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[Behind the Wheel] King of off-roading, Wrangler, targets urban drivers, but will it work?

One challenge many automakers face with sport utility vehicles is how to maintain their off-road capabilities while still appealing to daily SUV users.

Jeep, an SUV brand under the Fiat Chrysler Automobile group, faced this challenge with its iconic Wrangler, which maintains its rough and tough off-roader image. Many drivers still believe the Wrangler suits hard-core off-roading enthusiasts driving on dusty, unpaved surfaces. 

But to break from its conventional image and expand its customer base, Jeep said it would appeal to daily SUV users in South Korea with its Wrangler Overland -- the most urban and least intimidating model, which was unveiled here last week and targets everyone from working moms to retirees. 

But will this really work?

During the two-hour ride from central Seoul to the countryside in Yangju, Gyeonggi Province, the Overland’s shortened wheelbase and high approach angle made it advantageous for driving off the asphalt. But it was less certain whether the riding comfort and safety features were at the level that urban drivers look for. 

At a glance, the four-door Overland’s muscular exterior is no different from that of its predecessors, with Jeep’s trademark seven-slot grill on the front and bright accent side mirrors. The hard spare tire cover at the rear and the additional side steps by all four doors were seen as part of Jeep’s efforts to improve convenience for drivers. 

Its steering wheel and accelerator pedal were responsive. In high-speed areas where the limit was over 140 kilometers per hour, the car quickly picked up speed with no engine or transmission-related hiccups. 

But the steering wheel felt a bit weighty, which may be disturbing for urban drivers who change lanes often -- especially for parking downtown in Seoul. 

Jeep Wrangler Overland (FCA Korea)
Jeep Wrangler Overland (FCA Korea)

The Overland features heated leather seats and safety features, including adaptive cruise control mode and a rear-collision warning system, which have become the norm for modern SUVs. 

The ride, although reasonably quiet and smooth, certainly offered a less comfortable rear-seat experience on tougher surfaces, although the carmaker said it had improved rear-seat comfort by redesigning the seat angle. Is it impossible for off-roaders to enhance riding comfort without sacrificing off-road capabilities? Maybe such trade-offs are inevitable.

Jeep Wrangler Overland (FCA Korea)
Jeep Wrangler Overland (FCA Korea)

The Overland runs on 272 horsepower with maximum torque of 40.9 kilogram-meters. Its 4-by-4 all-terrain system and eight-speed automatic make the Overland fit for its dual purposes as an off-roader and a daily car. 

The Wrangler Overland has been upgraded, but it still remains faithful to those who want authentic Jeep styling, putting it in a rather niche position in Korea.

The Overland costs 61.9 million won ($54,461), slightly more than its rival, the Land Rover Discovery Sport (59.4 million won). 

By Kim Da-sol (

The Korea Herald ratings

Design: 3 stars
Fuel economy: 3 stars
Safety: 4 stars
Price: 3 stars

Overall: 13/20