The Jeep Wrangler – either you love it or you hate it, there’s no middle ground. To be clear, I have long had both feet firmly planted on the love side of the fence.
This is the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited X. Another day, another special edition… And to be honest if you’ve driven one Wrangler, you’ve pretty much driven them all.
However if you are a fan, it’s still exciting every time a new one comes out. Freedom, Blackhawk, Dragon – all have their own unique edge.
I had only a few days with the rough and tumble Wrangler Unlimited X, and I was determined to make the most of it. My daughter and I headed off to explore Jenolan Caves, a couple of hours out of Sydney.
Based on the high-spec Overland, our test car arrived in four-door guise (Unlimited), though it’s also available as a two-door.
The X edition gets decals on the bonnet, 18-inch black and silver wheels, a Power Dome bonnet with air vents, body-coloured hardtop and fender flares, and a Mopar fuel cap.
It looks good, and my daughter was suitably impressed when I rolled into the driveway on that Friday afternoon.
As many people would understand, mini-breaks still take a bite out of the budget. Being conscious of the costs involved, we were only heading away for one night.
That means just an overnight bag each was lobbed into the huge 884-litre boot (1980 litres with the rear seats down), closing the side-hinged door I realised the bags were likely to roll around throughout the entire journey. Maybe we should have gone camping.
Inside the X edition theme continues, ‘McKinley’ leather accents on the seats with X logos, white accents littered about the cabin and all-weather slush mats. So easy to clean!
According to the specifications, there is a CD player… somewhere. It’s embarrassing to admit that it took us quite a while to find it.
I scratched up a few CDs trying to jam them into various spaces (that I now know to just be gaps and joins between the media system and the dash). We eventually spot a button to the top left of the screen and voila! The touchscreen pops out to reveal the CD player cleverly hidden behind, with music sorted we could now hit the road.
The trek out of Sydney on any weekend is never fun. There is only one road out of town, and it seems half the population had the same burning desire to escape the urban jungle.
Finally, we were free from the city snarl and bumping our way along the highway.
The Wrangler X is only available with a 209kW/347Nm 3.6-litre petrol V6 with a five-speed automatic transmission. Combined fuel consumption is apparently 11.3L per 100km, I planned to test the claimed figure on this trip.
I have previously covered the Jeep Wrangler driving experience so won’t bore you with the details again except to say that I stand by my claim of feeling like Snoop Dogg in his Drop it like it’s Hot film clip.
The Jeep is loud, it bounces along and its a hell of a lot of fun. It was a flashback to high school when I desperately wanted to own one so I could head off-road and go exploring.
We weren’t going too far off-road on this trip though. I chose a slightly longer route that threw in a few unsealed, windy tracks that led us through Oberon on the way.
It’s actually well kitted out and has everything I find non-negotiable — a 6.5-inch touchscreen, satellite navigation and reverse-view camera.
Along the way we stopped in at a small town — coincidentally called Lawson — to buy some lunch and a few supplies. Essentials like chocolate milk, Brie and pickled onions all somehow made it into the basket.
Eventually, when our bums were just starting to feel a little numb (maybe because it’s winter and it’s freezing, or possibly because ride comfort can be likened to feeling like the axles are welded to the chassis), we arrived at our destination. The Wrangler X has heated seats, but stupidly I forgot to take advantage of this!
There aren’t really options when it comes to accommodation at Jenolan Caves, so we’re staying at Jenolan Caves House. The rooms are basic but the scenery is spectacular.
Entry to the village is via a gorgeous rock archway and tunnel that hints at the majesty of the caves that lie beneath the surrounding hills.
We parked the car to unload our gear. There were quite a lot of tourists around and our bright yellow Jeep attracted a lot of attention. We headed into the main accommodation house to find out where to get our cave tour tickets and book in for dinner.
Old furniture freaks me out, so the antique chairs covered in what looks like curtain material, the creaky staircases and the historical feel of the facility certainly made for an interesting stay.
There were a number of different caves open for viewing, and they all sounded enticing in their own way. In the end we decided on the glitter encrusted Temple of Baal that’s steeped in mythology.
The cave itself was impressive and I understand the lack of lighting was for ambient reasons, but the bats and the darkness were a little intimidating.
Even though we managed to let our imaginations run away a bit, the experience was enjoyable.
That said, the next day I was feeling a lot more at home back behind the wheel of the Jeep enjoying the drive through the countryside headed for the city.
The Wrangler X edition lived up to its promise of adventure and even though it has its faults, it really is a fun car that invokes and encourages its own unique lifestyle.
Now for the tally… 69.85 litres over 506km for a fuel consumption figure of 13.8L per 100km. Surprisingly that’s just 1.5 litres over the claimed figure.
All up our trip cost $454.12.
Temple of Baal Tour: $65 (one adult + one child)
The challenge now is to do something just as fun for less coin!
Photography by Mitchell Oke and Tegan Lawson.