What’s this?

This is the 2019 Jeep Wrangler Sport, the base spec version of the all-new JL Wrangler, which is available in the Middle East as of this month. It’s the model you’ll get if you’re only prepared to shell out the starting price of the new range – AED 132,000.

 

So if it’s base spec, is it a bit rubbish?

Absolutely not. This may be the entry-level car, but the amount of kit you get as standard is actually pretty good. In fact, we’re luckier in that regard in the Middle East – in America, Jeep’s home market, an entry-level Wrangler will get you an engine, a steering wheel, and some seats – and that’s it.

Okay, so what’s included?

Well, the new JL Wrangler really is all-new, so you get plenty in terms of exciting oily bits. In the Middle East, your only choice is an updated version of the 3.6-litre Pentastar V6, which here develops 284 bhp. That’s actually a little bit less than older model, but the JL is 91 kg lighter than its predecessor, meaning performance is pretty much identical. Fuel efficiency, meanwhile, is up to 15% better, so it’s smiles all round.

There are new suspension components, a new four-wheel-drive system, a new removable roof system, and removable doors. Basically, you don’t have to worry about the off-road stuff, because it’s all been iterated and improved upon compared to the last model. And plus, we haven’t driven it off road yet.

What’s it like on the road, then?

Miles better than the JK model. There’s a completely redesigned interior (more on that later), but the on-road drive goes further than that – it’s an admission by Jeep that customers want something a little more civilised these days. “Everyday freedom” is what Jeep calls it – i.e. the freedom to be able to pop to the shops without having your head done in by tyre roar or wind noise.

As a result, this new car is much less compromised on the road. In the Sport model, with normal road tyres, there’s barely any noise from the wheels at all. There’s still a bit of wind noise, but that’s been improved thanks to Jeep having slanted the windscreen at a bit more of an angle. The steering is weighty but feelsome, making it easy to place the car on the road. Really, in terms of refinement, it’s no worse than what you’d get in any mid-range Japanese family SUV.

What about that redesigned interior?

Form still very much follows function, but the difference with the JL Wrangler is that now it now offers a nice place in which to sit. Even the cloth seats on the Sport model are supportive and comfortable. Plus you get loads of kit as standard – there’s a seven-inch multi-touch display at the top of the centre console, a decent radio, and a reversing camera. All pretty standard stuff, these days, but these are unheard of on a Wrangler.

There’s more leg room for backseat passengers, too, and you don’t need a mechanical engineering degree to take the roof off anymore. Meanwhile, there are high-quality plastics, and even real bits of metal, dotted around the cabin, making for a reasonably inviting atmosphere – it’s much better than a Land Rover Defender, for example.

Okay, but will it still go off-road?

Oh yes. We’re taking the new Wrangler through some muddy trails tomorrow, and Jeep has assured us that it’ll take anything you can throw at it. Basically, this new Wrangler – even in base form – will still do what you want it do off-road, but now it’ll also do a bit of what you want on the road, too.