2015 Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler Review
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The Wrangler is, and always has been, an excellent off-road SUV.
If there's any vehicle likely to survive a forthcoming apocalypse, it's the Jeep Wrangler. It's about as simple as a fourth grader's first essay; it's rocking two stick axles, a body that's evolved less over the years than the Porsche 911, and the interior is an exercise in cheap plastics and radio head units that look no fancier than a pre-2000 flip phone. Yet, this vehicle continues to sell like hotcakes. The reasons for that are manifold, but the Wrangler is, and always has been, an excellent off-road SUV.
Yet, for some strange reason, they're also supremely popular in hoighty-toighty suburbs where the closest they get to off-roading is the gravel parking lot at a Jimmy Buffet concert. This baffles your author, as the Wrangler is not particularly car-like in its handling prowess, if one could argue that said handling prowess even exists in the first place.
It gets worse when you add the Willys Wheeler package, which gives the Wrangler some beefy mud tires, a heartier suspension, and some decals that are actually pretty cool-looking. This turns your standard Wrangler into a car that must be taken off the beaten path in order to be enjoyed; if you buy a Wrangler Willys Wheeler and you either never take it off-road, or you never swap the tires out for something more sensible ... well, we hope you enjoy your awful ride.
Even though this Wrangler has two doors, getting to the back seat isn't terribly difficult. The front passenger seat hinges forward to provide maximum space for rear-seat ingress and egress, and passenger space is abundant. Visibility is equally ample; with a straight-up windshield and large glass on all sides, blind spots were damn near nonexistent.
If you've looked at a Wrangler built in the last, um, ever, this one will come as no surprise. We'd have a hard time ordering it in anything but Tank Green, though. With the hard-top in place, it looks like a decommissioned military vehicle ready to tackle some nasty terrain.
The combination of solid axles and off-road suspension make every bump twice as noticeable. You'd think suspension travel would soak up bumps and undulations, but it's actually the opposite; larger bumps usually meant tossing passengers around like rag dolls. Thanks to some very knobby mud tires, the steering was vague at best, requiring an egregious amount of correction on both straights and curves. Then there was the road noise, which is entirely the fault of the tires. At low speeds, the tire noise wasn't bad; at highway speeds, the Wrangler's tire roar drowned out both wind noise and quiet music coming from the speakers. And that was with the optional hard top attached, which you'd think would help cancel out some of that tire noise. In short, if you get a Willys Wheeler, and you don't change the tires, but you never leave the pavement, you're going to have a bad time.
Speaking of the hard top, it's excellent. It has two easily removable panels that give you the open-air experience while managing to keep turbulent air from entering the cabin, and if you want to take the whole top off, all it takes is a friend or two and a few Torx bolts. Easy peasy. The roof panels have a storage bag that sits in the back, but you're going to need a good deal of garage space to house the whole hard top.
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, part-time 4WD
Power Output: 285 horsepower / 260 lb-ft
Fuel Economy (mpg): 17 city / 21 highway
Base Price: $29,095 (incl. $6,100 Willys Wheeler package)
As Tested: $36,015 (incl. $995 destination)
Willys Wheeler Package: Willys graphics, 17-inch black wheels with off-road tires, locking rear differential, 3.75 axle ratios, performance suspension, rock rails, all-weather floor mats, air conditioning, leather-wrapped steering wheel, deep-tint windows
Dual Top Group: Black soft top, three-piece black hard top, rear window defroster, rear windshield wiper
Power Convenience Group: Auto-dimming rearview mirror, power heated side mirrors, power door locks, power windows, remote keyless entry, security alarm
Trailer Tow Group: Class II receiver hitch, trailer tow with four-pin connector wiring
Individual Options: Half-size metal doors with manual locks and plastic windows, tubular side steps