2015 Jeep Wrangler
2015 Jeep Wrangler
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.
Walkaround and Interior
Wrangler looks like the authentic Jeep, and in fact it is just that. The Jeep Wrangler may be the most recognizable vehicle in the world. Round headlamps, seven-slot grille, separate fenders, removable doors (half-doors optional), and fold-down windshield are all proven Jeep cues. However, if you look for the flat panels of earlier Wranglers and CJs (CJ originally stood for civilian Jeep), you won’t find any; every piece of sheetmetal, and the windshield, are slightly curved.
Even the Unlimited four-door, whether hard top or soft top, looks like a Jeep. And it’s the only four-door 4×4 convertible on the market. The soft top slides and folds horizontally on the roof, leaving the occupants further protected by door and window frames, although there’s already a rollbar. Lifting off the soft top is still more work than on any convertible car. Some versions have a premium soft top that borders on a headliner.
The hardtop is optional (price dependent on finish); it comes off in three pieces, like a pair of T-tops in front and a sunroof over the rear seat. We spent a summer day on Jeep trails in the Northwest in a Wrangler Rubicon with all three parts removed, and it was fabulous. We think the hard top is better for urban warriors, hunters, fishermen or other outdoorsmen, because it provides better security for your outdoor gear in shopping-center parking lots, against thieves, and better security for your food in camp, if threatened by bears.
The soft top remains the sportiest in appearance, and isn’t much louder on the highway. The Dual Top option allows buyers to get both. We’d likely spring for Dual Top.
If you like some of the body accessories that have been fitted to special-edition models, many of those bits are available from Mopar, Chrysler’s in-house parts division. They won’t be cheap compared to the aftermarket, but the fit is guaranteed, there are no warranty issues, and your dealer might mix it in with your deal.
Who expects heated leather seats in a topless Jeep? On the other hand, they are easy to wipe off, and staying warm with the top down in the Rockies on a cool, sunny day is not the worst idea.
We lived in a hardtop Wrangler for a week and it was all good, comfort-wise. With the top off, there was a lot of wind buffeting in the back seat.
We’ve driven a Wrangler Unlimited Sahara. It’s roomy and comfortable and, even with leather, still every bit a Jeep. Good rear legroom, easy to climb in and out. The rear 60/40 seat folds or can be removed to create 87 cubic feet of cargo space, comparable to a Toyota 4Runner.
The center console makes a good armrest, though its height means you have to raise your elbow when using the shift lever. Power window switches are centered in the dash between omni-directional vents. Other controls are grouped around the radio or touchscreen entertainment head, on the stalks, steering wheel spokes, and ahead of the shifter. Bouncing around with your hand on the shifter is not only discouraged for the transmission’s longevity, you readily get bumped into the switches. Flicking on the hazard flashers inadvertently would look silly on the trail.
In the popular two-door Wrangler, there’s very little storage space behind the rear seat, so four people with four medium backpacks fill it to overflowing. But the rear seat can be removed, creating a voluminous 61.2 cubic feet of cargo volume. That’s the setup we like.
Less likely, the rear seat can be removed from the four-door Wrangler Unlimited, making 87 cubic feet. But that doesn’t make much sense. Wrangler Unlimited is best for parties of four. Our recommendation: Remove the rear seats in the two-door Wrangler, but leave the rear seats in place in the four-door Unlimited.
The Media Center options have their downsides, and if you go offroad or take the top down much, you probably won’t like them. Sunlight plays havoc with display readability, making the touch screen virtually invisible in the sun. Besides, in a bouncing Jeep, traversing a trail, it’s not easy to land your finger where you want it, even when merely trying to tune the radio. A Jeep needs knobs you can grab. The 6.5-inch screen is reasonably large, but with some functions less than half of the screen is used: tiny little radio words, while the other 60 percent of the space says JEEP.
The touch-screen navigation system in the Media Center is fairly simple in its display. It didn’t make any errors on the routes we programmed, although trying to find the button to enter a destination was maddening. We suggest you skip the Media Center, be satisfied with six speakers in the standard sound system, and get your own GPS for navigation. That would be a Jeep-like choice.
We’ve driven most of the Wrangler models. We’ve driven a Wrangler Unlimited in urban surroundings, a Rubicon on rock-climbing trails, and a Wrangler Sport on backroad two-lanes at night. We’ve driven Rubicons on the Rubicon Trail, through Oregon’s Tillamook Forest, over Michigan dunes, and over the red rock outside Moab. We found them comfortable and they inspired confidence.
The Wrangler Unlimited Sahara is astonishingly smooth and quiet, totally civilized, thanks hugely to the 3.6-liter V6 engine. The 5-speed automatic is well-behaved, and doesn’t hunt for gears; it simply uses the gear it’s in. It was designed for use with Chrysler’s 5.7-liter Hemi engine, now refined for the Pentastar V6, but still delivering Jeep-like industrial strength. Some Wrangler Unlimited models can tow 3500 pounds; others are rated to tow 2000, as are the two-door Wranglers.
The Unlimited corners well, and head sway on weaving roads is light. You can only do so much with a solid axle and tall body, countered by a vertical-climbing-friendly long wheelbase, like that of a short-bed, regular cab full-size pickup.
Wrangler Unlimited’s 116-inch wheelbase is 10 inches more than that of a Nissan Xterra. What’s good on the highway is not the best for maneuverability, and the Unlimited doesn’t turn nearly as well as a regular Wrangler. It bottoms out more easily in rugged terrain; the Unlimited’s breakover angle is comparable to that of a Land Rover LR2. On the upside, the twitchy handling that lingers in the Wrangler because of its short 95-inch wheelbase is not present in the Wrangler Unlimited. The first pleasant surprise of the Unlimited: it doesn’t feel like a Jeep.
With 285 horsepower, you’d think a Wrangler should feel more powerful, and accelerate faster. We ran a lot of high-speed two-lane miles, and our Wrangler had to work, using momentum to pass. Weight and aerodynamic resistance take their toll, and with a Rubicon four-door heavier than a 470-hp Dodge Charger and about as sleek as a phone book, acceleration rates quickly fall off as speed increases. Most mud- and all-terrain tires aren’t designed for West Texas or Montana speeds, either.
For serious trail adventures the Rubicons are ideal, but we got a Moab Unlimited through Elephant Hill (a trail in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park that’s rated 5 on a 1-10 scale) on street tire pressure with no issues. As things get nastier in a Rubicon, you can push a button to disconnect the splined front stabilizer to allow more lateral articulation at the wheels. If it gets worse, press another button to lock the rear differential; and if gets harder still, lock the front differential as well.
On many low-speed trails, the best technique is to take your feet off the pedals and just steer. At idle in Low Range, a Rubicon powers up and over obstacles that would totally stop most vehicles; even though torque peaks at 4800 rpm, it plugs along like a tractor. This is because of the Rubicon’s unique transfer-case low-range gearing of 4:1. With a manual transmission in first gear, the overall gear reduction is 73:1 (53.6:1 with automatic), as opposed to 10:1 to 12:1 in the average car. This provides maximum torque at baby-crawling speeds.
Our Rubicon scarcely broke a sweat over rocky trails that would turn back all but the ruggedest and hardest-climbing of vehicles. We ran support for a 50k trail run in the Columbia River Gorge, over two 3500-foot peaks in Washington’s Cascades, and it was a hard 12-hour day. “In my old Jeep, I would have been in misery, dying to get out,” said our navigator. “But I could ride all day in this Jeep.”
On the highway at 70 mph, the Wrangler can be a bit twitchy. Hopping out of an Unlimited where the twitchiness is absent, the twitch in the short-wheelbase Wrangler is heightened. But as soon as the driver adjusts, the turns and corrections come more smoothly. When the Wrangler is pointed straight and steady, it stays that way. Much of this is relative to tires and pressure.
There’s a big difference in how stable the Wrangler feels with the top on and off, but little change in actual stability. With T-tops removed, at 65 mph it beats you up; but with the top on it feels smooth at 75 and beyond.
Keep in mind that the Sport, Sahara and Rubicon models have different tires, shock absorbers, and gearing. This changes their character significantly, whether on the highway or the trail. Choose your Wrangler for the type of driving you’ll be doing.
The Wrangler is no gas-mileage champ. Wrangler is EPA-estimated at 17/21 mpg City/Highway with either transmission; Unlimited is estimated at 16/21 mpg with manual shift, but 16/20 mpg with automatic. Expect teens on the pavement and less than 5 mpg on the trail or sand dunes. Our Unlimited did 18 mpg on mostly pavement; a Rubicon averaged 11 mpg over a 70-mile pavement drive and 9 hours on the trail. Of course, fuel economy on the trail will be poor in any vehicle.
The German-made 6-speed manual transmission isn’t as easy to drive as the 5-speed automatic, American-made. The 6-speed has relatively long clutch and shift travel for a car, but typical for a truck. Your driving style will affect economy far more than choice of transmission, but the manual is less expensive and has a far superior crawl ratio for trail use.
Summary, Prices, Specs
The Jeep Wrangler is surprisingly smooth and sophisticated, given its amazing off-road capability. Wrangler Unlimited delivers a smooth ride and secure handling. Soft top is sporty, hard top is practical; we like both. We recommend the Unlimited for families; off-road capability is nearly the same. Singles and couples might want to go for the traditional two-door.
Sam Moses filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com after his test drives of Wrangler models around the country.
|Model Line Overview|
|Model lineup:||Jeep Wrangler Sport ($22,795); Sport S ($25,595); Sahara ($28,595); Freedom Edition ($28,690); Willys Wheeler Edition ($26,795); Willys Wheeler W Edition ($28,895); Rubicon ($31,695), Rubicon X ($33,295); Rubicon Hard Rock ($36,195); Wrangler Unlimited Sport ($26,595); Unlimited Sport S ($29,695); Unlimited Sahara ($32,395); Unlimited Freedom Edition ($32,490); Unlimited Willys Wheeler ($30,595); Unlimited Willys Wheeler W ($32,695); Unlimited Rubicon ($35,495); Unlimited Rubicon X ($37,095); Unlimited Rubicon Hard Rock ($39,995).|
|Engines:||3.6-liter DOHC 24-valve V6|
|Transmissions:||5-speed automatic, 6-speed manual|
|Safety equipment (standard):||frontal airbags; electronic stability control with roll mitigation, hill start assist, trailer sway control, all-speed traction control, ABS with Brake assist|
|Safety equipment (optional):||front side-impact airbags|
|Basic warranty:||3 years/36,000 miles|
|Assembled in:||Toledo, Ohio|
|Specifications As Tested|
|Model tested (MSPR):||Jeep Wrangler Rubicon ($30,595)|
|Standard equipment:||cloth upholstery, air conditioning, power doors, cruise control, 6-speaker sound system, 115-volt power outlet, removable doors, roll-up windows, fold-down windshield, soft top, black fender flares, halogen headlamps, foglamps, tow hooks, rock rails, Tru-Lok front and rear electronic differential locking, electronic front axle locking, Heavy Duty Dana 44 front axle, 4.10 axle ratio, Rock-Trac 2-speed transfer case with 4:01 low range, BF Goodrich Mud Terrain LT255/75R17 tires on painted aluminum wheels|
|Options as tested (MSPR):||leather, heated front seats ($1,100), Connectivity Group with Bluetooth ($495), Power Group ($795), black 3-piece hardtop ($895), Media Center with navigation and touch screen ($1,035)|
|Gas guzzler tax:||N/A|
|Price as tested (MSPR):||N/A|
|Horsepower (lb.-ft @ rpm):||285 @ 6400|
|Torque (lb.-ft @ rpm):||260 @ 4800|
|EPA fuel economy, city/hwy:||17/21 mpg|
|Track, f/r:||61.9/61.9 in.|
|Turning circle:||34.9 ft.|
|Head/hip/leg room, f:||41.3/55.6/41.0 in.|
|Head/hip/leg room, m:||N/A|
|Head/hip/leg room, r:||40.3/44.7/35.6 in.|
|Cargo volume:||56.5 cu. ft.|
|Towing capacity:||2000 Lbs.|
|Suspension, f:||live axle, coil springs, track bar, stabilizer bar|
|Suspension, r:||live axle, coil springs, track bar, stabilizer bar|
|Ground clearance:||10.2 in.|
|Curb weigth:||4129 lbs.|
|Brakes, f/r:||vented disc/vented disc with ABS, Brake Assist|
|Fuel capacity:||18.6 gal.|
|Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle. All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSPR) effective as of February 23, 2015.Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges. N/A: Information not available or not applicable. Manufacturer Info Sources: 877-426-5337 - www.jeep.com|