There is more than one model of Jeep out there, but when you think Jeep, the image that pops into your head is the Wrangler. It is the Jeep that is most Jeep and the one most likely to have people stopping you in the grocery store parking lot and saying, “I’ve always wanted one of those,” as they slink back to their not-Jeep. The Wrangler has serious fans and for plenty of good reasons.
Many people want to own this car because they are all about off-road driving, but that’s not the only reason. It’s definitely the best one, but there’s a mystique to driving a Wrangler that makes it drool-worthy even if you don’t intend to take it out in the mud. That, by the way, would be a shame, because the Wrangler is at its best when you can’t see any pavement at all.
It doesn’t like the highway and is not the kind of car you want to take on a road trip. The Wrangler is powered by a 3.6-liter V6 with 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque paired to a 5-speed automatic that easily manages highway speeds. The challenge is that it’s designed to be about as open-air as it can get once you remove all the assorted bits and pieces, so it’s not the quietest interior even when it’s all buttoned up. Road and wind noise are intrusive and quiet conversations are not going to happen inside this vehicle.
The interior, however, is still quite comfortable with air conditioning, power windows and locks, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and tilt steering column. The manually adjustable leather seats with “Sahara” embellishment and contrast stitching look and feel good. There’s also plenty of technology.
The Uconnect infotainment system includes AM/FM/CD/MP3, steering wheel mounted audio controls, 8 speakers, aux jack, and SiriusXM with a 1-year subscription. Our tester was equipped with several optional features including a 9-speaker Alpine audio system with all-weather subwoofer ($795) and the upgraded UConnect system ($1,895) which adds Sirius XM Traffic and Traffic Link with 5-year subscriptions, 40 GB hard drive, Uconnect voice command with Bluetooth, and a remote USB port.
Handling on the highway is a little sloppy and you definitely will not be taking any fast corners. If your plan is to drive this only on paved roads, you might be a little disappointed. But only maybe. This is still a Jeep and when the weather permits and you let the sun and air inside, you’re not going to care about those bumps.
Take it off road, and then the Wrangler shines. This is what this car is made for and this is what you need to do with your Jeep. You’ve never been off-road? Now is the time to try. You will find yourself wanting to turn down every mud-soaked, weed-choked, barely visible excuse for a road that you can find. Go ahead because the Wrangler has got your back.
There are P255/70R18 OWL on/off-road tires, 18″ x 7.5″ polished satin carbon wheels, two tow hooks up front and one in back, hill start assist, skid plates on the fuel tank and transfer case, front and rear stabilizer bars, and Command-Trac shift-on-the-fly 4WD. There’s also a Next Generation Dana 30 solid front axle and Next Generation Dana 44 heavy duty rear axle. So, yeah, it can handle pretty much whatever you want to throw at it off-road.
The reality is most people are going to be doing both highway and off-road driving. They’re the weekend warriors who put on a tie and drive to the office five days a week only to let loose and get things good and muddy on the weekends. The Wrangler is perfect for these guys.
Consumer Reports recently beat the heck out of the Wrangler calling it the worst value out there. Eh, I know they’re big muckety mucks but I think they’re dead wrong because there’s a lot of immeasurable value in the Wrangler.
The Wrangler’s cost of ownership had a lot to do with its poor ranking. It gets fuel economy of 16/20/18 city/highway/combined and that hurts. The brand has also had poor quality ratings. The quality manager of their parent company was recently fired so you know they’re taking that one seriously and addressing the problem. They also got gigged for the Wrangler’s on-road performance, which is understandable, but that’s not why you buy a Wrangler.
You buy a Wrangler because you want an off-road capable vehicle that is a joy to drive in the muck. You buy one for the fun of it and for the exhilaration of being a part of a group of enthusiasts that wave to each other on the road. I lost track of how many Wrangler owners gave me the “Jeep Wave” during the week when I drove this car. You’ll lose track of just how much fun you’re having getting this thing dirty.
2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4X4
Base Price: $32,295
Price As Tested: $40,520 (not including destination charge)
- Off-Road Capability
- Four-Doors for Families
- Classic Jeep Looks
- Noisy Interior
- Fuel Economy
- High Price Point