Green paintwork, while the specific 18-inch alloy wheels contrast especially well with it, and add to the utilitarian look. The smart metallic grey headlight and fog light surrounds are also neat touches that help to separate it from any other Wrangler.
Elsewhere, this Jeep’s funky retro styling remains, with the huge spare wheel on the tailgate and exposed door and bonnet hinges being particularly neat touches. There really isn’t anything quite like the Wrangler to look at today, and that all adds to its appeal.
What’s it like inside?
Jeep has really stepped up the Wrangler’s interior in recent years, and it offers a great combination of quality and sturdy ruggedness. There is a really solid and mechanical feel to everything, from the clunk as the doors close to flicking between drive gear ratios to the chunky buttons.
The smart black leather seats with contrasting stitching and special anniversary logo look smart, too, while there are small Willys Jeep emblems dotted around the cabin that help to make this Wrangler feel a little more special. Our test car also came with a brilliant electric canvas roof, which – while probably a lot more useful on a summer’s day – was a cool touch, even in freezing December conditions.
What’s the spec like?
The Wrangler line-up starts from £49,450, but as the 80th Anniversary Edition sits at the top of the range, prices start from £52,450. You’ll need to add £2,000 to that price if you want the roomier four-door version, which is well worth choosing over the cramped, if funkier two-door version.
So the Wrangler is certainly not cheap, but in its defence, you do get a long list of equipment included. Highlights include an Alpine sound system, LED lights, heated leather seats and an easy-to-use 8.4-inch touchscreen. The list of safety kit is also surprising, with adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and high beam assist helping it to feel more ‘current’ than you might expect when first looking at it.
Judged purely as an SUV, it’s easy to level criticisms at the Wrangler. It’s not all that good on tarmac, is pricey to buy and very thirsty to run. However, the Wrangler is such a fun, entertaining and unique product that all of those mild woes fade into significance when you set your eyes on it.
This 80th Anniversary Edition might not offer anything that other Wranglers don’t, but if you’re a Jeep purist, or merely love its retro looks, you’re unlikely to be disappointed.
Model: Jeep Wrangler
Base price: £48,920
Model as tested: Wrangler 4dr 80th Anniversary 2.0 GME 272hp
Price as tested: £57,050
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol
Max speed: N/A
0-60mph: 7.4 seconds