What is it?
An icon. Really, there's no other car on sale today that so faithfully replicates the look of the original. In the case of the Wrangler, that original is the car that helped win WWII, the Willys Jeep. Fittingly, that car was the inspiration for the original Land Rover, Jeep citing Land Rover's Defender as a direct rival for the Wrangler Unlimited. That should tell you a lot as to how the Wrangler drives, as the Defender is a rather crude device, even after its recent overhaul. While the Wrangler might look near identical to its ancestors the firm has been very busy updating it. So under those famous lines lie an all-new chassis, and a turbodiesel engine - for the first time in a civilian Jeep.
There is a pair of extra doors too, these being perhaps the most significant addition to the Jeep, their inclusion denoted by the 'Unlimited' tag - the regular two-door version simply badged Wrangler. It's these that make the Wrangler a more suitable competitor for cars like Land Rover's Defender, as space inside has increased dramatically, adding to its practicality. It's no less able off-road though, and while it might be a bit more sensible in Unlimited guise than the short-wheelbase two-door, if you've got the time and somewhere to store it the entire roof comes off. Yep, the Wrangler Unlimited is the only four-door convertible you can currently buy. Mad.
Is it any good?
It's actually a shame Jeep hasn't differentiated it more from its Wrangler predecessors as the changes it's made to it have transformed it. Don't think for one moment that it's not still a relatively rudimentary machine to drive - it is - but it's a world away from the old Wrangler and shows up the Land Rover Defender. Key to the transformation is the new chassis and engine. The Unlimited's new frame is some 100% stiffer than the old one, giving Jeep's engineers a far better platform to work from. As a result it's less noisy, less bouncy and generally a far nicer place to be.
The other key ingredient is the turbodiesel engine. It's a 2.8-litre lump that produces 174bhp and a useful 302lb.ft at 2,000-2,600rpm. It's reasonably economical with a quoted combined consumption of 28.2mpg and relatively refined too. Combined with the decent six-speed manual transmission it also feels pretty quick; certainly sprightlier than you might expect from such a rugged vehicle - 62mph arrives in 11.7 seconds. Corners aren't the nightmare you might imagine either; sure, there's plenty of body roll but it's able enough. The interior plastics fall into the 'functional' bracket, and there are a lot of sharp points and messy details - like the roll-bar mounted speakers in the rear at forehead smacking height - but it's still a vast improvement over the old car. Off-road it's also absolutely unstoppable.
Should I call the bank manager?
Forget about the Wrangler if you're after a normal SUV. However, if you actually want its dependable go-anywhere ability, decent space and 3,500kg braked trailer towing capability then it's certainly got appeal. It shows up the Defender on the road, and is also significantly cheaper. It's also got that removable roof, which is fun if you've the patience to take it all apart. Really, the Unlimited is a bit of a Wrangler revelation, the changes Jeep having made to it really impressing. It's every bit as good to drive as modern, rugged pick-ups, better than its key Land Rover rival and well priced. Take your bank manager for a blast across a rugged field in it and they might just want to buy one themselves.
Jeep has finally brought the Wrangler up-to-date. It's still pretty far off perfect by conventional measure, but it's not so compromised you'll wince every time you drive it. In fact, it's actually a rather enjoyable big thing to drive, that's inexpensive, decently equipped and utterly dependable. An excellent workhorse.