Ravines steep enough to stagger a mountain goat barely slow the stubborn, war-bred Jeep Wrangler.
For decades, the dirt-dobbing Wrangler has seized hills and slithered through hip-deep mud with a heavy metal, seven-tooth smirk.
Off-roading utterly defines it -- a jut-jawed, militaristic steel-box of a vehicle that looks almost unnatural when clean or parked in a garage.
The 2019 Wrangler – thoroughly redesigned last year – adds another significant skill to its set: It can finally step over potholes without bouncing, quivering and shaking like some amped-up disco dancer.
I know, I know. A refined Wrangler seems almost as strange as Ted Cruz with a beard.
However, that dash of civility might be the Wrangler’s most important addition, despite its stronger new frame, mild aerodynamics and stout turbocharged four-cylinder engine.
As you know, Wranglers have long excelled once the pavement runs out and the sky gets big, but living with one in a city could be a beating until now – sort of like commuting to work on a pogo-stick.
Though still instantly recognizable as a real Jeep, the silver Wrangler Rubicon I had recently featured a slightly softer hood with rounded edges, piercing round headlamps and a signature seven-slot grille, also smoothed a bit.
Moreover, the Wrangler’s formerly bolt-upright windshield now kicks back some, while the hood sports aggressive heat-vents on either side of a small power-dome.
I am happy to report, though, that the Wrangler’s sides and top remain as square as me at a Death Cab for Cutie concert, preserving its traditional macho persona.
In addition, spare, angular fenders covered 285/70 all-terrain tires wrapped around 17-inch wheels with black centers.
The new Wrangler even offered a tiny bit of Jeep flourish, flashing a small red likeness of an old Army Jeep embossed in the silver rims of its wheels.
Still, as good as the new Jeep looked, I initially had doubts, recalling previous Wranglers that bounced and bounded so badly on city streets that my teeth hurt after a 10-minute drive. In the first 15 minutes of driving the ’19 Wrangler, my teeth and I could feel the difference.
While still resolutely firm and a bit edgy, the Wrangler absorbed frost-heaves and potholes better than my Boss 302 Mustang.
The tallish, 4,500-pound Jeep also seemed less inclined to be tipsy at speed, avoiding most of the sway and clumsiness of previous models.
Likewise, the steering – though kind of truck-slow -- was precise and well weighted. Almost as impressive was the optional ($1,000) turbocharged four-banger, good for 270-horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque.
Though that is slightly less horsepower than the 285 ponies in the standard 3.6-liter V-6, the four generates 35 more pound-feet of hill-conquering torque and gets some assist from a 22-horsepower electric motor that doubles as the engine’s starter.
When bolted to the optional eight-speed automatic, the four-cylinder Rubicon 4X4 bolted to 60 mph in an impressive 6.5 seconds, according to Car and Driver, and is rated at 22 miles per gallon fuel economy in the city.
More important to me, it was the first Wrangler I can recall that was actually kind of fun to drive on the street – which helps when you’re trying to absorb the vehicle’s stunning $59,000 window-sticker.
Granted, my Wrangler Rubicon was loaded with off-road goodies, including bullet-proof Dana axles, skid plates, sway bars that can be disconnected, steel bumpers, rock rails and 4.10 axle gears.
But you want me to pay Corvette prices for a Jeep Wrangler? Really?
At least the upgraded tan-and-black interior in my Rubicon kind of eased the pain.
Although the interior still seemed kind of bare bones and upright as always, it sported lots of nice new touches, starting with a shallow black dashboard cast in decent plastic.
The mid-dash featured rounded dark-gray trim to soften some of its boxy angles, as well as an 8.4-inch display screen and simple knobs and buttons for the audio and climate systems.
Meanwhile, buttons beneath the display screen locked the Jeep’s differentials for maximum off-road traction, while a wonderfully smooth transmission-shifter added to the Rubicon’s odd charm.
Good-looking tan seats with smooth surfaces almost seemed out of place in the rough-and-ready Wrangler, though the rear seats had only acceptable leg- and headroom.
You might also want to keep in mind that the step into the Rubicon is a 17.5-inch stretch from the street to the floorboard, assisted some by grab-handles. (That’s close to a hurdle for me.)
Not too surprising, my Jeep had more than $17,000 in options, including the nicer interior ($1,495); infotainment system ($1,595); steel bumper group ($1,295); LED lighting ($995); eight-speed automatic ($2,000); and one-touch power top ($3,995).
Whew. If Jeeps are your passion, the new Wrangler is truly an immensely competent off-roader that you can easily live with when you’re stuck on concrete.
2019 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
- What I liked most: The dual-purpose abilities of the Wrangler – able to ford streams and scale boulders while delivering you to the opera.
- What I would change: I realize Jeep Wranglers are hugely popular, but $59,000 for a vehicle that barely has fenders?
- MSRP: Base price, $41,445; as equipped, $58,990.
- Fuel economy: Rated at 22 miles per gallon in the city, 24 on the highway and 22 combined with filler on the left.
- Official color: Billet Silver
- Odometer reading when tested: 7,133 miles.
- Weight: 4,469 pounds.
- Length-width-height: 188.4 inches long/73.8 inches wide/73.6 inches tall.
- Fuel-tank capacity: 21.5 gallons.
- Towing capacity: Up to 3,500 pounds.
- Spare tire: Full-size and mounted on the back.
- 2019 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon in a few words: A dazzlingly sturdy off-road tool and surprisingly likable companion in the city.
- Warranty: Three-year, 36,000-mile overall warranty and five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain protection.
- Final assembly location: Toledo, Ohio.
- Manufacturer’s website: www.jeep.com
- E-mail me at email@example.com
- Up next: 2019 Toyota RAV4