Army Reservist Ian Williams, who has over 25 years’ experience in the forces, drove a brand new Jeep Wrangler Overland donated by Pentagon Jeep.
This is his review:
Since day one of the (almost 4,500 mile) expedition, when setting out from the UK and onward through Europe to its Northern-most tip at Nordkapp (North Cape), the Wrangler equipped itself exceptionally well.
The three other Jeeps on the trek were of varying ages, one also being an earlier model Wrangler. The difference with all three Jeeps however, was the variety of mods, including lifted-upgraded suspensions, bigger, wider wheels, tyres and so on.
The Jeep was loaded to the max from the outset, with tyres set to the prescribed psi for the journey. Despite its fully loaded state, the 2.8L CRD powerhouse had absolutely no problem in producing a turn of speed when required. A blip of the throttle and it would do the business, and sometimes, surprisingly so. The power was always there, on tap. Absolutely no problem on the flat whatsoever, and sometimes it was easy to forget we had such a pay-load in the back.
As we ventured further North into colder climes and eventually snow, this would be the real test of the new Jeep. Despite the vehicle being a standard 'straight off the line' car, we knew that the technology that the Jeep had under its chassis and indeed from its power-train to its wheels, would no doubt compensate for many of things that the other Jeeps on the journey had in terms of stability and handling (wider wheels and bigger foot-prints).
When clear tarmacked roads gave way to snow and ice, it held true. Due to the varying frozen states of many of the roads as we headed further North through the Scandinavian countries, caution was the overriding factor, but not unduly so. When 4wd mode was selected and despite its narrower tyres (when compared to its counterparts), the Wrangler always seemed to hold stable, and it always felt 'planted', even on some of the more treacherous roads (and in particular, when driving at night on barely visible 'glass-like' surfaces when temperatures had plummeted). With a lighter touch on the throttle and ease of braking, it never once threatened to spin us out.
Obvious care had to be taken on descending twists and turns, and whilst relayed messages from the lead vehicle would indicate the road state, tight bends and overall driving status for those following, there were only a couple of minor moments when slip and control where in question, and it was then that we had to remember that we were carrying a full pay-load into some of the descending chicanes through which we travelled.
When we ventured into thicker drifts and Hi and Lo gearing was selected, the Wrangler coped admirably, in fact astonishingly so next to our expedition companions in their well-worn vehicles. In fact, they themselves had all experienced some slippage and spin-out's en-route. So in some cases, it proves that bigger-wider block tyres don't always provide the best grip and handling.
The snow-fall in some areas was extremely powdery, and this didn't help, where compacted snow would have made for much easier passage. But again, the Wrangler coped without too many problems with the changes in the varying road surfaces and conditions. The other vehicles decided on lowering tyre pressures, for better grip and enlarged foot-print, whilst we kept ours constant all the way through the trip. We also noticed that when heading southward away from our objective, some of the roads were ‘lightly grooved’ which helped keeping us on the straight and narrow, and this was where our concentric tyre grooves and tread types benefitted most, probably more so than the block treads of the other vehicle tyres.
Whilst being mindful of the need for extreme care, the vehicle did make for a feeling of confident handling it has to be said, knowing that unless some sudden manoeuvre was required, then we would remain stable, inline and intact.
It was only after being camped up overnight on deep snow that the Jeep was really tested, in terms of extracting itself. However, with some manoeuvring and a little help, we drove off the snow laden track without too much problem and without the aid of a winch.
The additional fitment of the Webasto heater initiated a trouble-free start, especially when stopping overnight in Sweden and waking to temperatures in the region of -32 Degree Celsius! This allowed us the benefit of simply letting the heater to do its job of un-freezing the vehicles power-house and components, giving us an instant warm start, whilst two of our teammates Jeeps had to warm up sumps and engine-blocks in the traditional manner by lighting a stove underneath. Not for us, thank-you!
In terms of fuel usage and economy, when driven within the Eco band at regular speeds (where roads allowed), the Wrangler was surprisingly good, probably better than anticipated. For every fuel stop where our counterparts would fill from the half tank mark or maybe a little less, we found that we were generally filling up from, on average, three-quarters to full. And despite the mileage, the addition of only half a litre of engine oil was required throughout, pretty good by anyone's standards.
Internal comfort was not lost or wasted on us either. When travelling in sub-zero temperatures the heater and air conditioning unit did its job admirably too, along with the luxury of heated seats (an absolute must after a frozen night). And, as an interesting aside, whilst travelling with the heater vent setting on windscreen, we found that enough heat was produced to warm our food ration pouches to a reasonable eating temperature too.....another unique use of the Jeep heating system! And, the addition of the heated seats was an absolute and most welcome bonus when requiring a quick warm up after having been outside of the vehicle.
Overall then, the Jeep Wrangler proved to be a fantastic drive, no doubt capable of much more than even we put it though, although this extreme weather expedition was an ideal testing ground for this brand-new vehicle. The auto-box, combined with ride comfort, and positive handling, made the whole 17-day trek an extremely enjoyable and indeed, unforgettable experience.
And lastly, would I buy a Jeep Wrangler? Absolutely, no question...YES!!!
Ian Williams, Arctic Hero and Help For Heroes Fundraiser