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The Wrangler itself may still be recognisable with its all-American looks and unmatched off-road ability, but the buyers and their buying habits have changed almost immeasurably in that time.
Turbo-petrol - 2.0-litre, 270hp
Sport, Sahara, Rubicon
The new Jeep Wrangler arrives into a very different car market than its predecessors. The Wrangler itself may still be recognisable with its all-American looks and unmatched off-road ability, but the buyers and their buying habits have changed almost immeasurably in that time.
It's an indication of those fluctuating buying habits that not only is this petrol model expected to account for 60 per cent of all Wrangler sales in the UK, but that also that almost one in five of Wranglers leaving showrooms will go to business drivers. For a car that you might have expected to be preferred by retail customers, that's impressively high.
While this new Wrangler might look similar, delve beneath the skin and the mechanical underpinnings of the model have changed a lot more than you might think. Not so long ago virtually every car in the Jeep showroom was powered by a diesel engine, but now, petrols are being reintroduced throughout its line-up - most notably with this new 2.0-litre turbo-petrol Wrangler.
For the Wrangler's mix of practicality and serious off-roading ability there's little else like it in the market. With the Land Rover Defender now gone, there's just the Suzuki Jimny and Mercedes G-Class, neither of which are in the same class as the Jeep. For those needing that 4x4 ability, and perhaps wanting to avoid diesel power for tax reasons, a petrol-powered Wrangler could potentially be a viable answer for the first time in years, if not ever.
Having said that, nobody will buy a Wrangler expecting class-leading performance at the pumps, and that's especially true with this petrol. While Jeep has yet to confirm official figures for this 2.0-litre engine, it's unlikely to return much more than 28mpg average fuel economy and 230g/km emissions, meaning a hefty 37% BIK band rating. The same is true against the stopwatch, where we estimate a 0-60mph time of around 8.0 seconds and a 111mph top speed.
If those numbers are too scary for the health of your bank balance, then there's also a petrol-electric plug-in hybrid coming in 2020, the first Jeep model to get hybrid technology.
For the time being though, this 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine is merely the first step in that transitional process. While on paper this 2.0-litre might be more than a match for the larger 3.6-litre V6 available in other markets, it's hard not to have a few reservations when the starter button is ignited. The engine may not fire into life with a heartbeat-skipping whoosh of induction noise like the old V6, but it settles down into a quiet rhythm and quickly shows you a few surprises of its own.
As well as being quiet, the engine is well matched to the eight-speed automatic gearbox. Little vibration comes through into the cabin, the gear changes are smooth and it has a good turn of acceleration when needed. Especially at mid-range when you want a sharp exit out of a junction or for an overtaking move.
Refinement overall is surprisingly good too. Road noise is kept under control and ride quality isn't as bad as you might expect either. Perhaps the weakest part of the Wrangler's armoury though is its vague and indirect steering. Proximity breeds familiarity and you soon get used to it, but anyone coming from a normal car could be in for a shock.
Part of the reason for those handling issues is the Wrangler's incredible ability off-road. The ability to switch between two and four-wheel drive, and also into low range for serious off-roading is a rarity these days. Also unusual are the front and rear locking differentials for when things get especially difficult.
As mentioned earlier, with the Land Rover Defender absent, there's only the likes of the Suzuki Jimny (which is tiny) and the Mercedes G-Class (eye-wateringly expensive) that can compete with the Wrangler. Many British Wrangler buyers are likely to be interested in its looks rather driving quality but, nonetheless, there is simply nothing else like it in showrooms today. It can cope with conditions and terrains that you'd think twice about walking over let alone driving - an ability that has to be experienced to be believed.
For site inspectors or those regularly requiring business wheels to perform in challenging off-road conditions, this Wrangler does represent a unique opportunity. There's no doubt that Jeep's iconic model is an acquired taste and several of its closest crossover rivals will certainly be more comfortable to drive on a daily basis. But what those rivals can't offer is that 4x4 ability in a workhorse-like package that can pass for stand-out fashionable transport on its non-working days.
Whether you love it or hate it, Jeep has built a Wrangler for the 21st century and for some, including us, this unique package is a stronger proposition than ever before.
Jeep Wrangler 2.0
OTR Price: est. £38,000
P11D Price: tba
On sale: January/ February 2019
Residual value: tba
CO2 (BIK Band): est. 230g/km (37%)
Boot space: 897/2050 litres
Engine size/ power: Turbo-petrol - 1995cc, 270hp
styling, off-road ability
limited engine choice, steering, no plug-in hybrid (yet)