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New Jeep Wrangler JL lives up to expectations

Published:Sunday | December 8, 2019 | 12:00 AMKareem LaTouche - Automotives Writer

Jeep has become synonymous with off-roading and has been etched into the minds of many as a formidable force. First, there was the 1944 Willys Jeep, which really put the company on the map as a vehicle that could handle any terrain. It was used in World War II and gained international acclaim as a workhorse.

Now, the brand has unveiled its newest Wrangler, and I’m testing the JL version, which keeps the familiar silhouette. For example, it retains the pronounced wheel arches, the radiator-like front grille, and the circular headlights. However, not everything has remained the same as Jeep has made internal modifications throughout for a more comfortable experience. When most persons think about a Jeep Wrangler, they think outdoors and adventures, and for that reason, it has remained highly functional with removable door panels and roof.

This vehicle is categorised as a compact and midsize SUV, but the truth is, you can’t categorise a Jeep Wrangler because it’s built for an explorer, and that’s it.

Choosing somewhere to go

I wanted to push the Wrangler to see what it could handle. So I got KIG’s blessings then I reached out to my friend Nigel Wilmot, owner of Wilmotorsports, who modifies several Jeeps, and we found a path that was worthy of the Wrangler’s ability.

We decided to take the journey to Hagley Gap in the Blue Mountain region via Gordon Town – this is the path persons take when they are trying to access the highest point of the Blue Mountains. It starts with a treacherous journey via a motor vehicle, then you stop and park at Hagley Gap. After this, you do a four-hour hike from ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ to the top of the mountain. Luckily for us, we were only doing the driving part.

Experiencing the vehicle

This vehicle gets all the little things right to ensure that the driver feels comfortable and in control, like the smoothness of how the main gear lever moves. The seats are well padded, which is really appreciated when the vehicle is going over uneven surfaces. There is also the reverse camera, which has one of the best resolutions I have seen. It is complemented by sensors and a trajectory reverse line to ensure that the driver doesn’t hit any objects.

While on our journey, there were many times I was on a one-way path and had to reverse to give an oncoming vehicle passage. This is when this camera became most useful as I was literally driving on a precipice.

Keep in mind that the vehicle also has a very high ground clearance of 10 inches, which makes it great for going over objects. However, because of its high centre of gravity, it won’t be able to go around corners at fast speeds without some body roll. Truth be told, a vehicle like this is not measured by speed, it is tested by its off-road performance.

Half-way through the journey, while looking at the beautiful mountains, I decided to take off the roof panels to get a more immersive experience. It was a seemingless effort that took about four minutes, and this allowed me to be close to nature. I kept the vehicle in two-wheel drive for most of the journey, and the 295lb-ft of torque proved to be quite powerful enough to carry my three adult passengers.

It’s also equipped with a turbo, which comes on effortlessly and makes the vehicle faster than it needs to be. This is something that drivers are going to truly appreciate as it gives the vehicle the ability to overtake in a swift manner.

Back on the sinuous road, by the time we reached Mavis Bank, there were some deep puddles of water, which made the path look like an obstacle course. The leading link and trailing arm suspension managed it with relative ease, as it wasn’t too hard or soft.

Staying on the inside

The steering has mounted controls at the front and back, and for this reason, it took a while for my muscle memory to adapt. At the front are the controls for the display screen in the dial cluster, which can be used to view vehicle data. On the other side of the steering are the cruise control settings. On the rear are the multimedia controls, like volume and ‘next track’.

The interior is a blend between the past and the future, paying homage to the Willys Jeep in the vertical dashboard and the cylindrical gear knob.

Most of the knobs are made of hard rubber, and the material throughout can take hard scratches without being destroyed. Even the window controls are high on the centre console and not on the door panels, owning to the fact that the doors can be removed.

Around the back, the seats are equally comfortable, and there are dedicated a/c vents, which was something I was not expecting. Below the roof is a cage bar, which is for safety if the vehicle should turn over while the roof is removed.

With this generation, Jeep has given drivers very few reasons not to like this vehicle everything is done with the driver in mind. The brand has also done justice to the purist by keeping many of the things that made the Wrangler a success.

Vehicle provided courtesy of Kingston Industrial Garage Ltd, 923-6479,