Hero of war. That unmistakable seven-slot grille and round twin-headlamp configuration is as iconic as vehicle design gets. Even someone who knows nothing about cars could probably identify the latest-generation 2022 Wrangler as a Jeep. It’s an all-American icon whose heritage extends right back to World War II, and while that’s also the cause of some fairly serious deficiencies, it’s quite a legacy.

The two-door 2022 Jeep Wrangler (we review its four-door sibling separately as the Wrangler Unlimited) is a go-anywhere vehicle whose monopoly of deserts and forests has recently been challenged by the return of the Ford Bronco. Like its reborn rival, the Ohio-built Wrangler makes no pretense of being sophisticated. When did you last see a sedan or SUV whose windscreen could drop down for better views of the road ahead?

It'll tackle the rough stuff. As you’d expect from a vehicle with military lineage, the Wrangler scampers and bounces across terrain that would defeat most other off-roaders. Its archaic six-speed manual transmission or vastly superior eight-speed automatic box can be mated to one of two engines; a venerable 285-horsepower V6 gas engine, or a more sophisticated two-liter turbo unit which is better off-road and around town.

Urban performance notwithstanding, this car comes into its own where sedans and SUVs fear to tread. Offering approach angles of nearly 45 degrees and frankly astounding levels of grip, every Wrangler is equipped with multiple skid plates, a variety of tow hooks, an engine oil cooler and Dana axles.

Not a car for technophiles. We live in an age of smartphone mirroring and seamless connectivity, but the Wrangler dates from a time when mobiles were only found over a baby’s cot. The questionably-named Sport is a throwback to a simpler age, with its five-inch touchscreen display and manual adjustment of pretty much everything. As the highest of five trim levels, Rubicon models offer air-con and leather alongside a navigation-equipped 8.4-inch touchscreen. Unfortunately, its price is nudging $45,000, while even the aircon-less Sport will set you back $31,320.

Safety is a major concern. Despite being around forever, the Wrangler has never been fully crash-tested, and the limited federal testing data which is available paints a worrying picture. Even the flagship Rubicon places advanced brake assistance and blind-spot monitoring on the options list. At least features like hill start assist and traction control are standard, though base models miss out on daytime running lights and park assistance.

Comfort isn’t on the options list. If you’ve ever seen footage of wartime soldiers bouncing around in a Willys Jeep, you’ll have a rough idea what town driving in a Wrangler feels like. Its eight-foot chassis and high stance make the two-door model extremely bouncy, while the steering contains a startling amount of slack.

It’s hard to think of a car on sale in America today which is less refined on-road, and anyone buying a Wrangler as a suburban-style statement will pay a high price. A combination of wind, road, and tire noise assaults your ears from all sides of that boxy body, and the inclusion of hose-down materials reflects practicality taking precedence over comfort.

As a go-anywhere workhorse, it’s easier to justify the cabin’s layout – up-front, at least. The low dash and boxy windows provide outstanding visibility, and if you’ve only got to transport one passenger, cabin space is fine. The rear is best avoided, with narrow openings and limited headroom, but there are 27 cu ft of storage space behind the back seats.

Final thoughts. Like the Ford Bronco, the Wrangler is aimed at a niche audience. It makes no apologies for its bare-bones approach, offering excellent off-road prowess and an unburstable interior clad in wipe-clean materials. It has iconic looks and some seriously tough mechanical components, while the lack of creature comforts at least ensures there’s less to break as you scamper up a rocky track.

For anyone whose weekends don’t involve wet suits and hiking boots, the Wrangler is unrefined to the point of being crude. The engines are thirsty and noisy, its ride is frankly abysmal, the steering is vague with lots of wheel play, and you’ll look in vain for SUV-style technologies. This is an automotive throwback in both the best and worst senses.

Check prices for the 2022 Jeep Wrangler »