The more things change, the more they stay the same. This is certainly true for the updated Jeep Wrangler, which faces a new challenge from the all-new Ford Bronco.
With the Bronco following Jeep’s playbook of offering three- and five-door options with the flexibility of removable panels, such as doors, roof and windshield, Jeep has responded with a model that slips in at around Dh30,000 less for the base versions.
While the Ford offering hampers delivery, avid outdoor lifestyle customers are lured back by Jeep with the Wrangler getting a mild makeover to take on the new competition.
For 2022, the Jeep Wrangler has been fine-tuned with the long-wheelbase, five-door Sahara model taking on a more luxurious feel compared to previous versions. It does this by offering a new brown leather interior and an update to the entertainment and safety features.
While a plug-in hybrid Wrangler 4Xe is on the way, the Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 remains the main engine in the family, delivering 285 hp at 6,400 rpm and 353 Nm of torque at a surprising 4,800 rpm. Despite running on 35-inch tires strapped to 17-inch rims, Jeep says it’ll still crack 6.8 seconds to hit 100 kilometers per hour.
Both performance and economy of the aging V6 have been improved, mainly thanks to a new eight-speed automatic transmission, which is now standard equipment. This means that the possibility of a manual box for the enthusiasts unfortunately no longer exists.
Electric assisted steering has replaced the hydraulic unit and was immediately noticeable around town below The nationals test drive. It lacks a bit of feel compared to the older steering, but it helped the bigger wheels and compensated its assistance better as speeds rose.
While handling has never been a Wrangler forte, the new Sahara has been improved to the point where it is now comparable to its rivals. Still, after our previous test of the Bronco, the new Ford is an overall better put together package, even though the Wrangler is smoother than the previous generation on rough surfaces.
The Sahara is only available in the long-wheelbase body, which sits below the Rubicon. It does add a new feature to the Wrangler family, however, with a full-time, all-wheel-drive transfer case that gives it an automatic all-wheel drive mode, in addition to the Wrangler’s standard rear-wheel drive high- and low-range 4WD settings.
It’s mostly to help with traction on the road to provide better stability in everyday driving, because once you get off-road, not much beats the old-school low-range and high-range gearbox to get the job done.
It all points to the Sahara’s intention to be the most city-friendly of the Wrangler models, aimed at those who like to venture off-road only occasionally. Still, with 255mm of ground clearance combined with a 42-degree approach angle, a 36-degree departure angle and a break-over angle of 21 degrees, it still has all the important stats to prove that this is still a true go-anywhere buggy.
Its steel ladder frame chassis has been strengthened, while it has shed weight elsewhere through the use of lightweight aluminum for the doors, roof and tailgate over a magnesium frame.
Although the body is lighter, the interior has gained a few pounds in terms of more luxury and no shortage of leather throughout, blending 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 row of thick switches for the windows, climate control, air conditioning and other accessories that can be operated even if you’re wearing gloves if you’ve been running a winch or like the fresh, cold air without doors and roof when colder months arrive.
Safety features include four airbags, ABS, stability control and brake assist, while optional safety features consist of a blind spot monitor and rear cross-traffic detection.
The jury is still out on whether this upgrade is enough to meet the challenge of the new Bronco when it lands in volume, but regardless, it has breathed new life into a UAE favorite that continues to stand the test of time and continues to win over new owner.
Updated: July 1, 2022, 6:02 p.m