Wednesday 26 October 2016
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Test Drive: 2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Review

Test Drive: 2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Review

It all started back in 1941 when the U.S. government needed a military vehicle, or, as it was known, a general-purpose vehicle.  As time went on, the initials GP stuck, thus the name Jeep.  In the following 74 years, Jeep Wranglers have evolved into one of the most capable off-road SUVs sold in America.

My review vehicle this week is the Wrangler Unlimited Sahara.  The Unlimited designation means it is a 4-door and has a longer wheelbase than the more traditional 2-door Wrangler.  Sahara is the trim level, which is next to the top-of-the-line Rubicon, but a step up from the Sport and the Sport S.

There are many choices in the Wrangler line-up, but there are no engine choices, they all have the terrific 3.6-liter V6 Pentastar that puts out 285-horses and has a great reputation for long-term reliability and durability.  In fact, Chrysler just produced the 5 millionth V6 Pentastar.  All Wranglers are 4-wheel drive, but you do get a choice of either a 6-speed manual transmission, or a somewhat antiquated 5-speed automatic.

My tester is a Sunset Orange Pearl color, which I would not have thought I would like, but with a black top and black interior, it works and is in fact, quite stunning.  The 18” wheels and P255 tires look great, the Trail Rated badge is sharp, and the decals look super.  Wrangler is one of the most immediately recognized vehicles on the road.  One glance at the classic 7-bar grill and you know it is a Jeep.

For me, the evolution of the Jeep transformation to a personal use vehicle has taken place on the inside; the exterior has remained true to its roots.  Today, you can get a Wrangler that is more than nice, it borders on luxurious.

My review Wrangler has leather seating with beautiful stitching along the edges and the front seats are heated.  The seating comes at a cost of $1300 MSRP.  The back seat is surprisingly roomy and unlike some previous years, is quite comfortable.

Standard features on the Sahara model include air conditioning, cruise control, power windows and door locks, keyless entry, air conditioning, tilt wheel with audio controls, automatic headlights, fog lights built into the bumper, tubular step bars, the aforementioned wheels, and a 115-volt power outlet.

Options on this one, besides the leather seats, are the Connectivity Group and for $595 retail, you get a nifty vehicle information center that supplies all sorts of information on fuel economy, a digital speedometer, USB port, Bluetooth and music streaming, voice activation, and low tire pressure indicator.  The automatic transmission runs $1350, and a 9-speaker Alpine stereo system is $845 and includes a huge, waterproof subwoofer in the rear in case it starts to rain while you are jamming with the top off.

For $1145, you get an updated system that operates off a 6.5” color screen that includes Chrysler’s Uconnect system that features navigation system, SiriusXM radio, a 28-gig hard drive, and a 5-year subscription to Travel Link, which gives you real-time gas prices, sport scores, movie information, stock prices, and weather.  For me, this system is the easiest and most intuitive system I have ever used.  Continuing on with options, remote start is $495 and the Sunrider soft top runs $500.

Speaking of tops, this is an area where people have a hard time deciding on what to get.  Wrangler can be bought with no top, a hardtop, a hardtop painted to match the exterior, or like this one, a Sunrider soft top.  This top will open all the way up to make the Wrangler essentially a convertible, or you can partially open it and lock it down for sun to the front seat, front and rear seats both, or you can remove it completely.

On the safety front, you get some standard features that are needed on a vehicle with a high center of gravity, such as traction control, electronic rollover mitigation, hill start assist, and electronic stability control.  The Jeep Command Trac 4-wheel drive system is one of the best in the industry, and features shift-on-the-fly, which is engaged by using a shifter next to the automatic transmission.  Although this Jeep is extremely nice inside, it is still a Jeep and remains one of the best overall off-road vehicles you can buy.

The thing that I pick up from listeners to my radio show is that true Jeep lovers are almost cultish.  They love the fact that you can remove the top, remove the doors, drop the front windshield down, and you have transformed your Jeep into a completely different vehicle altogether.  People that love their Wranglers really love their Wranglers.

With that said, Wrangler is not for everyone.  You have to get used to a fairly rough ride, but that is acceptable knowing the off-road capability of the full-framed SUV.  You will get a fairly substantial amount of wind noise and road noise with any of the soft top options, which also means you are likely to get some water leakage inside.  For these reasons, I always advise first-time Wrangler owners to rent one for a weekend to make sure this vehicle is for you.

There is a lot to love about the Wrangler.  From the exterior looks to the terrific leather seating, driving a Jeep is sort of special because it is different and fun.  As you look around the Jeep exterior, you notice the Jeep silhouette is embossed in all five of the polished carbon wheels, the same silhouette is engraved at the bottom right corner of the windshield in an uphill fashion, and you see the grill of the Wrangler around the inside rearview mirror.  Nothing functional in that, but kind of fun.  I love the fact that there is a full-sized matching spare tire and wheel, spares are becoming extinct and five matching wheels are almost impossible to find.

I have a ton of respect and admiration for the Jeep Wrangler, but it is not a vehicle I would personally own, I think I would get tired of the ride and interior noise.  Fuel economy is not great, but I have no quarrel at all with the price, it is a good value and Jeeps hold their value extremely well.

What I liked most:  Exterior and interior looks, and value proposition.

What I would change:  At least a 6-speed automatic, if not a 7-speed.   

MSRP: Base price $32,795. As equipped $40,020.

Fuel Economy:  Rated at 16 City/20 highway/18 combined and getting it.

Odometer reading when tested: 373 miles.

Weight:  4294 Pounds.

Length-Width-Height: 152.8” long/73.7” wide/70.9” High.

Fuel Tank Capacity:  22.5 gallons.

Towing Capacity: 3500 pounds.

2015 Wrangler Unlimited in a few words:  Uncompromised off-road capability.

Warranty: 3-year/36,000 mile bumper-to-bumper, 5-years/100,000 miles of powertrain coverage with roadside assistance.  Note, the powertrain warranty drops to 4 years/60,000 miles for 2016.

Car Pro Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars.

Manufacturer’s website:  Jeep

Dealers: We have great Jeep dealers in Austin,, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas-Fort Worth, Grand Rapids, Houston, Los Angeles, Lubbock, Milwaukee, Phoenix, Raleigh, Sacramento, and San Antonio.

Jerry Reynolds, The Car Pro

Photo Credit: Jeep