The weather in Hampshire was terrible. Rain, wind, and misery poured from the skies; it seemed like punishment for not being at work on a Thursday morning. But I was feeling pretty good about it all, because in my hands I had the keys to a boxy and muscular off-roader, the Jeep Wrangler Overland. It looked waterproof enough, and the country lanes in the vicinity were ripe for a quick drive. So I did the gentlemanly thing, and hit the gas…
Despite having the grizzled and familiar face of a Jeep, the Overland has enough sophisticated design cues to hint that someone at Fiat Chrysler is making efforts to make this car appealing. The aggressive bonnet slats and exposed hinges give it an aura of quiet competence; the doors shut with a satisfyingly engineered clunk. It’s got knowing G-Wagon-esque panel gaps, and the little Jeep icon pops up where your eyes come to rest – the top of the gear selector, the corner of the window, even inside the alloy wheel. It’s all very cute.
As far as interiors go, while my test car had the luxury Overland spec on it, we are still talking about a functional 4×4. Not something you jump into expecting to rhapsodise about the leathers and finish. But this Jeep’s cabin is an adventurer’s space, replete with grab handles everywhere and sensibly laid-out, large buttons and switches for ease of use. It’s the kind of cabin you’d be happy to escape the rain in. If you’re feeling a bit Mad Max, you can also remove the roof panels and fold down the windscreen before terrorising the local Waitrose.
On the road, the Jeep is a wafty hulk of a car, with my review vehicle chugging along merrily thanks to a 197 bhp turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine. The 332lb ft of torque available at low revs (and the choice of 2- and 4-wheel / hi- and low- drives) is enough to make the Jeep amusing enough to drive down country lanes, as well as for when you go off road. There’s a fair amount of body roll when you swing the Wrangler towards the next mud bath, and the steering ratio is comically low for a sports car driver – but that’s what you get with a car unashamedly designed to handle trips through rough terrain, without the pretence that it is something else.
I had a good time in the Wrangler, so much so that I got lost at one point. This was an excuse to take some dubious shortcuts which in a lower-set car would have been wince-inducing and potentially expensive. Once I’d figured out how to work the fairly basic sat-nav, the Overland romped home without issue. I’d happily take this Jeep on a longer trip, in equally bad weather, somewhere remote. I’d feel it was on my side – and I don’t think you could ask for much more.