Jeep Wrangler Rubicon (2018)
The roof, the roof, the roof is on... oh it's leaking
When a confluence of events brings a car, the weather, and a perfect location together motoring harmony normally follows, and it so nearly did once again. I'm glad it didn't though, otherwise this review would be heavy on joy, excitement, and flattery without opening up the full 360-degree ownership prospect.
Jeep has created a beacon of goodwill towards themselves from owners that just love their product, much like Harley Davidson there are committed buyers out there that see ownership as more than transactional. Instead, it is a badge worn proudly and when it comes time to prove itself, the Jeep name will roar them to victory whether on a muddy off-road course or a battlefield. The gleaming light from this passion sucks in many and unlike Harley Davidson has been able to move generationally, finding new buyers, but it is still niche, much closer to a purchase made for joy than transport. Jeep doesn't try and hide this, although efforts have been made to make the cars liveable day to day for those not quite so dedicated to the brand and instead wanting a vehicle that offers more than a single dimension.
it is direct and agile enough for it to mostly mask a feeling of lumbering
First off in the Jeep was some rutted gravel roads to see whether the wrangler had stepped one foot heavier in the utilitarian offering as it straddles the line of agricultural ruggedness and on-road manners. It was a pass, not in the same league for comfort as SUVs that have little off-road testing before finding a showroom to shine in. Then again it wasn't as rigid and bare as a tractor. Jeep has walked the line with just enough effort in all areas and delivered a vehicle that feels as though it wants to break loose and take the straight path home through forests and fields whilst not complaining when forced to ride on the tarmac with everyone else. The feeling of rebellion runs deep through the bones of the chassis, and although the handling wouldn't make a case for itself against a BMW X5 or Range Rover Sport, it is direct and agile enough for it to mostly mask a feeling of lumbering. For most buyers, this won't matter, if you are buying one of these hoping it will be a vehicle to enjoy on the road as much as off then the bus for buyers-remorse will pick you up shortly.
Away from its impressive dynamics, there is enough energy in the motor to get moving on the road and although it does feel a little out of its element when tested back to back against moderate competition, you don't feel short changed from the V6.
Going back to the events that had me behind the wheel and the glowing impression the wrangler made, it was an hour in that things took a turn for the worse.
After running it through some forest paths, running it on the road, and jabbing the materials the review was nearly written in my head. It wasn't going to get top marks, but very few vehicles do. The compromises were also the charms of the Jeep and the equipment, aesthetics and dynamics were all smile-inducing. A short detour into some traffic brought the speed down to a crawl and forced me to stop. I couldn't quite understand why I felt as though I had been driving for the last hour with the windows down. There is a noticeable decibel change when you've driven for an hour with a window open and got used to it, only to then stop and realise. A quick look showed every window clamped shut. I turned back out of the town toward an open stretch and the low hum returned. It wasn't deafening and long-standing Jeep owners may not have registered it. It wasn't a deal-breaker, but it would get a knockdown on its score for having a detachable roof that wasn't as well-engineered as the rest of it. The wrangler had performed so well I was willing to sign off with a mere comment, a warning to those that may go and test one that if they notice a slight wind buffet, it was normal but should be better and something Jeep should think about. Then I considered that the roof may have been removed and refitted prior to my drive, perhaps someone had been a little careless and so I should let the mild annoyance ruin my enjoyment of the rubicon.
Then came the rain. Almost as if summoned to provide a lie detector test on a criminal that was otherwise about to walk free.
The light shower passed in twenty minutes, the whole time was spent stopped wondering if there was a good trail nearby that could be used for a grand picture opportunity. The moment came and passed, but what remained a small drip of water that had made its way in from the roof. At this point, I was sure the roof had been incorrectly fitted but had the benefit of the owner waiting for me when I had finished the test. "Yeah it's been back into the shop a few times to find the cause, so far no answer."
The roof had been inspected, removed, refitted, and checked without a fix several times before. The curious thing was that the Jeep was so impressive, fun, and intoxicating to own that this sin wasn't enough to ruin the ownership experience. Downpours or light showers resulted in a similar amount of water ingress and passengers hadn't found themselves with soggy socks and so an ongoing search for the culprit was carrying on, much like the bank robber stalking all over town but only stealing a few pennies, even the victim wasn't in a rush to solve the case.
The only other downside was the amount that you will have to compromise in overall comfort, not as much as older models, but it isn't a Mercedes G-Wagon. The Jeep makes no apologies for its looks, and neither should it but with the Ford Bronco soon to find its way to dealers, this horse may have some real competition in its niche paddock very soon.