Wed | Sep 30, 2020

New Jeep Wrangler JL lives up to expectations

Published:Sunday | January 19, 2020 | 12:00 AMKareem LaTouche - Automotive Coordinator

Jeep has become synonymous with off roading and has been etched in the minds of many as a formidable force. First, there was the 1944 Willys Jeep, which really put the company on the map, as a vehicle that could handle any terrain. It was used in World War Two, and gained international acclaim as a work horse.

Now, the brand has unveiled its newest Wrangler, and I’m testing the JL version, which keeps the familiar silhouette, for example, the pronounced wheel arches, the radiator-like front grille, and the circular headlights. However, not everything remained the same as they have made internal modifications throughout for a more comfortable experience. When most persons think about a Jeep Wrangler, they think outdoors and adventures, and for that reason, it has remainedhighly functional, with removable door panels and roof.

This vehicle is categorised as a compact and mid-size SUV, but the truth is, you can’t categorise a Jeep Wrangler because it’s built for an explorer, and that’s it.

Choosing somewhere to go

It’s great when I hear about a vehicle’s ability to go off road, but in the back of my mind, I’m always asking, ‘Can this vehicle survive Jamaican conditions?’ I’ve been to some of the most remote places, where there is just a path, and it is amazing to see how persons use their vehicles to commute, of course, with modifications done by amateur mechanics.

With all this being said, I wanted to push the Wrangler to see what it could handle. So I got KIG’s blessings, then I reached out to my friend Nigel Wilmot, owner of Wilmotorsports, who modifies several Jeeps, and we found a path that was worthy of the Wrangler’s ability.

We decided to take the journey to Hagley Gap in the Blue Mountain region via Gordon Town. This is the path persons take when they are trying to access the highest point of the Blue Mountains. It starts with a treacherous journey via a motor vehicle, then you stop and park at Hagley Gap. After this, you do a four-hour hike from ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ to the top of the mountain. Luckily for us, we were only doing the driving part.

Experiencing the Vehicle

This vehicle gets all the little things right to ensure that the driver feels comfortable and in control, like the smoothness of how the main gear lever moves. Additionally, the seats are well padded, which is really appreciated when going over uneven surfaces. There is also the reverse camera, which has one of the best resolutions I have seen. It is complemented by sensors and trajectory a reverse line to ensure that the driver doesn’t hit an object.

While on our journey, there were many times that I was on a one-way path, and I had to reverse to give the oncoming vehicle passage. This is when this camera comes in most useful as I was literally driving on a precipice.

Keep in mind that the vehicle also has a very high ground clearance of 10 inches, which makes it great for going over objects. However, due to the high centre of gravity, it won’t be able to go around corners at fast speeds without some body roll. Truth be told, a vehicle like this is not measured by speed, however, it is tested by its off-road performance.

Halfway along the journey, while looking at the beautiful mountains, i decided to take off the roof panels to get a more immersive experience. It was a seamless effort that took about four minutes, and this allowed me to be close to nature. I kept the vehicle in two -heel drive for most of the journey, and the 295 lb-ft of torque proved to be quite powerful to carry my three adult passengers.

It is also equipped with a turbo, which comes on effortlessly and makes the vehicle faster than it needs to be. This is something that drivers are going to truly appreciate as it has the ability to overtake in a swift manner.

Back to the journey on the sinuous road. By the time we reached Mavis Bank, there were some deep puddles of water, which made the path look like an obstacle course. The leading link and trailing-arm suspension managed it with relative ease as it wasn’t too hard or soft. I was surprised that at the end of my journey, my back wasn’t hurting me.

Staying on the inside

The steering has mounted controls at the front and back, and for this reason, it took a while for my muscle memory to adapt. At the front are the controls for the display screen, in the dial cluster, which can be used to view vehicle data. On the other side of the steering are the cruise-control settings. Now on the rear are the multimedia controls like volume and next track.

The interior is a blend between the past and the future, with homage to Willys Jeep based on the vertical dashboard and the cylindrical gear knob. Inside also looks rugged and amphibious, with many of the buttons a bit higher than in the usual vehicle.

In addition, many the knobs are made of hard rubber, and the material throughout can take hard scratches without being destroyed. Even the window controls are high on the centre console and not the door panels due to the fact that the doors can be removed.

Around the back, the seats are equally comfortable, and there are dedicated a/c vents, which was something I was not expecting. Below the roof is a cage bar, which is for safety if the vehicle should turn over when the roof is removed.

With this generation, Jeep has given drivers very few reasons not to like this vehicle. Everything is done with the driver in mind. The brand has also done justice to the purist by keeping many of the things that made the Wrangler a success.

 

Vehicle was provided courtesy of Kingston Industrial Garage Ltd, 923-6479, sales@kigjamaica.com.