Wrangler tooled-up for urban warfare
TALK about a monster makeover?
Yes, it's back to basics for Jeep who have 'manned up' and finally shed the Mork and Mindy/camp hairdresser image of the beloved Wrangler.
Thankfully, the US giant (now owned by Fiat) got a massive injection of testosterone and has returned to its roots -- the very ones which won the Yanks WWII.
And boot camp has done no harm to this iconic beast -- giving it some long-overdue respect.
Now what you see before you is a proper off-roader which you can be taken apart panel-by-panel when your not careering down the side of a cliff or driving across a mine field.
Yes, on your day off (when you and your Navy Seal buddies are not saving the world) you can strip the old girl down and head for the beach -- California style.
With the pull of a couple of levers the roof panels click off one by one leaving only the heavy duty roll cage visible and even though it was bitterly cold we wanted to go skinny dipping ... in Dollymount.
And you ain't gonna get bogged down in soft sand or sneered at.
Not in this baby -- a genuine all-American, apple pie, stars 'n' stripes, kick-your-ass 4X4.
Like its siblings Cherokee and Compass, the Wrangler has been given a new European look.
In simple terms that means they've kept all the good bits - namely the iconic looks and off-road capabilities and coupled them with improved interiors, engines and above all, handling.
Inside it's wall-to-wall luxury with heated leather seats; soft touch plastics at every fingertip, chunky chrome grab handles and leather, multi-function steering wheel.
It's loaded with lots of techno gadgetry including UConnect Bluetooth, iPod/iPhone control with music streaming, climate control and Hill Holder.
The engineers have been out with the silicone gun too as the cabin is now so well insulated that you can actually listen to the radio or have a conversation with roaring like a drill sergeant.
But under the vast bonnet is where the real improvements have been made.
Power comes from the same 2.8 litre VM Motori diesel 4-pot which has been tweaked to an inch of its life.
Economy has been increased by 20pc while emissions have been reduced significantly.
This means that you now have a 4X4 capable of taking on Everest while returning 40mpg and annual road tax of €630.
The 200bhp workhorse is lively enough around town, but don't be fooled by the numbers, it won't have the same poke as luxury rivals with a 0-100kph of 10.6 seconds and a top end of 172.
The gear change is slow and almost reminds me of the double clutching system on old articulated trucks, but other than that it is a comfortable enough drive.
But what's lost in performance she more than makes up for in character.
That character spans back over 70 years with the original Willys Overland design and to remind you the passenger grab handle carries the stamp 'since 1941' across it.
You'd need to be Special Forces fit too just to climb in without using the step and the same applies exiting as one adopts the parachute position before jumping.
Stealth bomber accuracy is needed to park this big bus as you have to factor in the almost foot deep bumper at the front which don't come with sensors.
But its real secret weapon is price. Even with the 2pc VAT hike, the Wrangler starts at €36,795.