Hmmm. What to do on a Sunday afternoon. Perhaps I should shoot a rap video…nope¦maybe I could go hunting¦no, for me that consists of picking the best cut out of the supermarket freezer. Well, there’s always climbing a mountain, but there’s not many to climb in Auckland, and they’re all paved anyway. How about wearing some army fatigues and getting all M*A*S*H? These are just a few of the plethora of options with the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara.
Steve the Wizard, our Land Rover-driving Content Editor quipped that if I should get it stuck in a bog he’d come and pull me out. But I think not. You see, the Jeep is a geologist’s dream. Not a sandal-wearing, bearded geologist, but a hip, bling-laden geologist who listens to gangsta rap through the enormous subwoofer in the boot, and drags his rock-breakin’ homies along for the ride. This Jeep is tough enough for the badlands, and rugged enough for the really bad lands. It has 2WD and high- and low-range 4WD, and with eminently capable suspension, ground clearance of 238mm, disc brakes all round, and approach and departure angles exceeding 30 degrees, it’s built for exploring the dirt and rocks.
Conveniently for our geologist, there’s a built-in sample collector under the front bumper in the form of the sump guard. Then when you look close you realise that the bumper and all those flared guards are plastic — this is good for weight-saving, but if you’re in the middle of the forest on a muddy path tighter than a Scotsman’s wallet they might not take the really hard knocks.
But I’m not giving it the hard knocks in my review because I’m guessing that the worst the majority of Wrangler Unlimited drivers will throw at it would be a metalled driveway or a boat ramp, and that really it’s about image and practicality. Towing and load capacity are big drawcards for the Jeep. 2300kg is a significant amount to drag along and the total luggage area is big enough to fit several limestone boulders.
So, what is the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara like to drive? Well, if the roads are like wide, gently cresting dunes that you can ponderously monster your way down, without having to negotiate tight bends at speed, it’s a huge amount of fun. Not that the Jeep isn’t capable of taking the corners with its 255-width tyres, but like many rugged off-roaders, the steering rack has a large number of turns lock-to-lock — 3.1 — so when the going gets windy, the arms get frenetic.
Still, while gathering the armfuls of turning action, you do sit in a kind of upright comfort, casting an eye over the surrounding cars. If you want to see more, immediately above you are two panels that can be removed to make the Jeep a convertible at the front. The whole rear canopy also comes off — you’ll need a sizeable space to store this optional extra, though. And, just like the good ol’ days, you can take to the doors with an allen key and remove them as well. There’s a soft top too for more convenience, but it looks much cooler with the hard top.
As well as the integrated padded rollcage, the Jeep has plenty of airbags, ABS, EBA, Brake Assist, Electronic Roll Mitigation, on-/off-road brake lock differentials and traction control. The traction control doesn’t get much use on the road. With 130kW to play with at 3800rpm and 400Nm (automatic version), the 2.8 common-rail diesel with variable geometry turbocharger makes a cruisy dash to 100kph of a fraction under 12 seconds, while the rock and roll comes courtesy of a 368W amplifier and seven Infinity speakers. Our test Jeep was fitted with the optional six-CD/MP3 compatible, DVD-compatible stereo with auxiliary input jack for portable music devices.
This is a design-by-ruler machine — straight lines are de rigueur. It’s not sculpted in the wind tunnel, or moulded with soft, feminine curves — it’s a 4×4 that looks like a block of granite with the corners knocked off. This is why the Jeep is cool. It has a total disregard for air resistance, political correctness and subtlety. It’s for rock stars. I like it, but can I have one in camo?
Price: $55,990 as standard, $60,880 as tested with dual top, bigger alloys, deep tint and 6-disc changer
What we like:
- Very cool
- Lot of car for the money
What we don’t like:
- Plastic bits all over
- Driver’s footwell needs more room, and brake pedal is too high
- Performance doesn’t set the world on fire: SRT version would be nice
Words Darren Cottingham, photos Quinn Hamill