This ready-for-anything vehicle can trace its lineage right back to the original military-grade Willys MA that debuted just in time for the Second World War. In fact, today’s model still features the same body proportions, is equipped with live axles at both ends, and has a spare tire mounted vertically at the rear, traits that go all the way back to 1941.
In case you have trouble with math (like I do), today’s Wrangler represents 75 years of heritage. Countless other automakers have come and gone in that time, but Jeep remains. It’s undoubtedly one of FCA’s strongest brands, with more than 865,000 units delivered in 2015.
SEE ALSO: 2016 Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler Review
I recently evaluated the 2016 Wrangler Unlimited Sahara, a mid-range four-door model, and I learned a lot about it during my stint in the driver’s seat. Accordingly, here are the six most important things I learned about Jeep’s ever-popular Wrangler.
6. Go-Anywhere Confidence
With massive iron beams supporting it front and rear plus knobby tires, four-wheel drive and more ground clearance than the height of a 95th percentile toddler, this vehicle is designed to tackle the gnarliest off-road trails. It can go just about anywhere you want, every season of the year, and through any weather conditions. Capability is the name of the game here and the Wrangler excels where the pavement ends. Go ahead and get a little dirty, the Wrangler will laugh in your face and ask for more.
5. Chrysler’s Pentastar V6 is an ENGINEering Masterpiece
I’m a big fan of Chrysler’s 3.6-liter Pentastar V6. This punchy engine works just as well in a Dodge Charger as it does in one of Ram’s pickups, it’s brilliant in the 200 sedan and even a Caravan. Predictably, it’s just as enticing when bolted under a Wrangler’s boxy hood. In this application, it delivers 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Another benefit of the Pentastar is that it’s one of the smoothest running bent-sixes on the market today.
4. The Five-Speed Automatic Transmission Is Awful
But for all of this engine’s refinement and power, it was paired with an antiquated five-speed automatic transmission in the Wrangler I tested. This gearbox is like a Throwback Thursday to the old DaimlerChrysler days, and that’s not something to celebrate. For the most part, this transmission behaved itself, but on random occasions, you could catch it off guard and it would slam into gear on upshifts. The available six-speed manual would have been much nicer.
3. It’s Quieter Than You Might Expect
The Wrangler is impressively quiet underway. No, it’s not the most silent vehicle on the market, but when you consider that it has the proportions of an apple crate and stands as tall as a pickup truck, the fact that it doesn’t sound like a regional jet on takeoff leaves you scratching your head. Obviously, there’s no way to fool the slipstream; this rig will never compete with a Prius when it comes to aerodynamics, but engineers still did a damn fine job civilizing this ever-capable brute.
2. It Feels Rubbery
Despite its whisper-like interior, the remainder of the Wrangler’s on-road behavior is a mixed bag … a colostomy bag. If there’s one word that sums up this vehicle’s driving experience, it would be rubbery. But this should come as no surprise, its tires have tall sidewalls and massive tread blocks, plus there are live axles at both ends. Simply put, this thing is not very enjoyable on the street.
Its steering is vague and as you turn, the body seems to roll a bit before the vehicle actually changes direction. The Wrangler’s ride is fairly bouncy and it always feels like there’s a lot of mass moving around underneath your feet. But none of this matters when you’re off-roading. The characteristics that make it drive poorly on the road make it more capable when the road ends.
1. There are Wranglers Everywhere!
This is a purpose-built machine specifically designed to get you places few other vehicles ever could. Of course it’s not going to handle like an M3 on the street! I know that and so do you.
However, Jeep Wranglers are everywhere. The first day I took my loaner out for a spin I saw eight others on the road, the overwhelming number of which were four-door Unlimited models; it was unbelievable.
This, of course, means there are far too many poseurs out there commuting to work in these things rather than bashing rocks and slinging mud like the Wrangler’s designers intended, which is a laughable waste of capability. So here’s a helpful hint: If you live on a cul-de-sac or in a subdivision, you don’t need one of these machines; ditto if you think driving on wet grass constitutes off-roading. Save these vehicles for people who really use them.
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