You have to give Jeep credit for always staying true to its roots. This American manufacturer has never deviated from its focus on producing capable 4x4s throughout its 80 years, and while in modern times you may be able to buy front-wheel drive Jeep crossovers, there has always been a “track-rated” option available on every model.
But the biggest of them all is the Wrangler – the monstrously capable 4×4 that tops the brand’s range and remains emblematic of everything Jeep is about. As the company celebrates its 80th birthday this year, the Wrangler has received a new special edition. But is it worth considering?
Eighty years is a pretty big birthday so you might have expected Jeep to really push the boat out. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, as instead we have a Wrangler painted in new green, along with new alloy wheels and slightly different stitching on the interior.
Other changes have also been made for 2021 across the Wrangler lineup, which include a slightly more efficient engine and additional standard safety kit, including adaptive cruise control, high beam assist and autonomous emergency braking. There’s also a new “off-road cruise control” feature.
While Jeep previously offered a turbocharged diesel engine, the only Wrangler option now available is a turbocharged 2.0-liter gasoline engine. In combination with an eight-speed automatic transmission, the Wrangler also gets selectable four-wheel drive as standard, depending on the conditions and the surface you are on.
With a powerful 268bhp, the Wrangler can hit 0-60mph in 7.4 seconds, although Jeep doesn’t give out a top speed – probably because it doesn’t want you to try…
While Jeep promises efficiency savings compared to before, the Wrangler is still an impressively thirsty option – with just 25.2mpg, with sky-high CO2 emissions of 252g/km. However, you do get a large 70-litre fuel tank, which gives around 400 miles from a fill-up.
The Wrangler’s standout point is its off-road ability, and while this 80th Anniversary Edition isn’t even the most extreme version, nothing could disturb it during our time with the car. Even on standard road tyres, challenging green Moorland courses proved no match, while you can lock the differential to help if the going really gets rough.
Jeep has also improved the Wrangler’s on-road performance, and it’s nowhere near as rough as you might expect. Strong and smooth, the 2.0-litre petrol engine is a real asset – offering far more performance than it probably needs. If you do a lot of driving, though, there are much better options available, as the Wrangler’s vague steering and excessive road noise can get quite tiresome.
You’ll either love or hate the way the Wrangler looks, but we’re firmly in the “love” category. This anniversary model really harkens back to the original Willys Jeep with its cool Sarge Green paint, while the specific 18-inch alloy wheels contrast particularly well with it and add to the utilitarian look. The smart metallic gray headlight and fog light are also nice touches that help set it apart from all the other Wranglers out there.
Elsewhere, this Jeep’s deliciously retro styling remains, with the huge spare wheel on the tailgate and exposed door and bonnet hinges being particularly neat touches. There really isn’t anything quite like the Wrangler to look at today, and that adds to its appeal.
Jeep has really stepped up the Wrangler’s interior in recent years, and it offers a great combination of quality and rugged ruggedness. There’s a really solid and mechanical feel to everything, from the clunk when the doors close to the flick between gear ratios to the chunky buttons.
The smart black leather seats with contrast stitching and special commemorative logo look smart, while there are small Willys Jeep badges dotted around the cabin to help make this Wrangler a little more special. Our test car also came with a brilliant electric canvas roof, which – while probably much more useful on a summer’s day – was a cool touch, even in freezing December conditions.
The Wrangler range starts from £49,450, but as the 80th Anniversary Edition sits at the top of the range, prices start from £52,450. You’ll need to add £2,000 to that price if you want the more spacious four-door version, which is well worth choosing over the cramped, if funkier two-door version.
So the Wrangler certainly isn’t cheap, but in its defense you do get a long list of included equipment. Highlights include an Alpine sound system, LED lights, heated leather seats and an easy-to-use 8.4-inch touchscreen. The list of safety kit is also surprising, with adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and high beam assist helping it feel more ‘up to date’ than you might expect when you first look at it.
Judged solely as an SUV, it is easy to criticize the Wrangler. It is not so good on tarmac, is expensive to buy and very thirsty to run. However, the Wrangler is such a fun, entertaining and unique product that all these mild woes fade into insignificance when you look at it.
This 80th Anniversary Edition may not offer anything other Wranglers don’t, but if you’re a Jeep purist, or just love its retro look, you likely won’t be disappointed.