Jeep Wrangler: Soft-top a breath of fresh air

By David Linklater

The Wrangler Unlimited Renegade, the world's only four-door convertible, looks great with its soft-top and its engine is far more refined than in earlier models. Photo / Supplied
The Wrangler Unlimited Renegade, the world's only four-door convertible, looks great with its soft-top and its engine is far more refined than in earlier models. Photo / Supplied

Okay, so I'll admit I made the call to Chrysler Jeep New Zealand under slightly false pretences.

I want to try the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited with the thoroughly modern new 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 engine and five-speed automatic gearbox, I said.

They should have seen through that one, as a Wrangler with a flash new powertrain is still the same archaic, uncomfortable and slightly homo-erotic thing it's always been.

What I really wanted to do was drive the four-door Wrangler with the roof removed before the sun disappeared for another year.

I've driven many Wranglers over the years, and they've always come with the massive square hard-top installed.

I had one on test only a few months ago, when the old girl got a new interior. I decided I'd spend a sunny Sunday taking the top off and enjoy an afternoon in the world's only four-door convertible.

It's no mean feat, as you need patience, tools, two people and the "canopy" fabric roof to attach in case it rains. I abandoned the mission after 20 minutes thanks to a paucity of the first two items, little help from the family and the knowledge that the soft-top was absent from my test vehicle.

This time I sought help from the importer. Cleverly disguising my request as a spur-of-the-moment thing, I got the team at Chrysler-Jeep to remove the hard-top for me and install the canopy. The task I could not achieve was completed by, ahem, two ladies in their afternoon tea break.

Never mind. Put the ego aside and I revelled in a weekend of brilliant weather and four-up motoring with an open-top Wrangler Unlimited.

You can see what they've done with the style of the deliberately boxy hard roof, but you have to admit that a topless Wrangler just looks right.

Love those roll bars and the I-mean-business profile.

There's a fair bit of wind buffeting on the open road, but nobody seems to mind because it's what you'd expect in a vehicle that looks so exposed. Should the need arise - and it did for us - the canopy can be attached and sealed (sort of, it's a pretty approximate fit) in a few minutes. Again, I love the look of the Wrangler with the soft-top.

And that new engine? It has improved the Wrangler driving experience out of sight, because the old 3.8-litre V6 and four-speed automatic combination was pathetic at anything above 50km/h, as well as being frighteningly thirsty.

The $56,990 Wrangler Unlimited Renegade has moved up from 146kW/315Nm in the old model to a mighty 209kW/347Nm in the new, not to mention advancing about half a century in refinement.

That, with a proper test period of open-air family motoring, has changed my perception of the Wrangler.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf04 at 27 Dec 2014 19:30:48 Processing Time: 397ms