Back in 1993, when Chrysler"s design team started work on the new Jeep Wrangler - code name TJ - they immediately realised they had a problem. For while owners welcomed improvements to the original off-roader, they didn"t want change for change"s sake.
"Pretty soon we realised we were simply caretakers of one of the most recognisable shapes in the world," said Trevor Creed, Jeep/Truck Design Director. "We knew that whatever we planned for the Wrangler had to be approved by hundreds of thousands of owners... it was one heck of a responsibility."
The result is a car that is unmistakably a Jeep, yet which has been significantly altered and improved. Every body panel bar the doors and tailgate is new; the suspension, which now features coil springs all round, is new; the interior is all new; even the headlamps are new... though the circular shape marks a return to the way things were.
Indeed, some idea of the depth of feeling among Jeep owners is revealed by a slogan on a T-shirt worn by many at Jeep gatherings last year. The legend revealed: "Real Jeeps don"t have square headlamps."
There are three models in the Jeep Wrangler range - 4.0 Sport, 4.0 Sahara and 4.0 Sahara Auto - and the package of changes and improvements include:
- Subtle changes to the look, with a return to "classic" round headlamps
- Improved on-road comfort by the adoption of coil spring suspension
- Even better off-road performance
- An all-new interior, with improved passenger safety
- More interior space, especially in the rear
- Redesigned soft-top with better sealing and folding capability
- Redesigned lighter removable hard-top
- Improvements to the heating and ventilation systems