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Jeep Wrangler - A 4x4 That Goes Off Road!

Apr 30, 2008
This week I was driving through whimsical countryside, with the leaves sweeping past my windscreen just as the road did the same and all was right with the world. Suddenly a shadow was cast over my beloved car and as I dared peak into my rear-view mirror I asked myself "What's that coming over the hill?" It was indeed a monster, in the form of a Chelsea tractor, piloted by none other than a life sized Barbie that was just a plastic. As she applied her makeup - presumably for Ken, the thought of driving seemed like an added bonus, the hand stitched hide of what appeared to be a white tiger lavished over the empty child seat next her. And then she was gone.

This got me thinking. Barbie is your typical 4x4/SUV driver aka the school run mum that sees driving over a pebble as going off road. Well I hear you 4x4ers cry: "we're not all like that". I do believe there are those of you out of there that do need off-roaders and there is a simple way to show yourselves - buy a Jeep Wrangler. Oh yes, by purchasing Chrysler/Jeep's Wrangler, you say to every other wannabe off-roader that you are the real deal and the school run is a thing of the past - unless the school is atop Everest.

Heritage is a key component to standing out from the crowd and the Jeep Wrangler has it in spades. So what heritage then - motor racing? No. Italian flair? No. Helping protect the world from evil? Um, yes actually.

Produced by Chrysler and marketed under the 'Jeep' moniker, the Wrangler is derived from the CJ (Civilian Jeep) the go anywhere, do anything utility vehicle made famous throughout World War II, as it helped allied troops immeasurably against German invaders. Launched in 1987, the first generation Wrangler featured four wheels (five if you count the steering wheel), a drop top, large ground clearance and a roll cage. I'm really not skimping on detail, that was about it. Put simply, the reason why the civilian production version was as-near-as-makes-no-difference the same as the army's' version was because, like the military version it was designed to go off road and off road alone.

Perhaps in a misguided move, Jeep launched the Schwarzenegger sounding 'Renegade' derivative of the Wrangler in 1991. However the company miss-read it's key demographic and offered it's hardcore, off road customer base 'luxuries' such as floor mats (front only), a locking glove box, engine lights and cup holders. If these features didn't alienate their customers with uselessness, the extra $7,000 (3,500) price tag did. The Renegade sold poorly and was decommissioned in 1994, a year before the standard model gave way to it's younger brother - the generation two Wrangler.

A key change was Jeep making the new Wrangler available in right hand drive as the company sought to expand its global market. Style wise, it paid heavy homage to its World War II compatriot, with circular headlights a welcome return from the much maligned square monstrosities on the Mk1. The new Jeep also featured a relatively civilised coil spring suspension - if civilised is Mike Tyson biting your ear off. Admittedly, the Wrangler was more manageable on the tarmac but wisely, Jeep didn't compromise it's off road performance. A few additions such as a radio and the updating of the interior design were also welcomed, without softening the Jeep too much.

On the back of the successful Mk2, the current generation three offering was launched merely months ago and has been criticised for being too large compared to the military hero it is derived from. Personally I think the Wrangler has grown up and is now a true contender to the likes of Range Rover, the BMW X5 and Porsche Cayenne. To help with this, anti-lock brakes make an appearance 20 years too late, traction control appears seven years too late and Jeep are about on par with introducing Satellite Navigation. Ok, so the Wrangler may not be as good to drive on the road as an X5 or Cayenne, but its ultra reliable (the US postal service uses them extensively) and it'll still do the ugly off-road stuff with a grin on its face, whilst the Porsche struggles with a broken nail. Plus it's about $10000000000000000 (100000000) cheaper.

The latest edition is also available for military use - complete with a snorkel so the engine can breathe underwater (seriously). Jeep then have not watered down the Wrangler but with a slight measure of creature comforts it's a serious contender for the best 4x4 you can buy.

I've seen the latest Barbie motoring range - Ken's cramped and his hair is blown around. She's been beaten and she's back in the sports car.
About the Author
The automotive journalist Ieuan Knox has written about cars for many years and over that time has developed a love of the Jeep. Ieuan is currently working to promote the Cheap Chrysler Jeep web site. A web site which provides high quality Chrysler and Jeep cars at discount prices.
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