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.
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.
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
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.
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