Can The Jeep Wrangler Outperform The New Land Rover Defender And Mercedes G350 Off Road? - story fullscreen Fullscreen

Can The Jeep Wrangler Outperform The New Land Rover Defender And Mercedes G350 Off Road?

Three of the biggest 4X4 names get down and dirty for a series of grueling off-road challenges

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CarWow’s drag races are fun and all, but seeing some of the hottest SUVs, currently on sale, put through a series of off-road challenges is not to be missed. And while most modern SUVs probably won’t ever see serious off-roading, these three, show they are plenty capable off the beaten path. But which one will prove to be the best? Mercedes G350d, Land Rover Defender, or the Jeep Wrangled Rubicon? Find out below.

Powertrains

Can The Jeep Wrangler Outperform The New Land Rover Defender And Mercedes G350 Off Road?
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None of the three cars are top-spec, but they all represent what are expected to be the most sold versions, in the UK, at least with regards to off-road use. The Mercedes G350d comes equipped with a 2.9-liter inline-six turbodiesel that makes 286 horsepower and 442 pound-feet (600 Nm).

The Land Rover Defender packs a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four petrol engine with 240 horsepower and 316 pound-feet (430 Nm).

The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon relies on a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four petrol engine with 272 horsepower and 295 pound-feet (400 Nm).

Hillclimb Drag Race

Can The Jeep Wrangler Outperform The New Land Rover Defender And Mercedes G350 Off Road?
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Mercedes wins with its superior, diesel torque, after the three SUVs lineup for an off-road drag race, up a hill. The Defender, which is driven by Matt, is just a hair behind the G-Class, but Matt reckons he would have won if he didn’t have to swerve left because of the narrow course. Meanwhile, the Wrangled is last. First place gives the “Merc” 3 points, while second and third place gets two and one points, respectively.

Downhill Craw Race

Can The Jeep Wrangler Outperform The New Land Rover Defender And Mercedes G350 Off Road?
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Jeep takes one back, while Mercedes is dead-last - first down the hill. In this challenge, being the slowest means winning. The Land Rover and Jeep both have hill-decent control, but in the Jeep, you need to be in manual mode and first gear to engage it. The G-Wagon, meanwhile, has to rely only on its low-range gears, as it doesn’t feature hill-descent control. The result – G350d does not match the crawling pace of the others and loses the challenge. The Wrangler manages to beat the Defender, by a small margin, equaling the score.

Maneuverability Test

Can The Jeep Wrangler Outperform The New Land Rover Defender And Mercedes G350 Off Road?
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Mercedes G350d wins convincingly, despite being big and heavy. The test includes a time trial that features a tight hairpin, in the middle. Land Rover Defender sets the benchmark with a time of 19.50 seconds. It has a turning circle of 12.8 meters (42.0 feet) and as equipped, it costs £56,000. The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is lighter and has a better turning circle – 12.4 meters (40.7 feet), which allows it to easily beat the Defender’s time, finishing in 18.80 seconds. At £50,000, the Jeep is also more affordable than the Defender.

The biggest surprise was the G-Wagon, which Matt was concerned about putting to the test, because of its £101,000 sticker price. Despite that, it managed a time of 18.08 seconds, despite being the heaviest car here – 5.511 pounds (2,500 kg). For comparison, Defender tips the scales at 5,291 pounds (2,400 kg) while the Jeep is a “lightweight” 4,409 pounds (2,000 kg).

Scaling a slippery slope

Can The Jeep Wrangler Outperform The New Land Rover Defender And Mercedes G350 Off Road?
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Mercedes G350d proves most capable, once again. While all three SUVs are equipped with off-road tires, the ones on the Wrangler are better suited for muddy terrain. The Jeep also has the least amount of torque – 295 pound-feet (400 Nm), but it’s also the lightest. The three vehicles lock all differentials, except the Defender, which only has a center diff and relies heavily on electronics.

While all three cars aced the challenge, the G350d got up the slope with the least amount of wheel spin
, branding it the winner. The Jeep experienced the most amount of wheel spin due to its tires being better suited for muddy terrain, instead of the rocky surface, the SUVs had to deal with here.

Approach, Departure, and Break-over Angle Challenge

Can The Jeep Wrangler Outperform The New Land Rover Defender And Mercedes G350 Off Road?
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Land Rover Defender is a winner on paper, but the Jeep has rigid axles on both ends. The goal is to keep all wheels on the ground, as much as possible. Mercedes has a rigid axle only at the back, but that doesn’t stop it from acing the course. The Defender has an independent suspension all-around, while the Rubicon has live axles on both ends as well as the ability to disconnect the sway bars.

The Defender’s independent suspension immediately results in some of the wheels getting air time, but through its clever traction control system, it manages it quite well. The Jeep showed everyone what it was meant to do, but surprisingly, the G-Wagon did a slightly better job at keeping all its wheels on the ground. The defender was more like a graceful ballerina, with one of its wheels often being in the air.

In terms of approach angle, the Defender boasts 38 degrees, The G350d – 31 degrees, and the Jeep Wrangler – 36 degrees. The break-over angle is 28 degrees for the Defender, 26 for the G-Wagon, and 19 for the Wrangler Rubicon. The departure angle is 40 degrees for the Land Rover, 30 degrees for the Mercedes, and 31 degrees for the Jeep.

Ground Clearance and Chassis Articulation Test

Can The Jeep Wrangler Outperform The New Land Rover Defender And Mercedes G350 Off Road?
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The Land Rover Defender’s air suspension allows for 291 mm (11.46 inches) of ground clearance, which is more than the Mercedes G350d’s 241 mm (9.48 inches) and Jeep Wrangler Rubicon’s 252 mm (9.92 inches).

All three SUVs ace the first half of the course, but for the second half, the Defender has an ace up its sleeve. If the vehicle bottoms out, the air suspension allows for a further rise in height, by a total of 40 mm (1.57 inches), for a maximum ground clearance of 331 mm (13.0 inches).

The G-Wagon drops out of the race, because it already has enough points to win, and because the team doesn’t want to damage the shiny sidesteps. Defender wins the challenge, with its massive advantage in ground clearance.

In the end, the G-Wagon has 13 points while both the Land Rover and Jeep have 11 points. That said, all three vehicles proved to be very capable off-roaders, worthy of their heritage and name. At almost half the price of the G-Wagon, both the Wrangler and Defender are, technically, a better value for money, at least with regards to off-road capabilities.


Dim Angelov
Dim Angelov
Born in 1992, I come from a family of motoring enthusiasts. My passion for cars was awoken at the age of six, when I saw a Lamborghini Diablo SV in a magazine. After high school I earned a master’s degree in marketing and a Master of Arts in Media and Communications. Over the years, I’ve practiced and become skilled in precision driving and to date have test driven more than 250 cars across the globe. Over the years, I’ve picked up basic mechanical knowledge and have even taken part in the restoration of a 1964 Jaguar E-Type and an Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint. Lately, I’ve taken a fancy to automotive photography, and while modern cars are my primary passion, I also have a love for Asian Martial Arts, swimming, war history, craft beer, historical weapons, and car restoration. In time, I plan my own classic car restoration and hope to earn my racing certificate, after which I expect to establish my own racing team.  Read full bio
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