Sometimes you just need to pack up and get away from it all. Our guest reviewer – Christian Barbeitos from our video team – did exactly that a few years ago when he moved to Australia, and by his own admission he’s still not seen enough of this wide brown land.
The Spaniard, as we affectionately call him, asked nicely to get his dream SUV for a long-distance road trip to Moreton Island. He’s an interesting dude, so the fact he chose a 2016 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited – or as he calls it, the e-ffourrr-e-dooorrrr-e-Jeep – came as no real surprise.
We asked him some questions about his trip, starting with the obvious one: why a Jeep?
“The Wrangler has been my dream car since I was 15 years old,” Christian said. “Yes I know that it sounds a bit odd but what can I say, I like odd 4WD cars.”
And why the four-door?
“I got to drive the short-wheelbase version a few months ago. With the trip to Moreton Island with my friends I thought it was the perfect opportunity to test the long-wheelbase version and make my decision on which one I think is best for me,” he said. “The short-wheelbase is too unstable and very impractical. The reduced space inside and the lack of practicality due to the soft-top roof integration inside are key aspects that put me off it. It is an amazing off-roader – without doubt – but around town where it will spend more of its time, it isn’t suitable.”
“Those two options are great 4WD SUVs and very capable off-road, but in this case, it all comes down to looks,” he said. “I am fascinated by the aggressive and distinctive style of the Wrangler, the rugged and persistent body shape since 1941 and its well known off-road capabilities.”
With a road trip from Sydney to Moreton Island, some 1000km up the east coast, the V6 petrol Jeep Wrangler certainly isn’t the fuel saver’s choice. And he admitted there were some questions over the Jeep’s usability around town before he set off.
“It was bouncy and clumsy as expected but again, that is a quality that I love about the Wrangler,” he said. We told you he was interesting…
“Yes the ride was slightly wobbly and soft but it made me feel like I was on an off-road path all the time, it was fun,” he said, but admitted that roundabouts could be a bit of an experience.
As for parking – it was painful.
“The lack of rearward visibility and a rear-view camera made parking and three-point turns hard. In my opinion, Jeep made a huge mistake by omitting a rear-view camera or at least parking sensors as standard,” he said, before going on to state that was the “most disappointing aspect of the car overall”.
And on the highway?
“Jeep says that the combined fuel consumption is 11.3 litres per 100 kilometres, which I was able to achieve after five hours of highway driving with cruise control. On the other hand, around town it was slightly different. It fluctuated between 14 and 15L/100km. Knowing that around town is where is going to spend most of its time, it was more than I was expecting.”
Surely an SUV designed for off-road rather than highway cruising was a bit bouncy on the highway, though?
“It was surprisingly good,” Christian insisted. “The difference between the short- and long-wheelbase is huge. The Unlimited long-wheelbase model is more stable, balanced and comfortable. Yes, the Wrangler is loud and it has more body-roll than other SUVs but that’s fun. It’s a car with character,” he said.
“Also, the cruise control worked really well.”
Obviously with a lot of distance to cover the sound system would see a work-out. We can’t vouch for Christian’s music taste, but he vouched for the media system.
“Pairing my mobile phone was easy and the audio streaming worked perfectly without glitches. The satellite navigation system looked like an aftermarket one, but I didn’t mind. At the end of the day, it took me where I wanted to go and I didn’t get lost.
Spending about 12 hours in the cabin on the way there (and several hours in the car on the island and then the same lengthy return drive), Christian got a good feel for the Wrangler’s interior.
“I always thought that the old tubular steering wheel was a bit odd and rather “aftermarket” looking, but Jeep did a good job with the new version. The layout of the vents alongside of the infotainment system looks great and the electric window switches fit perfectly.
“Overall, the square and light look of the interior is amazing but the little things that I like the most are the ‘Easter Eggs’. Jeep hides integrated little details around the cabin that are unique to the brand, like a sticker of a little Wrangler climbing a hill on the side of the windshield or the grille logo in various part of the cabin,” he said.
It wasn’t all peachy, though, with foot room being a bit of a pain after a long time behind the steering wheel.
“The driver’s footwell was the most annoying part of the interior. Even though I had the automatic variant, the space between the left foot and the interior wall was very limited,” he said.
“The seats were very comfortable and supportive, visibility through the windscreen was great, and I loved the responsiveness of the engine – overtaking was a very easy task.”
With Moreton Island being something of a proverbial Mecca for off-road enthusiasts due to its sandy, 4×4-friendly terrain, Christian said the Jeep offered everything he’d expected of it on the beach.
“It was very capable on sand,” he said. “The steering was smooth and communicative, and driving in 4H (high-range 4WD) meant progress was effortless.
Christian said the Jeep had no trouble with traction – he let the tyres down before hitting the sand, of course – and that the suspension offered good travel over rougher rock sections, too. As well as that, he insisted he didn’t get bogged.
“With 209kW of power, 347Nm of torque and all-terrain tyres – do I need to say more?”
After nearly 2300km and a week of being behind the wheel (almost all the time), would he buy one?
“Without hesitation,” he said. “In fact, I already opened a savings account for it. I can’t wait,” he said. “I know I need a larger vehicle to transport my surfing and/or rock-climbing gear so an SUV is preferable.
“I also know that there are other better SUVs on the market, but if I can get the space of an SUV that I need and the ride characteristics that I like, the question would be ‘why wouldn’t I buy the Jeep?’,” he said.
“I haven’t driven the diesel version, which I would love to do one day, but so far the petrol is not bad at all – in particular how responsive it is.”
Click the Photos tab above for (a lot) more images by Christian Barbeitos.