The Jeep Wrangler doesn’t need much of an introduction — there’s no mistaking the legendary looks. It has been on the roads and off the beaten track in various guises since 1986.
The latest interpretation of Jeep’s classic four-wheel drive combines modern comfort and gadgetry with all-round ruggedness. We’re having a play with the Jeep Wrangler Night Eagle, which is one of the higher-spec versions. If we undo the nicely retro-looking clips and lift up the massive bonnet we see a two-litre turbo petrol engine with an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
The poky petrol motor produces 272bhp and 400Nm of torque, more than enough to haul it around. The vehicle is also available with a 2.2-litre diesel engine. Closing the bonnet and taking in the Wrangler’s classic silhouette, I can’t help think that a) it is very red and b) if Postman Pat had a utility 4×4… But I like it. The gloss black 18in alloys set it off nicely. Though the shape has mellowed a little, the rear end is strangely modern and box-like. Some new fancy rear lights add to the overall look.
The Wrangler is big and bold in its styling and detail, from the oversized door hinges to the renowned front grille and wing shape. As I whip out the old trusty feed bag, the view from underneath is encouraging. It has a solid-looking ladder chassis, a robust suspension and running gear that looks slightly agricultural but with an element of the new-fangled. It certainly looks capable of dealing with some rural excursions.
No worries about deep ruts or obstacles, as the Wrangler has a huge ground clearance of 242mm. As I slide back out and open the boot, the first thing I notice is the internal roll cage at the back, that and the whopping Alpine subwoofer. The Wrangler has a few party pieces to show off — or rather take off. The roof can be removed if you fancy that wind-in-your-hair Jeep feeling.
Rifle vantage point
The front driver and passenger sections can be taken off individually and, with the seat far back enough, it’s not a bad rifle vantage point. There are a few roof options: soft top, hard top or a top with a built-in sunroof. The front screen also folds down and, for the full safari look, the doors are also removable.
The boot space isn’t too bad. With the seats up we’re probably talking seven or eight full bags of wheat. Gunslips fit in at a jaunty angle and there’s plenty of space for luggage, or at least a couple of Labradors and a bit of kit. With the back seats down the Wrangler can take 12 to 14 bags.
Bells and whistles
The rugged theme is continued in the Night Eagle’s interior. Blending an almost 1980s-looking chunky dash with modern gadgetry is smart, and the leather bucket seats are heated for comfort. The Wrangler is equipped with all the usual modern gizmos. An 8.4in touchscreen controls the satnav and reversing camera. There is DAB, Apple and Android connectivity and a host of app-based entertainment from an upgraded Alpine sound system. The Wrangler has myriad driver aids and safety features, with brake assist, lane departure warning and blind spot monitoring, to mention a few. The driving controls are elegantly simple, the standard automatic gearbox control lever combined with a 4×4 control lever for 2H, 4H Auto, 4H part-time and 4L. Hill control and lockable differential are also at our disposal.
Fit for purpose
The first everyday task for the Night Eagle was fitting the child seat to drop the wee one off, which was relatively pain-free. Reversing out of my bumpy and pothole-ridden driveway provided a lot of bouncing from side to side, so on first impressions the suspension could be harder, but I trust it’s like that for a reason. Putting your foot down is entertaining as the two-litre turbo is quite spirited. Not lightning-quick but more than enough to keep you amused. Ride-wise it’s fairly smooth. Despite its size and slightly agricultural set-up, it holds the road well and is fun around the back country lanes. Obviously, it’s never going to handle like a sports car, but overall it’s rather pleasant. Cruising on the motorway is comfortable and all the gadgets are easily accessible while driving.
Coles junior dropped off and a few errands done, it was time for some off-piste action. With 4H selected, half-a-dozen bags of wheat onboard as well as an enthusiastic cocker spaniel, it was time for a look round Edwardshire. Despite my best efforts to get a bit of slip-sliding, the Wrangler made easy work of negotiating the moist meadow with no sideways action. The electronic onboard witchcraft kept everything on the straight and narrow. Negotiating through the wood and along a muddy, heavily rutted track was easy — a little slipping but nothing that was concerning. Despite the rigid rear axle and a little bouncing, the suspension handled the bumps well and it was a relatively smooth ride over bumpy ground.
Now I’m sure we’ll probably see more of these being used as the Chelsea tractor around town, but under the slightly bling exterior lies a competent country vehicle. It is more than capable of a day in the field; my only real criticism is the suspension could be a little bit harder. The Wrangler is one of those niche legends and comes with a niche price tag. The Night Eagle starts off at £49,850; with the technology pack and towing kit fitted, this one comes out at £50,500. A good level of kit, heavy duty enough for rural fun and everyday life, but a bit pricey.
NEED TO KNOW
- Manufacturer Jeep
- Model Wrangler Night Eagle
- Power 272bhp; 400Nm of torque 0-62mph 7.6 seconds
- Top speed 110mph
- Economy 24.8mpg combined CO2 combined 260g/km
- Towing weight braked 2,495kg’
A good level of kit, heavy duty enough for rural fun and everyday life, but a bit pricey.