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Motoring: Wrangler made better, worse on gas

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | January 29th, 2007

In the world of cool vehicles, a proper Jeep has always been a very cool ride indeed. I love the purposefulness of the design, the ruggedness of its components and go anywhere ability that makes you feel invincible.

However there has always been a problem, I never liked driving any of them.

I have driven just about every Jeep Wrangler model from the last 15 years, and as much I like the idea of them, I never once enjoyed my drive in one.

Now though there is a new Jeep Wrangler (looks pretty much the same as it always has) with lots of new components, so is it any good to drive?

To find out, I booked myself into one and I got the top model too, the new four-door Wrangler Unlimited in the Rubicon trim.

As looks go, this sure looks phenomenal, especially in the Rubicon trim with its monstrous 32” off-road tires. It really did look like it can climb any mountain and ford any stream. Not that there are any mountains or streams to conquer in Mississauga.

Well, it certainly is an improvement over older Jeeps. The ride quality is much better, although it still is a bit too bouncy for my taste. Handling is fine too. It has a really crisp turn in, so initial grip into a corner is good, but then all you get in under steer, which is to be expected.

Its drinking habit was as expected. The source for it's drinking is a 3.8-litre, V6 engine producing 202 hp and 237 lb.ft of torque. Despite my test vehicles six-speed manual gearbox (a four-speed automatic is also available) and trying to drive it conservatively, I still averaged 18-litres/100km, which does hurt the pocket book a lot.

The manual gearbox is not much fun to use either. It is very heavy (with a heavy clutch) and you cannot rush through the gears. Also with a heavy flywheel, making a speedy progress is never easy, plus it burns too much fuel, so you are best left driving as economically as possible, which also equates to being slow.

That is all right at times, because on the highway, it is quite comfy. The seats are decent, and the ergonomics are placed properly so everything is where it should be, like the stereo and the climate control.

The heater works very well too, which is very useful because this vehicle is not very well insulated. Thanks to its slim doors and a multi-purpose roof, which can be easily removed, keeping the winter breeze out is a challenge, so the strong heater comes in use.

As do the fog lights since the headlamps are bit on the weak side.

So the new Jeep Wrangler is still good looking, drives better and has a much-improved interior, so if a Wrangler had put you off before, maybe now you should look into one again.

The prices are especially good now. A base two-door model is yours for $19,995, while my very well equipped four-door Unlimited Rubicon was a still affordable at $29,895.

So the prices are attractive, and they'll need to be because any savings at buying one will soon disappear at the gas pumps. However, if you know what you're getting into and can accept the drawbacks, this is the best Wrangler yet.
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