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From war zones to wadis in the latest Jeep Wrangler

The lovably rugged Jeep Wrangler is a motoring icon. Long-time fan Craig Hawes was eager to test the latest model

  • The technology is none too shabby either, with voice recognition controls to select the entertainment options,Image Credit: Supplied picture
  • The Wrangler’s interior is surprisingly plush for a rugged SUV. Image Credit: Supplied picture
  • Bird’s eye view: the spacious interior. Image Credit: Supplied picture

The first Jeep was made way back in 1941. The same year Bob Dylan was born, Japanese kamikaze pilots rained down on Pearl Harbour and Captain America first appeared in a comic. Like the computer keyboard or the *** , it's a distinctive design icon that has repelled any major changes in size or shape since then - not unlike those other instantly recognizable and much-loved motoring perennials, the Volkswagen Beetle and the MINI.

Perhaps because of a penchant for Vietnam war movies, I've long admired its timeless appeal and idiosyncratic look and have toyed for years with the idea of buying a Wrangler myself, preferably in military green with a tan roof.

I've even gone into car showrooms, cheque-book in hand, and then chickened out at the last minute. Each time it hasn't felt quite right, or I end up recalling the warnings of friends telling me that they're high maintenance, ravenous gas guzzlers, and noisier than an orchestra of chainsaws. Oh, and that they're an awful Gulf expat cliché - probably the most off-putting thing of all.

Still, when I was offered one to test drive I leapt at the chance. Here, at last, was an opportunity to find out whether the Wrangler was for me. I wasn't banking on getting a four-door model (I've always liked the look of the more compact 2-door better), but I wasn't going to let that spoil the experience.

Clambering into the driving seat for the first time was slightly disorientating. The imposing hunk of a bonnet lies in front of you, while the dinner plate-sized wing mirrors stick out like Dumbo's ears. The second gear stick is more prominently placed than any other 4x4 I've been in, and the window controls are in the centre of the control panel rather than on the inside of the door.

It's bulk is a little intimidating when you're used to driving smaller vehicles and it took me a couple of days to find any level of comfort behind the wheel. Once I'd settled in though, I began to see what the fuss is about. While it boasts many features that will grab buyers attention - a 3.6l V6 engine, five-speed automatic transmission, up-to-date infotainment technology and Trac-Loc limited slip feature for extra grip in low traction terrain - it is its signature features that most appeal. Such as its reassuring boxiness, famous seven-slot grill, classic round headlamps, exposed hinges and removable tops (make sure you have somewhere to store it).

The technology is none too shabby either, with voice recognition controls to select the entertainment options, Blue tooth streaming audio, and a cleverly concealed CD player located behind the control panel.

But there's no getting around the fact that the Wrangler never feels entirely at home on the smooth roads of the UAE. It copes well enough in rush-hour traffic and on the serpentine bends of the interchanges but unless you plan to do regular off-roading or live in a cave high in the Hajjar Mountains, you're never going to get the best out of it.

So can I ever see myself actually buying one? Not while I live in a high-rise apartment in the middle of the city. But when I retire to a farm in the hills or a remote desert ranch, who knows, maybe I will finally sign that cheque.

Quick Specs

  • Engine: 3.8L
  • Horsepower: 285 bhp
  • Transmission: Five-speed automatic
  • Drive type: Four-wheel drive
  • Wheels: 34-inches
  • Cost: Dhs 134,900