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Jeep Wrangler vs. Land Rover Defender

1. Introduction

Jeep Wrangler and Land Rover Defender are two four-wheel drive off-road light utility vehicles of the same category. Jeep Wrangler is produced by American automaker Chrysler, under the marque Jeep which has now become a subsidiary of Fiat. The Wrangler and Land Rover Defender have been the dominant utility vehicles in the market for the past several decades due to their simple design and robustness. Land Rover Defender is a British four-wheel-drive off-road utility vehicle developed from the original Land Rover Series launched in 1948. In October 2013, Land Rover announced that production would end in December 2015, after 67 years of production. And now a replacement in the form of the new generation Defender will be launched in 2019. So this comparison of the two will be carried under three subheadings with the new generation Defender in mind. The subheadings will be Engine and Powertrain, Comfort and Convenience, and Off-Road Capabilities. [1][2][3][4][5]

2. Performance and Off-Roading Capabilities

Jeep has more than 2 overdrive ratios, and there are various transfer cases. The Rubicon edition has more transfer cases than the other editions. This means that the driver has broad control of the torque distribution, allowing for safe and efficient acceleration in all terrains. These are very good points, but I should note that an ordinary person with no automotive knowledge will not understand the advantage of multiple overdrive ratios and transfer cases. This information is so valuable to the customer, but it's hard to explain it. Coming back to the gear, transmission, and 4x4 system, there were videos comparing the Jeep and Land Rover transmission, and the Jeep outperformed the Defender by having more torque to the wheels and better acceleration, basically because the Jeep has a simpler automatic transmission. The Land Rover has an intelligent system which can change from a fully automatic mode up to full manual control. In automatic mode, the system will detect the terrain and provide the right torque distribution, and it can change gear automatically without power interruption. This system uses a lot of sensors and electronic control modules to monitor the vehicle status and various external conditions to determine the appropriate gear. In manual mode, the driver can select the desired torque distribution and shift gears using a simple control. This system is more intelligent than the Jeep; therefore, the Land Rover has better acceleration control, but this comparison is only on the out-performance from putting into gear up to torque distribution and acceleration to the wheels.

Continuing about acceleration, power, and torque, we come to the gear and 4x4 system. As we know, different terrains require different torque distribution, and this would be achieved by changing power distribution in each wheel. More power would be transferred to the wheel with higher torque, and less power would be transferred to the wheel with lower torque. This is a simple explanation of torque distribution. The best way to control which wheel gets power is by providing high or low gear. High gear would give high speed and low torque to all the wheels, which is suitable for flat terrain such as tarmac road. Low gear will give low speed and high torque to all wheels, and this gear is suitable for very bad terrain such as mud or a very rocky uphill path. Usually, vehicles have a simple 4x4 system just to engage the power to all the wheels, which is not efficient and sometimes dangerous in very bad terrain because it can cause wheel spin. An alternative to the 4x4 mode is the differential lock, which provides equal power to all the wheels to prevent wheel spin. All this is explained simply using automotive engineering knowledge, so I am sure the information is accurate. If there are any mistakes, please correct me.

Jeep Wrangler provides a better off-road experience. Torque and engine power always excite off-road enthusiasts. Jeep is slightly better in this department with 285 hp, 260 lb-ft from a 3.6L V6 compared to the Rover's 182 hp and 240 lb-ft from a 2.0L turbocharged I4 currently available. Both vehicles have different models and all have different power outputs, so it's hard to make a direct comparison. It's quite clear that the Jeep V6 is stronger than the Rover's inline four. When torque and engine power are combined with the right gear and 4x4 system, Jeep showed better acceleration compared to the Defender in all terrains, including the steep hill shown in the video. This would be important to the person who plans to include an overland trip in their off-road adventure with travel to remote places on rough roads. For overtaking or recovery when the vehicle gets stuck in bad terrain, having enough power is a big advantage.

2.1. Engine Power and Torque

The engine power and torque of a vehicle are the main determinants of the car's ability to perform in all circumstances. The greater the engine power and torque, the greater the power the engine can provide. Both vehicles have a variety of different engines, but since 2007, the Wrangler has a 3.8 litre V6, producing 146kW and 315Nm. The Land Rover Defender has the choice of a 2.4L 4-cylinder 16-valve DOHC producing 90kW and 360Nm or a 2.4L 4-cylinder 16-valve, producing 122kW and 360Nm. This option makes it easier for potential buyers with differing requirements of the type of driving they will be doing. The greater engine power and torque of the Defender will most definitely increase the top speed of the vehicle, quite substantially, and provide the greatest advantage to towing or hauling heavy loads. The 3.8L Wrangler engine will provide a good balance of power for everyday driving as well as the power required to make turns and traction on steep slopes. The gear selected is also very important when off-roading. Both the Wrangler and the Defender have automatic and manual transmission options. Generally, a manual transmission will provide greater control of the vehicle while off-roading and more engine braking to aid control of descents down steep slopes. This is particularly useful when towing a heavy load if coupled with an engine with high torque. Engine braking can help prevent the load from pushing the vehicle out of control down the slope.

2.2. Suspension and Ground Clearance

Traction is the name of the game in off-roading. A solid front and rear axle is standard in the Wrangler series for AWD models. Rubicon models add extra torque and grip. Wrangler Rubicon has a Rock-Trac® 4WD system which provides superior control on off-road trails of any kind. The system uses a 4:1 low-gear ratio, engages front and rear locks, and uses heavy-duty front and rear axles. This gives the Wrangler a 4.0:1 low-end rock gear ratio. All three systems deliver superior traction by evenly splitting available torque between all four wheels, with the help of Electronic Limited-Slip Differentials. E-lockers are optionally available for both the front and rear axles on Rubicon models. The E-lockers will permit maximum traction to be had by locking both the left and right wheels on a given axle together, providing positive torque to that wheel regardless of the surface it's on. Wheel articulation is important for keeping tires on the ground in uneven terrain. The more the tire stays on the ground, the more available traction it will have. Coil suspension systems are superior to leaf springs because they allow for maximum wheel articulation. Both the TJ and JL generations of the Wrangler use a 5-link coil front and rear suspension to maximize control over axle movement. This helps control the movement of the axle, as a separate strut or control arm is employed to keep the axle in place during high and low travel compression/rebound. Also good for traction are the departure and breakover angles. High clearance fenders and an underbody skid plate give extra clearance in tight trails, and the high clearance bumpers available for Rubicon models increase the ground clearance below the tire. The Defender has an independent front and rear electronic air suspension. This allows adjustable height and variable spring rate, and amplitude (damping), providing superior ride quality, off-road traction, and load-handling characteristics. The electronic air suspension helps the Defender obtain a suspension travel of up to 580mm (230 inches), which will provide superior wheel articulation and better traction control. Coil suspension also comes standard in all models of the Defender, but due to the limited max travel, Land Rover's Discovery and Range Rover models with air suspension systems will have better capabilities in heavy compression and rebound situations. Though many modern independent suspension/air suspension systems are getting close to the movement control of a solid axle, in general, solid 4-link control offers better control in both fore/aft and lateral axle movement. With greater movement control of the axle, you always get closer to matching each wheel with the terrain, for maximizing traction. The Defender will have a standard 3-link solid rear axle, but it may not provide the same trail clearance as the air or coil systems. A very strong and durable steel frame chassis combined with a flush-mounted aluminum body will give the Defender the strength and durability to take the stress of extreme off-road situations.

2.3. Traction Control and 4x4 Systems

The Wrangler's traction control system can brake a spinning wheel and divide drive between front and rear axles, to keep the vehicle moving in stops/starts and to increase grip when the vehicle is driving too fast for the conditions. The traction control system is impressive but will never compare to having a locking differential.

The Wrangler's Selec-Trac and Command-Trac 4x4 systems use a part-time 2-speed transfer case that was both launched with full-time 4-wheel drive as not to damage the transfer cases of the era where the vehicle would spend the majority of its life in 2-wheel drive. Part-time 4x4 was designed so the drive shafts can be disconnected from the transfer case, reducing wear and improving fuel efficiency in on-road conditions. The part-time system allows for the most grip in 4 high but requires shifting to neutral to engage 4 low for high traction scenarios like mud, sand, and slippery hills, to allow the vehicle to still be towed safely with a tow rope.

Coming from a simple heritage of manual-only gearboxes, the Wrangler was largely auto-only after the American Motors Company era until the release of the 8-speed auto in 2012. In the quest for increased fuel efficiency, the manual gearbox has started to fade out of the off-road market, and this is a clear example.

The Defender has a central differential that can be locked and unlocked. The unlocked setting allows for better on-road driving and tight terrain use, like rock crawling. The differential locks the front and rear axles together for less slip in muddy conditions. 2007-on Defenders also have an electronic traction control system that can apply the brakes to a slipping wheel in combination with the differential to regain traction. The Defender has permanent all-wheel drive, so 4x4 mode does not need to be engaged. Most Defenders are spec'd with a manual gearbox, but the auto has an additional setting to change the point at which the gears shift to give more control in off-road conditions.

The Jeep Wrangler and Land Rover Defender are both off-roading titans that focus the majority of their engineering on off-road capabilities. Apart from low-range gearboxes, both vehicles take radically different approaches to how they ensure the wheels with the most grip get the most drive.

3. Design and Features

Starting with the exterior design, the Wrangler takes on the classic Jeep shape with a boxy body and distinctive seven-slot grille, making it instantly recognizable. It incorporates modern touches like available LED headlamps and is the only model to offer a choice of a hard or soft top, along with removable doors. The new Defender has taken on a more modern look compared to the previous generations. It still exhibits some boxy characteristics but is a bit more streamlined. And while the Defender resembles the Discovery, its bold front end and rear-mounted spare tire give it a look all its own. One key feature is the side-hinged rear door with a full-size spare tire mounted on the back. While definitely a classic feature of the old Series models, it is not very practical for off-road adventurers who often carry extra gear on the back. With that said, there are certainly some strong opinions about the design of both vehicles, and it may just boil down to personal preference. Moving to the interior, the Wrangler is packed with modern features and technology but still feels rugged and durable. The overall design has been updated relatively recently but still maintains the classic Jeep look with the use of circular elements. It also includes some fun, unique design features such as the metal-look plastic interior designed to resemble a painted center console (which is still fully washable and removable) and the "Easter egg" Jeep design motifs, which are small hidden design features that make it just a bit more interesting. In terms of technology, the Wrangler has a user-friendly 8.4-inch touchscreen interface, available 4G Wi-Fi Hotspot, and ideally positioned USB and power outlets in easily accessible areas. All in all, the Wrangler feels both comfortable and functional. [6][7][8][9][10][11]

3.1. Exterior Design

As a high-end automobile, a wealth of additional stylistic features are available as add-ons and extras for the Defender. Brush guards, tail light guards, off-road lights, and roof racks are a few of the available accessories which can affect the overall look of the vehicle. An available feature on select models is the alpine roof. This is a sunroof located over the rear passenger seats which is made of a second fiberglass roof and is intended to provide a completely open cabin experience without sacrificing structural integrity. Due to a lack of sales of the North American Spec Defender, the vehicle was no longer available in the US as of 1997. After improvements in safety and the Land Rover company ceasing production of the LR4, the Defender is due to make another return to the states. This new generation is anticipated to be available globally in a wide array of models sometime around the year 2019.

For those concerned with vehicle styling, the Land Rover has always had a rather polarizing appearance. Its boxy shape and tall greenhouse are either hated or loved depending on who you ask. One thing is for sure, however, the Defender is a utilitarian vehicle which was designed specifically for off-road use and whose styling reflects that purpose. Insider reports have suggested that the next generation will be available in more styles than previous models with one of those styles being a high-end luxury model. This luxury model will likely have aesthetics more in line with Land Rover's LR4 and could be a better alternative for those who are not fans of the traditional Defender styling.

The traditional four-door Unlimited model features removable plastic rear and side windows and an additional separate rear tailgate piece for a more open effect. The Wrangler has always had a fold-down windshield which requires removal of the fasteners and drop down of the glass forward to the hood. The hood is now made of a composite material and easily lifts off and back on for a true open air experience. A standard feature in all models are the fold-away side mirrors ideal for when you are forced to negotiate through tight spaces and don't want your mirrors snagging on anything.

In terms of modern conveniences, the Wrangler has retained its traditional looks over the years while incorporating some modern touches. With its return, the cabriolet has been significantly updated; it is now available with lightweight freedom-panels that allow for an open air driving experience and can be neatly stored in the back in protective sleeves.

Characterized by its iconic round headlights, the Jeep Wrangler has an instantly recognizable exterior design. These round headlights have been a staple of the Wrangler's styling for decades, and it is said that Jeep would lose its identity without this key feature.

3.2. Interior Comfort and Technology

Unfortunately for Jeep, these are aspects of technology that they have yet to fully develop on the Wrangler and thus are left trailing behind Land Rover.

Land Rover has included all the necessary features for ensuring safety and driver aids in the new Defender and has done so without any shortfall. These include, but are not limited to, a 3D Surround Camera system that provides an advanced 3D surround view with the ability to view and record video clips, a ClearSight Rearview Mirror which transforms into a camera screen at the flip of a switch, providing unobstructed rear visibility, and the Terrain Response 2 system, which has a new Auto mode that will automatically select the most suitable terrain mode with no input from the driver.

The mere fact that the new Defender has up to 24 outlets for charging electronic devices, including 110-volt, USB, and USB-C sockets, is quite indicative of how Land Rover holds high expectations for advances in technology. This is in contrast to the new Wrangler, whose focus will simply be on improving the obsolete mechanical aspects of the vehicle.

The new Defender provides an Intelligent Seat Fold feature, which allows people to configure the second row of seats using switches located in the cargo area, the second-row passengers' doors, or on the C-pillar. When the function is initiated at these switches, the seat-backs will fold forward or backward. This feature provides incredible convenience and ease for configuring the cabin for passengers and cargo.

Jeep has employed modern aesthetics and improved quality in an attempt to render their bodacious Wrangler into a more practical urban cruiser, as opposed to purely an off-road utility vehicle. Yet, the Defender still has the edge. Jeep has improved the roominess, storage, and practical features of the new Wrangler for increased passenger comfort and convenience. The Defender, however, is larger and provides for more spacious 5-passenger seating and various comfort amenities.

In light of significant improvements to the current Land Rover Defender, it is without a doubt that the Defender has the edge over the Jeep Wrangler in the interior comfort and technology aspect. However, it's important to bear in mind that the Wrangler is significantly cheaper than the Defender. With much of the luxurious ambiance provided by the Defender and expected by Land Rover enthusiasts, comes at a high price.

3.3. Cargo Space and Utility

From the inside, the Defender is definitely no frills. It has rugged rubber mats to catch dirt, and a hose-down interior means all-weather severe use. The rear bench seat is sideways instead of front-to-back for the best cargo space and told to be surprisingly comfortable. This vehicle also gets zip-out windows and a removable top, making it a true convertible. All part of the aluminum model is retained, and all models are surprisingly lightweight, giving improved gas mileage and even delivery.

Land Rover Defender has two and four-door versions of this vehicle. It is supposed to be able to climb a 45-degree angle and drive in water 23.6" deep (for the 110, less for the 90 and 130, which aren't available in the United States). Land Rover isn't kidding when it says the Defender is as tough as a car will ever need to be. The Defender gets tough steel wheels, twin windshield wipers, rear fog lights, and a sturdy tire on the back door, looks like it's ready to fight a war. And that's what's likely. Wild animals in Africa, bad weather in Scotland, and horrible road conditions in third-world countries make this the vehicle of choice for any journey, and it wouldn't be out of place at a disaster site in the United States.

4. Price and Reliability

Comparing the price of a new 4-door 2020 Jeep Wrangler to a new 2020 Land Rover Defender, the Jeep will be the more affordable option. Consider the fact that a new Defender now more closely resembles a luxury SUV compared to the off-road utility vehicle that it once was. If a working-class individual or group is looking for a new vehicle to suit their outdoor or off-road needs, they would be much more inclined to stick to the base model of a new Wrangler or maybe even purchase a used Wrangler. It is clear that the new 2020 Jeep Wrangler carries the advantage on price between these two off-road vehicle options.

It is no secret that owning any new vehicle these days is more expensive than what it was only 10 years ago. Fuel prices have increased, and depending on what state or country you are in, there may be additional taxes and fees for various safety and environmental inspections. Jeep has built the "iconic" image of being a rugged, go-anywhere vehicle that can be purchased relatively cheap. Over the years, however, the price of a new Wrangler has steadily increased to the point where it is not all that far off from similar makes of SUVs. According to Edmunds, a new 2015 Jeep Wrangler ranges from $23,895 to $37,695. A new 2020 Jeep Wrangler ranges from $28,295 to $41,795. The Land Rover Defender stood at a higher price than what a new Wrangler cost in its time, and now the Defender starts with an MSRP of $49,900. Times are changing, and so is the ideal that a Jeep is a cheap and affordable vehicle.

4.1. Price Comparison

The base price of a new Jeep Wrangler is their Sport model and it starts at $28,295. A 2015 study by iseecars.com suggests that a Jeep Wrangler can be bought for approximately $5,000 cheaper than a Land Rover Defender. The Defender 90 had the lowest base price in comparison to the longer wheelbase 110. Land Rover's website no longer advertises new Defender prices or models for the USA. However, there are some new Defenders in the USA, but because the Defender is a desirable, cult vehicle, a dealer may hold out for a higher price than the actual new base price because they can get that for it. Jeep Wranglers hold their value very well and have one of the highest resale values according to a study by kbb.com. Because Land Rover is no longer selling new Defenders in North America, the price for a used one has virtually stayed the same, and they also hold their value extremely well like the Jeep Wrangler. With that said, one can assume that buying a used Defender will not be much cheaper than an old one. Therefore, it would now be easier to find a used Defender for cheaper than a new one.

4.2. Maintenance and Reliability

The Wrangler's impressive ability to sustain punishment mostly owes itself to its live axles front and rear, simple and robust (if heavy) coil-link suspension and body-on-frame construction. This arrangement is still favoured by the more "hardcore" off-roading community because it provides the most articulation and the most strength, but has the downside of a harsh ride and poor handling on the road. The Defender uses a very similar setup for the same reasons, but has had over 60 years of development to perfect it, and so is often regarded as superior. Despite claims made by numerous representatives from Chrysler and Land Rover, the live-axle vehicle is sadly a dying breed and its capabilities are likely to be overshadowed by independent suspension and unibody construction in the near future.

A good off-roader should be able to take a good beating and still keep going. In this respect, all the experts have similar findings: A Jeep Wrangler can take a lot of abuse but is plagued with a high number of small problems, while a Defender is prone to occasional catastrophic failures which leave it stranded, but is otherwise very reliable. The difference between the two is largely a product of their development; the Defender's technology mostly dates from the 1940s whereas the Wrangler's is highly advanced.


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Jeep Wrangler vs. Land Rover Defender

The Jeep Wrangler and Land Rover Defender are iconic off-road vehicles known for their robust designs and capabilities. The Wrangler offers classic ruggedness and open-air options, while the Defender brings luxury with its distinctive British style and advanced off-road features.