When the first Jeep was built for the troops serving in the WWII, no-one would have been able to foresee how commercially successful the vehicle would become; how its design would change and evolve over the decades; and how it would soon become the go-to vehicle for young men and women who liked to give the impression that they spend their weekends enjoying off-road adventures.
Jeep-style vehicles are made by a number of auto companies around the world, but it is the US motor manufacturer Jeep which makes some of the most iconic and instantly recognizable versions of this fun and sporty vehicle. In fact, Jeep is the modern incarnation of the company which made that very first jeep back in the 1940s, Willys-Overland, who made vehicles for the army and then created the first Civilian Jeep, known as the CJ, in 1945.
Modern jeeps have lots of great features but there are also some downsides to owning one, whether you actually use it for off-roading or just drive it on the morning commute. The fact that they are designed for rough and ready off-road tracks means that Jeep vehicles are more robust than regular cars and often last a lot longer than many other similarly priced cars. However, remember to take into account those disadvantages before you make the decision to buy yourself a Jeep.
Whether you are going to take your Jeep off-road or stick to the highways, safety should always be a primary concern when you are looking into buying a new vehicle. However, jeeps don’t always have the best safety record.
The 2018 Jeep Wrangler, for example, the flagship vehicle of Jeep’s fleet, received a terrible one-star safety rating under the European NCAP system. The vehicle only scored 50% on safety for adult occupants, and 49% with regards to the safety of other road users – so if you do end up buying a Jeep Wrangler, make sure you keep your eyes peeled for pedestrians!
If you are looking for a vehicle to take off-road, then the Jeep Wrangler has to be top of your shopping list when you start searching the local dealerships. However, there are plenty of motorists who buy jeeps even though they have no intention of ever leaving the highway.
Is a Jeep really a good idea if you are only going to be using it on regular roads, or is it a waste of money? While the vehicles made by Jeep aren’t prohibitively expensive, they do tend to cost more than your standard compact car, without really offering any advantages to ordinary motorists.
Jeep vehicles, especially the classic Jeep Wrangler model, are not exactly known for their extensive storage space. While this might not be a major concern if you are only planning on using your jeep to drive to and from work – unless you buy a lot of groceries or take a lot of luggage on vacation – it is certainly a bigger problem for adventurous off-roaders.
After all, off-roaders like to take their camping gear with them, and stay off the beaten track for a few days at a time; something which is nigh on impossible with the tiny amount of trunk space you get on a Jeep.
Convertible Jeeps make for a great vehicle if you live somewhere hot and sunny – and if you want to make them even breezier, a lot of Jeep owners have even been known to remove the doors, to make the vehicle look even more summery and sporty.
Taking the doors off may make your Jeep Wrangler look pretty cool, but it doesn’t exactly do much to improve the vehicle’s safety standards; no doors also means no side mirrors, reducing the ability of the driver to see what is going on around them, as well as potentially getting you in trouble with the law.
Off-roading adventures are more about quality than quantity, so the fact that jeeps have such poor fuel economy figures is probably not a major concern for motorists who have bought their jeep for the purpose nature intended. On the downside, driving a jeep for any kind of distance is going to cost you a fortune in gas, and isn’t exactly great for the environment either.
The most recent Jeep Wrangler model, for example, gets just 17 miles per gallon in the city and 23 miles per gallon on the highway, figures which are comparable to much larger SUVs like the Cadillac Escalade.
With all that fuel getting burned off, you would expect that a jeep would at least give drivers a little power when they put their foot on the accelerator. Sadly, as owners of Jeep Wranglers throughout the years have discovered, they don’t have a lot of oomph when it comes to acceleration, with the 2018 Jeep Wrangler taking 7 seconds to accelerate from 0 to 60mph.
As well as being an annoyance on the open road, this can also be problematic if you are trying to take your jeep off-roading, and need to power your way up some serious uphill slopes!
It may seem like a minor consideration when you are spending thousands of dollars on a new vehicle, but it is worth remembering that many jeeps are big vehicles, which can make it difficult for smaller people to get into the driver or passenger seat without having to clamber up on their hands and knees!
Of course, you can add side-steps as an after-market modification, or carry around a small footstool, but if you are a vertically challenged motorist, then you might just be better off looking for a more compact option when you go browsing at the local car dealership.
While some of the vehicles made by Jeep are more towards the luxury SUV end of the market, such as the Cherokee, Compass and Renegade, the good old-fashioned Jeep Wrangler and their new Gladiator pickup truck is more about substance than style. This means that they aren’t always the best vehicles for a long ride, for a variety of reasons, one of which is that the interior cabin can often be very noisy as a result of the rattling bodywork and suspension.
And this problem with a noisy interior will only get worse if your Jeep Wrangler is a convertible, and you’re driving at speed with the top down.
The rattling bodywork and dodgy suspension don’t just make the Jeep Wrangler a noisy car to drive; it also makes for an uncomfortable ride, especially if you are planning on taking your jeep on a long drive. Expect to have to make plenty of pit stops to stretch your legs if you are going to be driving for more than a couple of hours at a time.
The suspension is designed for off-roading and is well-designed for clambering over rocks and going up and down country tracks, not for smooth highways covered in tarmac. Let your jeep stretch its legs on an off-road trip, and you will get the chance to see what it can do.
Taking your side doors off a Jeep Wrangler, thereby losing your side mirrors, is bad enough, but when you combine that with the poor rear visibility that most jeeps have as standard, it isn’t difficult to see why these vehicles get such a poor safety rating.
Jeeps are notoriously difficult for tall motorists; anyone over 6-foot-tall will find that they are sitting at just the wrong angle to be able to use the rear-view mirror, while the frame and spare tire which many jeeps have at the rear can actually block your view, even if you turn round to try and look over your shoulder.
When it comes to driving a jeep on the open road, it isn’t just the slow acceleration, noisy cabin and bumpy ride that can make it an unpopular choice with motorists – although those reasons should be more than enough to put off most people from splashing the cash on a vehicle which is clearly unsuited to the morning commute.
However, there is yet another flaw with the Jeep Wrangler which potential buyers need to take into consideration before they hand over their hard-earned cash, and that is the vehicle’s interminably slow steering, which can make responding to road conditions more difficult.
The jeep may be perfectly designed for off-roading, with its tough exterior, solid wheels and bull bars for pushing obstacles out of the way, but no-one could ever claim that these vehicles look pretty. And it isn’t just about how they look; the boxy design of vehicles like the Jeep Wrangler and the Jeep Gladiator doesn’t exactly do much to improve performance.
All those straight edges and sharp angles aren’t very aerodynamic; not a problem when you’re driving slowly on an off-road track, but more than a little infuriating when you’re trying to get up to speed on the highway.
Selling cars these days is all about appealing to the family market; that’s where the big money is, no matter how many bachelors are willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars on sports cars. The very earliest jeeps, produced commercially from 1945 onwards, only had enough seats and space for four people – the driver and three passengers.
While the modern Jeep Wrangler can technically seat a third person in the middle of the rear seat, they would have to be very thin, as space is still very limited inside the back of the jeep.
There are two options when it comes to buying a convertible jeep, hard top or soft top, both of which have their advantages and disadvantages. Hard-tops are better if you might be driving in wet weather, but it does take quite a lot of work to take it down, pack it away, and get it back up again.
The soft-top roof is a lot easier to maneuver and can be put down and back up again very quickly, but it does have one major drawback – the lack of insulation. Try driving around in the winter with a soft-top convertible roof, and you’ll soon feel the chilly weather getting in through the canvas material.
So far, most of these issues could be applied to a number of other SUVs and pickups, but there is one quirk that belongs to the Jeep Wrangler alone. It may only be a small problem, but it is one that has been known to drive Jeep owners to distraction! Normally, when a motorist switches off their windscreen wipers, they only stop moving when they have returned to the bottom of the window.
However, for some strange reason, Jeep Wrangler windscreen wipers stop just where they happen to be when the driver flicks the off switch, even if that’s half-way up the windscreen.
Sources - Jeep, Extreme Terrain, Rock Chuck Summit, Green Car Reports, Car Complaints, Consumer Reports