Some war veterans call it Dubya Dubya 2 and it is famous for many other things than being a war. It gave us the Lancaster bomber, the Spitfire, jet propulsion, stories for films for decades to come and, of course, the Jeep. Famed for being basic and therefore almost unbreakable, its reputation as an offroad capable vehicle is legendary. Nowadays, however, with few venturing into anything barely deeper than a roadside puddle, how does a brand keep interest? Limited editions are the answer. A Wheel Thing was lobbed the black and bronzed Wrangler Dragon Limited Edition and was left pondering a question.
The Wrangler Dragon comes painted in gloss black, with bronze highlights inside and out, plus a sizeable dragon decal draped across the left hand (drivers side in the US and similar markets) flank and bonnet. The spare wheel cover at the stern is also dragonified; it’s certainly not a subtle mix, especially with the renowned front end design, seven bar grille and all, also copping the bronzer. It’s a matter of personal taste as to whether it works (read: is it good looking or not) as it does beg the questions: where (location) and whom (demographic). In the US there’d be a sizeable Asian population that has, as part of their cultural base, dragons and gold. Here in Australia, a comparative percentage, but in the numbers to make it worthwhile?
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Nestled between the wide front wheel base and (invisible from the driver’s seat) fenders is Chrysler’s well worn Pentastar, alloy-blocked 3.6L V6, with 209kW and 347 torques (6350/4300 revs respectively). When the go pedal is punched in 2WD mode, there’s some get up and go to be had to around 80kmh where further acceleration dies off. Transmission is a five speed auto in the Dragon, which normally would be a cause for a Spock like raised eyebrow given the ample torque, however, in fifth the Wrangler feels sometimes as if it’s run out of oomph. It’s an odd sensation which belies the velocity it is doing. Ratio changes are barely noticeable, being slick and silk smooth, without the opportunity for human intervention though, missing out on a sports shift mode. At the time of writing, with purely city/suburban based driving, the tank needle has just about reached half way, with close to 320 kilometres under the 18 inch diameter alloys. The American website quotes up to 472 miles but perhaps that’s with the optional diesel engine as the Australian site (http://www.jeep.com.au/features-a-specs/capability/jeep-wrangler-unlimited-powertrain) quotes 11.2L/100km with the six speed manual.
The interior is virtually all black, a real pain when it comes to the underground car parks in major shopping villages, with the window switches centrally mounted on the dash rather than on the driver’s door or centre console. Even with the headlights on there’s barely a sliver of low level light to guide you to where they are. High quality leather meets fabric on the lower seat sides, with the upper part of the seats laser etched with a dragon motif, as is the door grab handle, colour coded in bronze. The seating comfort is high, with plenty of support from the padding and for the driver it’s just at the right height (with a fifty millimetre adjustment available) as well. The dash display…..well, again, it’s a matter of personal taste, with bronze dial surrounds, a dot matrix display screen in the lower left although the dials themselves are clear and legible. The navitainment screen is poorly laid out, looking overly populated and busy. Above the driver, two latch panels lift off reasonably simply while the rest of the roof (including the vertical panel behind the second doors) is also removable but would be a two person job to do so. Most of the interior plastics look and feel ok, however it’s a budget indicator and wiper stalk fitted, plus the engineering design to actually engage the headlights/parkers/daytime running lights is not well thought out at all, with an overly complicated pull and twist setup. The same goes for the right hand mounted wiper stalk, where simplicity should be the go, it isn’t. Having said that, the seven speaker sound system is well balanced, with a sub-woofer box integrated into the rear panelling and virtually indistinguisable in the mix. The exterior is a solid, bluff, upright look, with plenty of glass area, a rear tailgate that swings from left to right and a roll bar that would be pushed up once the rear roof section is removed, however the view from the driver’s seat, as mentioned, looking to where the fenders finish, is unclear.
On the road the ride quality is…..average. For starters, there’s around two inches of freeplay in the steering before the rack feels as if its engaged, not helped by a turning circle a battleship would be embarrassed by, coupled with a serious sideways rear end swing over speedbumps. The 4WD spec tyres absorb some of the bumps but the leftovers get transmitted through the suspension, leaving the chassis to sponge its way along the road. The tyres fitted provided little cornering grip during Sydney’s rain, leaving me with a feeling of apprehension in certain cornering situations. Dynamically, coming from a person that is of the driver involvement persuasion, it’s one of the worst cars A Wheel Thing has had on the road. Off road it’s a somewhat different story. Taken to a well tested 4WD zoned track, complete with a mix of gravel, mud, puddles, rock outcrops and sand, the Wrangler didn’t do too badly. Thrown into some of the deeper puddles (testing the Wrangler’s wading ability and its 223mm ground clearance) in two wheel drive there was an immediate reduction in progression from the bow wave before forward motion resumed, albeit at a slower pace. In 4WD mode (engaged via putting the transmission in neutral then selecting high or low range) there was a noticeable change. Over the bigger humps and rock formations, some twenty degree slopes (the Wrangler has a high approach angle of 35 degrees and departure of 28 degrees) the Wrangler made light work of these, hamstrung somewhat, I suspect, by the Bridgestone Dueler tyres that were fitted with their more soft-roader tread pattern.
I’m left wondering about the Jeep Wrangler Dragon Limited Edition; who is it aimed at? Why was it allowed to have such basic feel to some of the plastics? Why does it feel so compromised on the road? For something costing fifty odd thousand dollars, I have to question the value. For info on the Wrangler range and the rest of the offerings from jeep, head to www.jeep.com.au