Remind me about the 2019 Jeep Wrangler Range.
Gladly. This is the JL Jeep Wrangler. At the entry level, you’ve got the Wrangler Sport. We’ve tested that on the road and it’s mightily improved on its predecessor. At the top of the range you have the Wrangler Rubicon. That’s for the proper off-road nuts, the people for whom Big Red is no more taxing than a speed bump. In terms of price, the Jeep Wrangler Sahara slots in between those two.
So is it better off-road than the Sport?
Actually, no. Underneath, the Sahara is identical to the Sport. That means you get the same upgraded 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 with 384 bhp, and the same four-wheel-drive system. You do without the chunky tyres, diff locks and other off-road stuff from the Rubicon (though you can spec big tyres and modify various parts if you wish).
Instead, the Sahara goes big on what Jeep calls “everyday freedom” – which is marketing speak for refinement. Basically, the Sahara is for people who really like the look of the Jeep Wrangler, but don’t want to deal with its rough-and-readiness – they like the car for its image, not its abilities. Think of it along the lines of the Mercedes G-Wagen, and you’re sort of there.
What sets the Sahara apart from the Sport, then?
In a word, comfort. The Sport is miles better than its predecessor on the road, but there’s still a fair bit of wind and tyre noise that’s allowed to seep into the cabin. And the cabin itself is pretty sparse, with the materials espousing more of a hose-down quality than a luxury feel.
The Sahara moves things upmarket. Extra sound deadening has been added to the roof and doors, and it makes a whole lot of difference. This thing is deathly quiet on the motorway – so much so that you have to keep reminding yourself that you’re in a Wrangler. There are optional leather seats, which are gloriously comfortable and stitched together beautifully. But even if you spec the cloth seats, you’ll get splashings of leather across the door trim, steering wheel and dashboard – again, with meticulous stitching. You also get higher quality plastics on the switchgear, plus bits of real metal dotted around the cabin.
You can spec a larger touchscreen to sit atop the centre console, and you can opt for the Off-Road Pages app from the Rubicon. But really, the beauty of the Sahara is the small addition of these creature comforts, which turn the Wrangler from something you tolerate on the road to something you genuinely enjoy on the road.
Has it lost its off-road character because of all this refinement?
Absolutely not. We drove the Sahara straight up and down a mountain and it never faltered. Indeed, after taking on some tougher trails in the Rubicon, we reckoned that the Sahara could still have managed most of what the mountain had to throw at it. Plus, you can still take off the roof in about 10 minutes (a massive improvement over the JK Wrangler), meaning open-air off-roading is still incredibly easy with this car. And you don’t have to drive about in anything as silly looking as the Range Rover Evoque Convertible to achieve it.
How much does all this excellence cost, then?
The new Wrangler is available at showrooms in the UAE now – in all three of its flavours. For the Wrangler Sahara, you’re looking at a starting price of AED 155,000 for the two-door model, and AED 168,000 for the four-door. That’s not far off the Rubicon prices, but you’re paying for additional comfort and refinement.
What’s the verdict?
If we’re honest, the Sahara is the Wrangler we’d have. The new range is brilliant as a whole, bringing some much-needed updates to a car that looked cool but was too compromised on the road. The Sahara not only looks great, but it drives serenely and will still trundle through the wilderness whenever you’re feeling wild.