Rugged and full of character, the Jeep Wrangler Freedom packs a punch when it comes to both looks and off-road performance. It came as no surprise that it also packs a punch when it comes to the comfort level of your butt when you’re bouncing about over roads in both urban and country environments.
That being said my few days with the special edition Wrangler were packed full of fun. To really put the Freedom to the test, I spent a day off-road with the Sydney Jeep Club.
We drove out of the showroom in our brand new Jeep, to Rydal near Lithgow in the Blue Mountains, New South Wales. The club was hosting its inaugural Grease Monkey Jeepers event, open to anyone with any off-road vehicle – the perfect place to test the limits of our shiny new car.
Geographically the drive from Sydney to Rydal is spectacular, but driving along the highway and through the occasional roadwork zone only amplified the Wrangler’s rough ride. You can feel every bump, though the extra effort put into seat comfort offers a bit of grace. There’s enough cushioning to soften the blunt and bouncy experience. Cabin noise is minimal which surprised me greatly, both road and engine noises are significantly restrained, almost stifled.
Keeping the Wrangler in a straight line on the bitumen requires constant supervision. It seems to drift side-to-side mimicking surface undulations. Combined with the bouncy ride, it feels like you’re always correcting its direction, swinging the wheel back and forth (like Snoop Dogg in his Drop It Like It’s Hot music video).
Based on the Sport, the Freedom proudly pays homage to Jeep’s military history, dating back to World War II. The exterior features Oscar Mike badging, military slang for On The Move or On A Mission.
The weathered army-inspired ‘Freedom Star’ decals on the bonnet and the rear driver’s side give it a bit of a youthful, feminine look, particularly in the white on ‘Dune’ colour combination that we were driving. The black Freedom comes with dark grey decals that may have a broader appeal.
The leather seats sporting an embroidered star carry on the theme. Other highlights include a grey grille and body coloured wheel arch flares. It also draws its inspiration from the Rubicon, sporting its rock rails and a black fuel flap.
It also mimics the Rubicon’s ground clearance at 223mm rather than the sports slightly higher 230mm. But with a 35-degree approach angle, 22-degree breakover angle and 28-degree departure angle it’s geared for off-road adventuring.
A 209kW/347Nm 3.6-litre Penstar V6 petrol engine powers the Freedom. We had the six-speed manual – just to make heading off-road a bit more of a challenge. Most of the vehicles brought along by Sydney Jeep Club members had auto transmissions, as well as extensive modifications. I didn’t keep an exact tally, but I managed to stall it well over 10 times throughout the day. The Freedom is also available in a 5-speed auto.
The modification-free Freedom certainly held its own over the rough terrain. Jeep’s Command-Trac 4WD system and hill descent control are second to none. Up steep, rocky inclines, straddling deep ruts heading down mountains, and through river crossings, our Freedom caused us little concern.
The hill descent control was of particular interest for some club members, it’s refined and smooth, and the Freedom seemed to almost drive itself down the hill at a slow and steady pace.
Take a look under the chassis and you’ll see the heavy-duty gear, including old school solid front and rear axles. You also get all-speed traction control, roll mitigation, brake lock differentials and tyre pressure monitoring system that displays in the dash.
The 17 inch aluminium wheels are painted ‘sparkle silver’, and are overshadowed by the big ass 245/75R17 Goodyear tyres. With a wheel or two off the ground, heading up a hill so steep all I could see was sky, the club members rallied around shouting directions to guide me over the obstacles to arrive safely at the top, car intact.
When it comes to safety, the Freedom has multi-stage driver and front passenger airbags. The problem here is that your rear passengers are left to fend for themselves in the event of a crash. The leg protection for the driver and front passenger is also minimal.
The cabin space is square and sparse, but there’s a reason for it. Get the Wrangler Freedom out in its natural habitat and push the limits a bit, and you’ll be bouncing around the cabin. It’s quite a core workout too; safe to say my stomach muscles were aching by the time we wrapped up the day.
The Freedom has silver and chrome touches throughout the cabin, giving it a bit of style, but I’d still describe the interior as no-frills. Soft-touch materials are used only where absolutely necessary, on the front passenger handle over the glove box, and over the roll bars, as well as a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Another thing I really like is that you don’t need to be too gentle with it. This is best illustrated by the simple act of closing a door. A gentle push will get you nowhere; it’ll take a good hard shove.
So did our unmodified Jeep woo the club members? President Stuart Grey was chuffed with the Freedom’s performance – and my driving skills – he was impressed it was able to keep up with them on the trails.
Being Jeep enthusiasts, I was keen to hear what other club members had to say:
“It’s a lot flasher than the older series that I drive, seats are a lot comfier too”.
“I think with the leather seats – they’re so much easier to clean. With cloth, if you really take the Jeep out 4 wheel driving, you’re always going to get it muddy. So the leather is just easier to wipe down”.
“Once you get them off the road, they’re one of the most capable vehicles. You don’t have to do a lot to them”.
“They’re a fun car. I’ve had Jeep’s now for ten years, I like going out on the sand, on the rocks, going through the snow. It’s fabulous”.
“Still looks tough”.
The Freedom certainly attracted plenty of attention throughout the day, the leather seats in particular were of great interest. We were careful not to leave the Jeep alone after getting wind of a fiendish plot to swap out the seats!
It comes with a hard-top and a soft-top, and the doors can be removed for that truly unique Jeep experience. We had the two-door version, but if you prefer to make things easier for your passengers to clamber in and out, the 4-door Unlimited is an option.
Jeep is in a league of its own when it comes to off-road capability and the aptly named Freedom delivers on its promise of fun and adventure. It’s purpose built for weekends spent out in the sun and off the beaten track.