Getting out of your comfort zone is something very few of us like, but more often than not, on the other side, lies an incredible experience. And to prove that point, I put together two contrasting personalities in the ring. In one corner was the ridiculously capable Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. An SUV capable of decimating any terrain and going pretty much anywhere you could take it, while in the other corner was someone that was totally alien to going off the tarmac. Mira Erda is nothing short of a rising star. She is the first Indian female to have won an international F4 race, she is also a Go-Kart driver coach and a Red Bull athlete. Clearly not lacking in the skills department but in her world, going off the road means a crash. So taking her on a grueling off-road course? It was way out of her comfort zone. Or so I thought.

From the moment Mira laid eyes on the Wrangler, she was smitten. It was the first time I witnessed love at first sight. “Wow” was the first word, and that sort of putting me down a little. I was expecting her to get a bit intimidated by the massive Wrangler, and while she was a tad bit, she loved it. The old-school charm in the design, the classic Jeep look with a slatted grille and round LED headlamps all managed to woo her pretty immediately. Then there was the huge bonnet with unabashed ‘Rubicon’ stickers and chunky wheels that look like it belong on a truck. All combined, there was plenty to get Mira gushing. It was strange as she is used to low-slung, highly aerodynamic, and super light F4 race cars and here she was going gaga over a massive Jeep that can drive over a couple of F4 cars and not even flinch. But this was exactly why she was running around the Wrangler. The novelty wasn’t just because it was in stark contrast to what she is used to driving, but also because she felt that she could enter a whole new world with it.

Needless to say, she snatched the keys, and like a true driving enthusiast, called dibs on the driver’s seat. Once she hopped in, quite literally, it was back to the rose-colored glasses. Firstly she couldn’t believe that a hardcore off-roader could be plush as well. As she looked around in amazement at the features on offer, she crushed all stereotypes she had about off-roaders and how they were all rudimentary. Nothing about the Wrangler is barebones or basic. The interior is a reflection of the exterior, and that means while it carries over the classic character, it is all modern underneath. The design is unlike anything you have seen and blends off-road with comfort. A slick 8.4-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, dual-zone climate control, leather-wrapped steering, and comfy leather seats was just a handful of the features that surprised Mira. And just when she thought she spotted a flaw with the missing sunroof, I opened the six latches and within seconds, the front part of the roof was out. She is someone who is quite used to having unlimited headroom, and I asked if she wanted the full monty I could also take off the doors, windshield, and the rear of the roof completely. She gazed at the clouds that had begun looming over our heads and thankfully voted against it. As we drove towards her idea of hell, she found herself quite adept in massive size and in fact was starting to enjoy the effects of driving a big red tank on the crowded roads of Mumbai.

This is one SUV that you don’t want in your rear-view mirror. Rickshaws, cabs, and even small trucks jump out of the way. Bikers stay in their lanes and even some of the big burly SUVs are threatened. Mira clearly loved the bullishness and the attention as well. You couldn’t ask for a better car if you want to stand out from the crowd. The dimensions, the bright red paint shade, and a female driver behind the wheel are all amusing scenes to the average Indian motorist. I asked Mira if she gets a lot of this testosterone-filled chauvinistic attitude on the public roads and sadly the answer was “every single time I am behind the wheel.” She went on to say, “ever so often, there will be a guy with banging loud music trying to show off his masculinity and it is times like those where I wonder if I shall decimate him, or be the professional I am and save it for the track. Clearly, I am against racing on the streets but yes, the thought does cross my mind.” However, there was not a spec around that was messing with her in the Wrangler. I could also tell she was getting a bit too comfy with what with the AC on full blast and singing along with Dua Lipa. The performance, too, was something that impressed her. The 2.0-liter turbo-petrol engine makes a good 268bhp and 400 Nm which was plenty for Mira to induce some red light launches. The Wrangler lunged ahead each time she flexed her right foot, proving how much superior she is compared to me. It was time to put an end to that.

We turned off the main highway, and into what was the road to oblivion. Well when I say road, I mean a faint trail covered in grass hiding away swamps, rocks, and ruts.
We stopped momentarily as Mira jumped out to see what she was against. As her eyes pierced the jungle and ruins of what seemed like an earthquake, I assured her she won’t find a spec of tarmac. But again, instead of a nervous smile, there was a cheeky smirk as if she didn’t care. I guess she had figured out that even though she is out of her comfort zone, she had driven the Wrangler in its backyard. Nothing could faze it, and nothing did. We started dwelling deeper into the ruts, and the Wrangler stuck to the age-old adage – when the going gets tough, the tough get going. And boy did it go. Climbing up rocks big enough for rappelling, diving through streams that tested the Wrangler’s full 760mm water wading depths, and coming down boulders as if it were a child on a park slide. Effortless. There were a few moments where I acted as a spotter, but to be fair it was only because I didn’t want to risk the gut-wrenching sound of metal hitting nature. However, as I ducked down to check for clearance, which was plenty, by the way, I noticed the armored shields that protect the Wrangler’s underbelly. Steel plates at the bottom guard the oil sump and any important bits so should you bash it a few times, rest assured everything is as safe as it can get. Whilst I was pretending to help the Wrangler climb over obstacles, Mira was busy playing around with the off-road screens. It was fascinating to her to see the live status of the steering angle, pitch and roll angles, drivetrain status, and even temperatures of all the necessary bits. It might be a gimmick on the road, but once you go off it, it is a handy feature to have.

We kept driving along as I tested Mira’s breaking point, but my last laugh never came. Instead, she made full use of the 4WD gearbox, engaging in low range, turning off the front and rear diff locks, and even disconnecting the sway bars to ruin my idea of putting her out of her comfort zone. I had to wave the white flag.

Mira was unapologetic and gave the Wrangler a good pat. What looked like a day full of nervous fits, was a walk in the park thanks to the Wrangler. Mira though was impressed at its dual-purpose nature. That Wrangler is a hugely capable off-roader is no secret, but the drive through the city is what drew her more. The fact that she can use it daily, drive around to the shops in it, and pile on four more friends along with her go-kart in the boot is what got to her. She was already planning out a road trip when she nervously asked, “how much does it cost?” However, she was amazed when I mentioned Rs 57.9 lakh thanks to it being manufactured in India now. Compared to the traditional German rivals, the Wrangler is a completely different animal. It took no more than four hours for it to transform a hardcore track racer into considering off-roading as a regular activity. It made someone who only thinks about speed and aerodynamics to think about approach and departure angles. It made someone who was absolutely not in their comfort zone when she saw it first, into a potential customer. Mira Erda might drive hyper missiles on smooth tarmac and collect silverware every weekend, but she will want to pack them in the Wrangler and crawl up a mountain into the wilderness to celebrate it.

Jeep’s Wrangler for the environmentalists