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Jeep Wrangler test drive

If you prefer camping and hiking holidays to five-star resorts, the Jeep Wrangler could be your kind of car.


If you prefer camping and hiking holidays to five-star resorts, the Jeep Wrangler could be your kind of car. If you're looking for a conventional family car, there are better alternatives available.
Driving experience
Value for money


If you prefer camping and hiking holidays to five-star resorts, the Jeep Wrangler could be your kind of car. If you're looking for a conventional family car, there are better alternatives available.

Make and model: Jeep Wrangler Sahara
Description: Large SUV, petrol
Price range: £61,125 (plus options)

Jeep says: “The most off-road capable and recognised SUV in the world.”

We say: If you prefer camping and hiking holidays to five-star resorts, the Jeep Wrangler could be your kind of car.


You’re never going to mistake a Jeep Wrangler for anything else. Along with the Porsche 911, it’s probably one of the most recognisable shapes in the car market. In a sea of almost-identical family SUVs, the Wrangler stands out like a beacon. There have been some subtle updates for 2024, but you’ll struggle to spot most of the differences.

Those Tonka-toy looks are matched by the Wrangler’s very essence – this is a tough, capable, no-nonsense vehicle rather than a soft family wagon that’s been dressed up to look like a 4×4. That’s both good and bad, depending on your needs…

What is it?

The Jeep Wrangler is a large-ish, five-seat, petrol 4×4. We say large-ish because the fat wheel arch flares, bulky bumpers, side steps and tailgate-mounted spare wheel all add extra bulk without increasing interior space, so it’s not as roomy inside as you might expect if you’re just looking at the dimensions on a specification sheet.

There’s only engine, one gearbox and two trim levels. That certainly keeps things straightforward. As befits its hardcore nature, there are manual controls to adjust the 4×4 system for your off-roading needs, whereas most soft-roader SUVs let the on-board computers sort it out rather than allowing the driver to meddle with the settings.

Who is this car aimed at?

Wrangler customers tend to buy into the car’s off-road abilities and reputation. There’s a huge aftermarket industry dedicated to making your Wrangler even more extreme as a rock-climbing, river-crossing, desert-smashing adventure vehicle.

If you like the idea of a 4×4 where you can remove the roof, rear windows and doors, the Wrangler will let you do that. If you love being able to manually engage and disconnect the centre differential, and shift between two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive, the Wrangler can do that. If you want a car that can take you anywhere, the Wrangler can probably get you more places than almost any other new car.

If you prefer camping and hiking holidays to five-star resorts, the Wrangler’s probably your kind of car.

Who won’t like it?

All that off-roading adventure capability comes at a cost. If you want a smooth, quiet, comfortable family car that’s never going to go further off-road than a gravel lane, this is almost certainly not the car for you. There are many better options available for the money.

First impressions

From the moment you approach the Jeep Wrangler, you know you’re in for a different experience to other, run-of-the-mill SUVs. The classic Jeep styling, honed over 80-odd years since the original Willys Jeep (short for general purpose) army vehicles of the second world war, promises adventure. If you’re a dedicated Wrangler enthusiast, you may notice that the famous seven-bar grille has been subtly revised for 2024, although most people would need to see it side-by-side with the 2018-2023 version to tell the difference.

Step inside and that feeling continues. The cabin is squared off and utilitarian, rather than soft and luxurious. New for 2024 is a big touchscreen in the centre of the dash, which is a big improvement on earlier models and pulls the Wrangler into the modern era – but not too much.

What do you get for your money?

Jeep keeps your choices simple with the Wrangler. There’s only one engine and gearbox (a 2.0-litre petrol engine driving all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic), and a choice of two trim levels. We’re reviewing the ‘Sahara’ spec here, which is slighhtly more on-road oriented, while the ‘Rubicon’ is a bit more extreme. The Sahara starts at just over £61K, while the Rubicon is £2K dearer.

Sahara gives you 18-inch alloy wheels with more road-focused tyres, and colour coding for the wheel arch flares and three-piece removable hard top. Rubicon has smaller 17-inch wheels with hardcore off-road tyres, while the flares and roof sections are black. Off-roading enthusiasts should also note that the Rubicon also allows you to disconnect the sway bars in the suspension for better off-road articulation.

Inside, the trim levels are pretty similar. They both have part-leather seats, with the Rubicon getting softer Nappa leather. The front seats are electrically adjustable and heated, while rest of the specification is much as you’d expect for a £60K-ish SUV. The new-for-2024 widescreen central touchscreen is decent, although most owners will tend to mainly use it as a display for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

There have been some badly-needed safety updates as well. We’ll come to this later, as you’ll want to read about that before heading down to your local Jeep dealer to place an order.

The simple pricing and trim structure makes more sense when you consider that more Wrangler owners will modify their vehicles than pretty much any other new car on the market. Usually, that consists of more hardcore off-roading equipment – raised suspension, winch, tow bar, roof racks, spotlights and so on. So what you get from the factory is really just a starting point.

We like: Simple trim and specification structure, leaving most customisation to aftermarket suppliers
We don’t like: Safety still lags behind almost every other SUV around

What’s the Jeep Wrangler like inside?

Despite the £60K price tag, the Wrangler’s cabin has a distinctly utilitarian feel. That’s deliberate, of course, and it still has most of the creature comforts you’d expect to see for the money. But everything has a hard, flat, squared-off look and feel that’s a world away from the rounded, soft interiors you get in other cars.

You step up quite high to climb aboard the Wrangler. The driving position is comfortable enough and the visibility is quite good, helped by the very upright windscreen (which can be folded down or removed). But your head is quite close to the railing over the door – on all the off-roading sections we did on our trip, I bumped my head against it several times as both a driver and passenger. For those rock-and-rolling occasions, there are plenty of grab handles for passengers to hang onto.

The cabin and boot are not as spacious as you might expect. They’re roomy enough, but if you look at the pictures on this page you’ll see how the body shell of the car is quite a bit narrower than the dimensions suggest. The fat wheel arch flares and chunky bumpers are traditional Wrangler fare, but the don’t make the cabin any bigger.

Due to the removable roof design, the boot is a two-piece affair. The lower section also carries the spare wheel, so you have to swing that out (and the wheel makes it fairly heavy) before you can lift the rear window to load your luggage.

The new 12-inch widescreen in the top centre of the dashboard is a big improvement. Like most of these systems, its main role is to serve as a display for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, rather than using Jeep’s own navigation and radio offerings. The very good news is that the heating and air-conditioning controls are all handled by proper physical dials and buttons, rather than having to swipe through the touchscreen to adjust the cabin temperature on the move.

As usual on modern cars, there are plenty of controls on the steering wheel for cruise control, phone, volume and adjusting various settings. Also as usual on modern cars, many of the controls are not well explained or logically arranged. The volume and station/track controls for the stereo are hidden away on the back of the steering wheel, for example, so you only work out how they work by guessing.

We didn’t get to try the Wrangler with the windscreen, roof and doors removed, but it’s certainly a feature that no other new car on the market offers. Of course, you’ll have to have somewhere to store them all, and you’ll want to be confident that you can back home before it starts raining…

We like: Equipment levels are decent for the price
We don’t like: Interior quality falls short of similarly priced rivals

What’s the Jeep Wrangler like to drive?

Unlike most cars, the driving experience of the Jeep Wrangler very much depends on whether you’re on or off the tarmac.

If you’re looking for a family car that’s going to spend all its time on the tarmac, the Wrangler is fairly disappointing. Performance from the 2.0-litre petrol engine isn’t particularly impressive, although the eight-speed automatic is generally pretty good. The ride and comfort levels are very average and the steering feels completely disconnected from the front wheels. It’s also noisy, with plenty of road and wind noise inside the cabin.

However, once you get off the beaten track, the Wrangler really comes into its own. The route we took was arduous, with river crossings, narrow rock-strewn pathways and more. To give you an idea of how rough the terrain was, we were bouncing around inside the cabin so much that my Apple Watch thought I was exercising for nearly an hour and had walked more than 5,000 steps.

Suddenly, the steering felt perfectly suited to the circumstances, ensuring the car stayed on course without the wheel constantly jiggling around in my hands. The roly-poly handling that causes the Wrangler to lean over going around corners now meant that there was plenty of suspension travel for huge dips and troughs in the tracks that we were climbing.

With selectable four-wheel drive, and both high and low range modes, you can control when the car runs as a two-wheel drive vehicle (for bitumen roads and higher speeds) or four-wheel drive vehicle, for precarious goat tracks and river crossings that you traverse at lower speeds.

We like: Supreme off-roading capability
We don’t like: … which inevitably compromises on-road comfort

How safe is the Jeep Wrangler?

This is where things get rather awkward for the Wrangler. When the current model was launched six years ago, Euro NCAP tested the Wrangler and awarded it a frankly terrible one-star safety rating. For what was then a brand-new car, it was not a good outcome and the safety body was scathing in its assessment.

Part of the reason that the Wrangler struggled in the Euro NCAP tests was its largely detachable body, which also sits on top of a frame rather than being an integral part of the car’s structural. The removable roof is not a load-bearing part of the car (although there are roll bars) so you inevitably lose stiffness. The same applies to the fold-down and detachable windscreen, which is not as rigid as a fixed windscreen. The very features that make the Wrangler so distinctive and enjoyable also compromise its crash-test results.

It’s also worth pointing out that a lot of the accessories that owners so enjoy fitting to their Wranglers (bumper-mounted winches, jacked-up suspension and so on) are likely to detract from its safety performance rather than improve it.

To be clear, the Wrangler passes all legal tests and complies with all mandatory safety equipment requirements. Euro NCAP tests go above and beyond the bare minimum legal requirements, although they have become the de facto standard for most car manufacturers.

For 2024, Jeep has improved the Wrangler’s safety kit, with additional airbags as well as some accident avoidance technology (which is now required by law anyway). But the company has no plans to re-submit the updated Wrangler for a fresh round of Euro NCAP testing, and you can safely assume that the updates would be unlikely to improve the car’s score beyond the existing one-star rating.

This alone is likely to cause many car buyers to strike the Wrangler off their shortlists, and that’s entirely fair enough.

We like: Belated 2024 improvements to standard safety equipment
We don’t like: Still not good enough


There’s almost nothing in the new car market like the Jeep Wrangler, which is certainly part of its attraction. The idea of removing the roof, and doors and windscreen, and bouncing across the most challenging tracks you can find is something that only a Wrangler can offer. It’s almost impossible to dislike the Wrangler, and we spent most of our drive time beaming and giggling at the absurd ease with which it dealt with tracks that would have stopped most SUVs dead.

When measured by conventional metrics, however, the Wrangler is fundamentally flawed. It’s impossible to recommend it as a family car when you compare it to dozens of alternatives of similar size and/or price. The poor safety rating alone will disqualify it for many, and its high running costs and poor environmental performance also weigh against it.

In our unique Expert Rating Index, which analyses millions of data points to rank every new car on these sort of issues, the Wrangler scores an overall rating of E, with category scores of E for safety and D for running costs and CO2 emissions.

To spend more than £60K on this sort of vehicle (before you start customising it) is only going to be appealing or viable to a small number of car buyers, however, which is absolutely fine by Jeep. The Wrangler is a niche car for a niche audience, and that audience will love it. For everyone else, there are better alternatives available.

Similar cars

Ineos Grenadier | Land Rover Defender | Mercedes-Benz G-Class | Toyota Land Cruiser

Key specifications

Model tested: Jeep Wrangler Sahara
Price (as tested): £62,090
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol, four-wheel drive
Six-speed automatic

Power: 272 hp
Torque: 400 Nm
Top speed: 112 mph
0-62 mph: 7.6 seconds

Fuel economy (combined): 27.2 mpg
CO2 emissions: 250 g/km
Euro NCAP safety rating: One star (Dec 2018)
TCE Expert Rating: E (45%), as of May 2024

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Stuart Masson
Stuart Massonhttps://www.thecarexpert.co.uk/
Stuart is the Editorial Director of our suite of sites: The Car Expert, The Van Expert and The Truck Expert. Originally from Australia, Stuart has had a passion for cars and the automotive industry for over thirty years. He spent a decade in automotive retail, and now works tirelessly to help car buyers by providing independent and impartial advice.
If you prefer camping and hiking holidays to five-star resorts, the Jeep Wrangler could be your kind of car. If you're looking for a conventional family car, there are better alternatives available.Jeep Wrangler test drive