2015 Wrangler Unlimited New Car Test Drive
Jeep Wrangler is what the Jeep brand is all about. Wrangler's origins date back to the World War II Willys MB. Today's Wrangler has been modernized with a contemporary engine and electronics, and its body panels are artfully curved for stiffness while appearing flat, but it retains the basic premise of a simple utility vehicle that can traverse the most rugged terrain imaginable.
For 2015, a new 8-speaker audio system comes standard, and a 9-speaker Premium system with 552-watt amplifier is available. The subwoofer has been relocated under the cargo floor for 2015. All 2015 Jeep Wranglers include a new Torx Tool Kit for removing the roof, doors, and front bumper end caps (on Hard Rock edition). Included are torx heads in four sizes, a ratchet, and storage pouch. A new Black Steel and 31-inch Dueler Tire Package is available for 2015 Wrangler Sport. The 2015 Wrangler Rubicon Hard Rock edition gets a unique new look, with a low-gloss black grille, along with a 9-speaker Alpine audio system.
In addition to the Wrangler Sport, Sport S, Sahara and Rubicon models, special editions include the Willys Wheeler and Willys Wheeler W, the Freedom Edition, Rubicon X, and the Rubicon Hard Rock.
The four-door Wrangler Unlimited is highly capable off-road, though not as maneuverable as the shorter two-door versions. The number of doors and the difference in wheelbases doesn't fully describe the differences between Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited, however.
Upholstery ranges from cloth to leather, and heated front seats are available. Buyers must choose between hard tops and soft tops or both. You can swap the doors to half-size and fold down the windshield (though it's quite a chore), or power up the windows and indulge in climate control.
All Wranglers are powered by Chrysler's 24-valve 3.6-liter V6, rated at 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. There's a choice of 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic transmission. A Wrangler gets away from a stop with no problem, but falls off the acceleration curve as it runs into aerodynamic resistance at highway speeds.
These are not sports cars, and if you buy a Wrangler for highway cruising, you've missed the point. Indeed, Wranglers will travel the Interstate with a modicum of comfort and civility, but they're better suited as all-weather urban runabouts. Wranglers are for folks living on a beach or off the beaten path, or for those whose idea of a freeway is a fast section of dry wash or graded dirt run.
The standard soft top slides and folds horizontally on the roof, leaving the occupants further protected by door and window frames, augmented by a rollbar. The optional removable hardtop comes off in three pieces: a pair of T-tops, with a sunroof over the rear seat. With T-tops removed, at 65 mph the buffeting grates on you; but with the top on, it feels smooth.
Gas mileage is not a Wrangler virtue. Typically, it averages in the teens and doesn't change much between daily driving and long highway runs.
Wrangler has little direct competition. The only factory trail vehicle approaching a Wrangler is the Toyota FJ Cruiser. Land Rovers offer comparable off-road capability but are more expensive. A Mercedes G-Class has the off-highway ability of an Unlimited, a more luxurious cabin, and costs three times as much.
The 2015 Jeep Wrangler two-door and Wrangler Unlimited four-door each come in three trim levels: Sport, Sahara, and Rubicon. They all use the 3.6-liter V6 and offer a choice of 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic transmission. All Wranglers come standard with four-wheel drive. A soft top is standard; a three-piece modular hard Freedom Top is available for all models and comes in a choice of black ($995) or body color ($1,895).
Wrangler Sport ($22,795) comes with cloth upholstery, Uconnect AM/FM/CD/MP3 8-speaker audio, Sunrider soft top with sunroof feature, removable doors, roll-up windows, fold-down windshield, folding removable rear seat, black fender flares, halogen headlamps, foglamps, swing-back mirrors, tow hooks, part-time 2-speed transfer case, skid plates, Torx tool kit, sunvisors, Sport Bar, and Goodyear Wrangler P225/75R16 tires on steel wheels with matching full-size spare. No air conditioning, power windows, cruise control, 115-volt power outlet, or side steps here. Wrangler Sport S ($25,595) adds such extras as air conditioning and 255/75R17 tires on aluminum wheels.
Wrangler Sahara ($28,595) includes SiriusXM radio, remote keyless entry, power windows and door locks, a 115-volt power outlet, body-color fender flares, upgraded suspension, premium Sunrider top with sunroof, tubular side steps, heated power mirrors, leather-wrapped steering wheel with cruise and radio controls, individual tire-pressure monitoring, and P255/70R18 tires on painted aluminum wheels.
Wrangler Freedom Edition ($28,690) is based on the Sport but with unique exterior and interior appointments, including a Mineral Gray grille and bumper inserts, body-color fender flares, door and instrument-panel grab handles, 17-inch aluminum wheels, black side steps, taillamp guards, Sunrider soft top with deep-tint rear window, Oscar Mike badging, silver interior accent stitching, and slush mats. Jeep will donate $250 from each Wrangler Freedom model it sells to the United Service Organizations Inc. (USO).
Wrangler Willys Wheeler ($26,975) adds to Sport model a Trac-Lock limited-slip rear differential, 3.73:1 gearing, high-gloss black 17-inch aluminum wheels with Mud Terrain LT 275/75R17 tires, rock rails, Willys hood decals, a Jeep Trail Rated kit, and connectivity group that includes SiriusXM radio. Willys Wheeler W ($28,985) adds a power convenience group and premium tire-pressure monitoring system. Half-doors are an option.
Wrangler Rubicon ($31,695) prioritizes trail use over luxury. It has most of the standard Sahara comfort and convenience features (though power windows and keyless entry become optional), while adding rock rails, front/rear tow hooks, front and rear locking differentials, Dana 44 front and rear axles, disconnecting front stabilizer bar, 4.10:1 axle ratio (manual), Rock-Trac transfer case with 4:1 low range, and BF Goodrich Mud Terrain LT255/75R17 tires on painted aluminum wheels.
Wrangler Rubicon X ($33,295) promises added off-road capability, including a winch-capable bumper with foglamps, wider rock rails, and functional hood vents.
Wrangler Rubicon Hard Rock ($36,195) includes a low-gloss black grille with high-gloss black insert, black aluminum 17-inch wheels with polished faces, front/rear winch-ready off-road bumpers with removable end caps, a Power Dome hood, red tow hooks, rock rails, taillamp guards, black leather seating, and heated front seats.
Some special-edition models are actually option packages.
Wrangler Unlimited four-doors are configured similarly, though not identically, to the respective two-door models.
Wrangler Unlimited Sport ($26,595) has removable doors, roll-up windows, black fender flares, halogen headlamps, foglamps, soft top, air conditioning, removable 60/40 split rear seat, and cruise control. Wrangler Unlimited Sport S ($29,695) parallels the two-door version. So do the Wrangler Unlimited Freedom Edition ($32,490), Willys Wheeler ($30,595), and Willys Wheeler W ($32,695) versions.
Wrangler Unlimited Sahara ($32,395) has body-color fender flares, power heated mirrors, tubular side steps, remote keyless entry, power windows and door locks, SiriusXM radio, leather-wrapped steering wheel, 115-volt outlet, and 18-inch painted aluminum wheels.
Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon ($35,495), Unlimited Rubicon X ($37,095) and Unlimited Rubicon Hard Rock (39,995) come with the same extra off-road equipment as the two-door Rubicon, plus the power equipment of the Sahara.
Optional on all Wranglers: automatic transmission, trailer-tow package, stereo and navigation upgrades on upper trims, front side-impact airbags, Uconnect voice command with Bluetooth, smoker's pack, and a Freedom Top three-piece hard top in black or color-matched. Some offer automatic climate control, leather, remote start and cosmetic upgrades.
Safety equipment on all models includes electronic stability control with roll mitigation, hill start assist, trailer sway control, all-speed traction control, ABS with brake assist, and dual frontal airbags.