WRANGLER, AMELIA ISLAND'S FAVORITE JEEP
Nationally and world-wide, Jeep’s Grand Cherokee is the iconic brand’s best-selling vehicle. Of course that makes sense since the tall wagons we call SUVs do the family chores and if the model comes from Jeep, chances are pretty good that it can get off the road without getting stuck. Or perhaps be able to face a tropical storm while transporting the family to safety.
But around Amelia Island and Nassau County, Jeep’s Wrangler appears to hold the popularity title. And why not? It’s nimble, rugged and bristles with go-anywhere military heritage. And it’s comfortable all buttoned up for a journey or stripped of its roof, windows and even doors, ready for adventure.
Eighty years ago, the original post-war Willys Jeep was a pretty basic and inexpensive off-road vehicle. Now Willys is a mid-range trim level in a Wrangler model lineup of 13 versions from a $32,045 two-door Sport to the $90,590 four-door Rubicon 392 with HEMI V8 power. Our test vehicle was a 4xe plug-in hybrid version of the Rubicon X, a Jeep that combines luxury attributes with robust off-road capability that carried a window sticker of $76,935.
Obviously, there are plenty of Wrangler levels to choose from and that happens from eight decades of Jeep customers buying a basic off-road conveyance and customizing it with dealer and aftermarket accessories. Today’s selections include two or four doors, a choice of four, six or eight-cylinder engines, standard or automatic transmissions and our plug-in hybrid version that’s the topic of this short review.
Since Jeep’s Wrangler is a “Multipurpose vehicle” that’s truly off-road capable, it’s quite upright and sturdy. And even with aluminum body panels, it’s not light, weighing in at 5,226-pounds for our version. Most of that extra girth comes from a rugged ladder frame and two-speed four-wheel-drive components, but 624-pounds is from the 17.3 kW lithium ion battery that allows 21-miles of electric only driving. When the electricity is used up, the turbocharged 2.0-liter engine adds a another 350-miles of range. And when you combine gas and electric power, the result is an impressive 375 HP and 470 lb-ft of torque, remarkably the same torque (pulling power) as the 392 V8 version while delivering 49 MPG-electric and 20 MPG gas-combined fuel economy. If you haven’t taken notes of all these numbers, don’t worry, there won’t be a test.
I generally like plug-in hybrid electric vehicles to have at least 50-miles of EV range to make the added cost worthwhile. But our Wrangler used little petrol during my week of driving and was quite capable of catching up with the Eight Flags Jeep Club sunset gathering at American Beach on Amelia Island. Club President Mike Jomant along with about 20 fellow Jeep enthusiasts were quite cordial and the club hosts numerous events on and off road.
Jomant brought his Rubicon 392 to the sand and it was in like-new condition. That shouldn’t be a surprise, except that he and the Jeep have earned three off-road badges so far. In my experience, off-roading was most often accomplished with an old CJ model that was accessorized for rugged use and would take a beating. But Jomant enjoys the comfortable ride to the trail and back. And he loves that HEMI rumble.