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  • William Maley
    William Maley

    Review: 2015 Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler

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      Taking the iconic off-roader on road


    The quintessential off-road vehicle in the United States is the Jeep Wrangler. From its humble beginning as vehicle to go anywhere in the heat of World War II to a well-loved off-roader by many when it entered the civilian market, the Wrangler has earned the honor of being an icon . But many Wranglers it seems are mostly on the road, not tackling some trail. Is the Wrangler built for this kind of duty or is it just a fish out of the water? I spent some time in the 2015 Wrangler Willys Wheeler to figure this out.

     

    The Jeep Wrangler may be the most recognizable vehicle around the world. The reason for this is simple, the basic shape of the Wrangler hasn’t changed much since it was called into duty for World War II. The seven-slot grille, rounded headlights, foldable windshield, and removable doors are all here. But that doesn’t mean Jeep’s designers made to some changes to keep the Wranger fresh. The front end is jutted out slightly at an angle, and the body has some slight curves. Also keeping the Wrangler fresh is the introduction of special edition models. The Willys Wheeler is an example of this with a number of decals to make a call back to the original model, along with a set of 17-inch off-road wheels wrapped in meaty off-road tires.

     

    My Wrangler featured the optional hardtop which provided excellent protection from the elements and adds a nice layer of security. Sadly, I didn’t get chance to take the top off during my week as it was cold and rainy during my weeklong test. But from looking at the top and doing some reading, taking it off is somewhat easy thanks to the top coming off in three parts. This also means I cannot comment on how easy or hard it is to put on the soft top which came with my tester.

     


    2015 Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler 11


    The Wrangler hasn’t been known as being a comfortable off-roader. But within the past few years, Jeep has been addressing that. Seats in my tester came wrapped in cloth and provided good support and comfort. In my ask me anything about the Wrangler, I said that the back seat isn’t really usable for adults since there isn’t any legroom. I would like to take that back. The backseat is actually quite comfortable for an adult as there is a lot of headroom and a decent amount of legroom once you move the seats up front. But getting into the back is quite a challenge as the front seat doesn’t quite move far enough to allow an adult to comfortably get back in. Now the Wrangler does have a rear-view problem with rear seats up as it blocks a good amount of the view. I found removing the headrests or folding the seat down helped alleviate the problem a bit.

     

    At one time, you could say the Jeep Wrangler came with only the bare necessities. But in the past few years, Jeep has been adding some ‘luxury’ items to make the Wrangler more appealing to a wider audience. Such items include a great sounding Alpine audio system, Bluetooth, USB and aux inputs, and a trip computer. However don’t expect to find any soft-touch materials on the dash or certain parts of the door panels. The Wrangler is lined with durable plastics which will stand the punishment of off-road driving and be very easy to clean after a day on the trail.

     

    Powertrain and Ride Impressions On Page 2


     

    A big complaint of previous Wranglers was the powertrain as it was lethargic. Luckily, Jeep addressed a few years back when they introduced the 3.6L Pentastar V6 to the Wrangler. This happens to be the same engine found under the hood my tester with 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. This can be paired with a six-speed manual or my tester’s five-speed automatic. The 3.6L gives the Wrangler a much needed boost in power as it's able to get moving in a flash. Passing and merging which was a terrifying experience in previous Wranglers, was no problem for this current model. The five-speed automatic was quick and smooth. The only item I wished for was an extra cog to improve fuel economy. The EPA rates the 2015 Wrangler with the automatic at 17 City/21 Highway/18 Combined. My average for the week landed at 16 MPG.

     


    2015 Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler 9


    The Willys Wheeler has a number of off-road tweaks and goodies to make it a standout for the price. Such items include the off-road tires and wheels; a Trac-Lok rear differential, 3.73 axles for the front and rear (which also plays a part in the low fuel economy I got for the week), and set of rock rails. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to do any real off-roading with the Wrangler as the nearest place where I could take it was closed to vehicles at the time of this review. I hope to do some off-roading in the Wrangler in the future.

     

    With all of those off-road goodies and tall ride height, it makes the Wrangler quite a handful when driving around on payment. The short wheelbase makes it clear of a road’s imperfections. Bumps, potholes, and uneven surfaces are transmitted quite clear to the passengers.The long travel suspension does isolate some of the imperfections, but be prepared for a bumpy ride. The steering I also found to be slow. Making a turn, I could tell that it take a few moments for the steering to catch up with the inputs I made. Add in the amount of road noise when driving on the freeway and it becomes abundantly clear that the Wrangler isn’t built for the urban jungle.

     

    Jeep has made a number of changes to make the Wrangler a bit more habitable for daily use. But after spending a week, I can tell that it rather spend its time in the wild than the urban environment. From its choppy ride to all of those off-road goodies, the Wrangler just feels like a fish out of water. If you’re planning to get a Wrangler just for the looks, either pass on that idea or be comfortable with the idea that you’re driving a vehicle with a large amount of compromises.

     

    Disclaimer: Jeep provided the Wrangler, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

     

     

    Year: 2015
    Make: Jeep
    Model: Wrangler
    Trim: Sport 4X4
    Engine: 3.6L 24-Valve VVT V6
    Driveline: Five-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel Drive
    Horsepower @ RPM: 285 @ 6,400
    Torque @ RPM: 260 @ 4,800
    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 17/21/18
    Curb Weight: 3,785 lbs*
    Location of Manufacture: Toledo, Ohio
    Base Price: $22,695
    As Tested Price: $34,425 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)

     

    *Curb Weight is for a Wrangler Sport with the Automatic.

     

    Options:
    Willys Edition 24W - $6,100
    Power Convenience Group - $1,495
    5-Speed Automatic - $1,350
    Freedom Top Black 3-Piece Hardtop - $995
    Alpine 9-Speaker Audio System with All Weather Subwoofer - $795

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    Nice Review, I wonder if they will ever do an AWD with 4 low option on it for those that want a more versatile version.

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    just bought a 2014 wrangler unlimited about a month ago. i couldnt be happier with it. ive got the 6sp man, im getting about 19-20 combined. the ride is excellent for what it is from my perspective, but that is most likely due to the longer wheelbase. steering seems on point and has a good feel to me, but that also could be because im comparing that to my 04 colorado's handling habits. The vehicle is most definitely a lifestyle vehicle, no arguments there. mine is equipped with the optional half doors, which was something i specifically looked for. There is a certain mindset you have to have to be an owner for sure. for instance, at the moment i am tracking down a leak on the passenger side. i guess its one of those jeep things... but i love the outdoors and am an avid hiker and camper. its all i was looking for in a vehicle, and cheaper than the new colorado i was considering. resale value is also excellent, as those who are in search of one can attest. great write up! the next addition i am saving for mine is that hard top though for security as you mentioned. as it stands only a zipper and velcro are keeping people out. JEEP, Just Empty Every Pocket.

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      It has been over two years since I last drove an Acura, so when the opportunity for an RDX A-Spec landed on my desk, I took it with both hands. It was time to see what Acura has been up to and if they’re taking a step in the right direction. 
      You Want Presence? You Got It!
      The RDX is the first production model to feature Acura’s newest design language and its no shrinking violet. The front end draws your attention with a large trapezoidal grille paired with a massive Acura emblem. Sitting on either side is Acura’s Jewel-Eye LED headlights that add a distinctive touch. My A-Spec tester takes it further with distinctive front and rear bumpers, 20-inch alloy wheels finished in black, and a special Apex Blue Pearl color that is only available on this trim. This crossover garnered a lot of looks during the week I had, something I hadn’t experience in quite some time.
      Cozy, Polarizing Interior
      The RDX’s interior captures the feeling of being in a sports car with a symmetrical dashboard design that cocoons the front passengers. A rotary drive-mode selector found in the center stack echos the design found in the NSX supercar. While it does emphasize the sporty nature of the vehicle, the position of the knob does make the climate controls a bit hard to reach. A-Spec models have some special touches such as red contrast stitching, a suede panel on the passenger side of the dashboard, and new trim for the instrument cluster that help it stand out. Material and build quality are quite close to some competitors from Germany.
      A set of sport seats with increased bolstering and power adjustments come standard on the A-Spec. I found them to be quite comfortable for any trip length and were able to hold me if I decided to be a bit enthusiastic. Back seat passengers will be plenty comfortable with an abundance of head and legroom. I would have like to see the back seat be able to slide forward and back to offer more comfort. Cargo space is towards the top of the class with 29.5 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 58.9 when folded. There’s also a little storage nook under the cargo floor to stash valuables.
      Intuitive Infotainment?
      Acura’s previous infotainment system drew a lot of ire from people. The dual-screen layout was confusing as some functions were split between the two screens such as changing the audio input. Not helping was the two different control methods for this setup; touchscreen for the bottom portion and a controller for the top screen. Thankfully, Acura has introduced a new infotainment system for the RDX. A large 10.2-inch screen sits on top of the dash and is controlled by a touchpad on the center console. Seeing the touchpad for the first time sent chills down my spine as I thought back to my frustrating experiences with Lexus’ Touchpad Controller. But Acura says this controller is much easier and logical to use than competitors. Okay, challenge accepted.
      Acura’s touchpad controller is slightly different from Lexus’ setup as it is mapped to the screen. So if you want to access the navigation, you tap that part of the pad that corresponds to the screen. This removes the dragging of the finger across the touchpad to get it to the selection you want. This seems quite logical on paper, but I found to be somewhat frustrating. It took me a few days to mind-meld with the system as I was still used to dragging my finger across the touchpad to select various functions. This made simple tasks such as changing presets or moving around in Apple CarPlay very tough.
      There is also a smaller touchpad that controls a small section of the screen. This allows you to scroll through three menus - audio, navigation, and clock. This would prove to be the most frustrating aspect of this system as it didn’t always recognize whenever I scroll down on the touchpad to move to another screen.
      Thankfully, Acura has left a number of physical controls for the audio and climate systems. I’m glad that some luxury automakers aren’t falling into the trap.
      Powertrain Goes Back To Its Roots
      The RDX has always found itself with a different powertrain throughout its various generations. The first version used a turbo-four engine, while the second-generation moved to a V6. For the third-generation, Acura went back to the RDX’s roots and settled on another turbo-four engine. The 2.0L engine punches out 272 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a 10-speed automatic and either front or my tester’s Super-Handling all-wheel drive system.
      The turbo-four is quite a potent engine with little turbo lag when leaving a stop and a seemingly endless amount of power for any situation. The ten-speed automatic is very smooth and quick when upshifting. But it does stumble somewhat when you need a quick shot of speed. 
      I did notice that the 2.0L turbo isn’t a quiet engine when traveling on the expressway, going above 2,000 rpm when traveling at 70 mph. This may explain the slightly disappointing 21.7 mpg average I got during the week. EPA fuel economy figures for the A-Spec SH-AWD are 21 City/26 Highway/23 Combined. The standard RDX models see a small bump in their EPA fuel economy figures.
      Capable Driver
      Acura is no stranger to building a crossover that is good to drive, the larger MDX crossover is a prime example. But the RDX A-Spec takes that a step further. This version gets a slightly stiffer suspension setup which negates a fair amount of body roll on a winding road. The steering firms up nicely when pushed through corners. When going through the daily grind, the RDX A-Spec will let in a few more bumps and road imperfections due to its suspension tuning. Road and wind noise are kept to very minimal levels.
      Welcome Back Acura
      The 2020 RDX shows that Acura is starting to figure out what it wants to be; a brand that offers something playful in the class. The RDX certainly has the qualities with a bold exterior, punchy turbo-four, and a surprising chassis that offers sporty handling and a mostly-comfortable ride. The slightly-confounding infotainment system and poor fuel economy figures do sour it a bit. But the RDX is a very compelling alternative to many compact luxury crossovers.
      It does give me hope that Acura is figuring out who it wants to be and excited to see what comes down the road such as the new TLX.
      How I Would Configure An RDX: For me, I would basically take the exact RDX tester seen here. That will set me back $47,195 after adding destination and $400.00 paint option. Everyone else should look at the Technology package that will get you most of the safety equipment that is part of Acurawatch, along with a 12-speaker ELS audio system, navigation, and parking sensors. It will not break the bank at $41,000 for FWD or $43,000 for AWD.
      Disclaimer: Acura Provided the RDX, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2020
      Make: Acura
      Model: RDX
      Trim: A-Spec
      Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L DOHC 16-Valve VTEC Four-Cylinder
      Driveline: 10-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 272 @ 6,500
      Torque @ RPM: 280 @ 1,600 - 4,500
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/26/23
      Curb Weight: 4,015 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: East Liberty, Ohio
      Base Price: $45,800
      As Tested Price: $47,195 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Premium Exterior Color - $400.00

      View full article
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