The more things change, the more they stay the same. This is certainly true of the updated Jeep Wrangler, which is facing a new challenge from the all-new Ford Bronco.
With the Bronco following Jeep’s playbook of offering three and five-door alternatives with the flexibility of removeable panels, such as doors, roof and windscreen, Jeep has responded with a model that slides in at about Dh30,000 less for the base versions.
While supply from Ford is hampering delivery, eager customers of the outdoor-lifestyle type are being enticed back by Jeep with Wrangler receiving a mild makeover to take on the new competitor.
For 2022, the Jeep Wrangler has been tweaked with the long wheelbase, five-door Sahara model getting a more luxurious feel over previous versions. This it does by offering a new tan leather interior and an update to its entertainment and safety features.
While a plug-in hybrid Wrangler 4Xe is on the way, for now the Pentastar 3.6-litre V6 remains the staple engine in the family, delivering 285hp at 6,400rpm and 353Nm of torque at a surprisingly revvy 4,800rpm. Despite riding on 35-inch tyres strapped to 17-inch rims, Jeep says it will still crack 6.8 seconds to reach 100 kilometres per hour.
Performance and economy of the ageing V6 have both been improved due mostly to a new eight-speed automatic transmission, which is now standard equipment. This means the option of a manual box for the enthusiasts, sadly, no longer exists.
Electrically assisted steering has replaced the hydraulic unit, and was instantly noticeable around town during The National’s test drive. It lacks a bit of feel compared with the older steering, but it helped the bigger wheels and compensated its assistance better as the speeds climbed.
While handling has never been a Wrangler forte, the new Sahara has improved to the point where it’s now comparable to its rivals. Still, after our earlier test of the Bronco, the new Ford is an overall better composed package, despite the Wrangler being smoother than the previous generation over rough surfaces.
The Sahara is available only in the long-wheelbase body, sitting below the Rubicon. However, it brings a new feature to the Wrangler family, with a full-time, all-wheel-drive transfer case giving it an auto all-wheel-drive mode, in addition to the Wrangler’s regular rear-wheel drive with high and low-range 4WD settings.
It’s mostly to help with on-road traction to provide better stability in daily driving because as soon as you get off-road, not much beats the old-style low and high-range transfer case to get the job done.
It all points to the Sahara’s intention to be the most town-friendly of the Wrangler models, aimed at those who like to venture off-road only occasionally. Yet, with 255mm of ground clearance combined with 42 degrees of approach angle, a 36-degree departure angle and a breakover angle of 21 degrees, it still has all the vital stats to prove this is still a proper, go-anywhere buggy.
Its steel ladder frame chassis has been strengthened, while it has lost weight elsewhere through the use of lightweight aluminium for the doors, roof and tailgate skin over a magnesium frame.
Even though the body is lighter, the interior has gained a few pounds by way of more luxuries and no shortage of leather throughout, mixing a nice blend of classic and modern Jeep character.
Inside, there’s a technology package that includes a larger, seven-inch touchscreen, with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay running through the Stellantis Uconnect platform. The touchscreen also powers a nine-speaker stereo system along with ambient interior lighting, cruise control and in-dash navigation.
Below the screen is a bank of chunky switches for the windows, climate control air-conditioning and other ancillaries that can be operated even while wearing gloves if you’ve been operating a winch or like the brisk, cool air sans doors and roof when the cooler months come along.
Safety features include four airbags, ABS, stability control and brake assist, while optional safety items consist of a blind spot monitor and rear cross path detection.
The jury is still out as to whether this upgrade is enough to see off the challenge of the new Bronco when it lands in volume but, regardless, it has breathed new life into a UAE favourite that continues to stand the test of time and keeps winning over new owners.