Written by: Calvin Chan
Photography by: Calvin Chan
As a direct descendant of the World War II Willys MB vehicles, the Jeep Wrangler has its roots tracing back more than 70 years. A purposeful and utilitarian sport utility vehicle, the Jeep Wrangler was renowned for being an off-road warrior capable of climbing steep, muddy, and rocky terrains. Being one of the oldest and most iconic vehicles in automotive history, it's surprising to see that the Wrangler's design has barely changed over the years - the recipe of 4-buggy eyes and a 7-slat grille encased in a bumper underbite - even for the 2015 model shown above. Much like the Mercedes-Benz G-wagon, if it works, why fix it?
So why is it that Jeeps continue to appeal to so many loyal customers? It's certainly not the prettiest car in the lot, nor is it the comfiest. The Wrangler has the ability to climb Mount Everest, but 80% of them will spend their lifetime on dry pavement. You won't find this boxy, straight, and military-esque design hung up on bedroom walls, nor will the kids drool and beg for one under their Christmas tree. What makes it so special then? What makes a Jeep, well, a Jeep? We spent a week with the 2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara to see what the off-roading charm is all about.
The Jeep Wrangler is offered in two body styles, 2-door and 4-door (termed Unlimited), with a choice of a soft-top or a hard-top. Changes for 2015 include new paint colours, trim packages, a standard Torx toolkit for disassembling the roof or doors, and an optional Alpine premium stereo system with 9 speakers and a subwoofer. The sheetmetal carries over from the outgoing model, and so do the exposed hinges and screws that give the Wrangler a bare-bone skeleton appearance. The frame remains boxy and square, and staring from the side makes it look like a Rubik's cube. The silhouette is far from aggressive, but there are several aftermarket companies like MOPAR that supply parts and upgrades to spruce up your Jeep even further. Our tester is wearing the Firecracker Red paint, or what I like to call, Reindeer Express Red. Just put some of those festive fluffy noses on the tip and even Santa Clause might mistake it for his sleigh.
Yet, one of the most appealing attributes of the Jeep Wrangler is the ability to remove the roof and all four doors. Even the front windshield can be folded down. What other 4-door vehicle can suddenly transform into a 4x4 convertible? It's like riding a door-less helicopter, but with four wheels. Open air freedom, 365 days a year. Sounds like a tangible excuse for me to buy one. But don't expect the detachments to come with the push of a button. To remove the parts, you'll need the Torx toolkit that you'll receive when you purchase the Jeep. It's a shame that our tester didn't come with one, as I was really looking forward to taking off the doors and driving in the open atmosphere. That and the idea of commuting to work covered head to toe in snow.
All Wrangler models feature a 3.6L Pentastar V6 engine rated at 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. It's unquestionably a potent engine, but is one that needs to be revved hard to get the torque flowing and the wheels moving. Despite being a leap forward from the outdated and thirsty 3.8L V6 engine from 2012, fuel efficiency was never something the Wrangler kept in check. Over the week, we averaged 14.9 L/100km with a mix of city and highway driving. The new Pentastar is mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission (a 6-speed manual is also offered). The shifts are clean and the power builds progressively without the gearbox always hunting for the top gear. The car feels heavy at first, but begins to ease into a nice balance once the momentum kicks in.
The Wrangler's steering mechanism remains the recirculating-ball type. It's a durable system, but one that is start to show its age. The steering is heavy at low speeds and becomes horrifyingly numb at highway speeds, making for an inanimate driving experience. Another primitive element of the Wrangler is its solid axle setup. There are many perks to this: it's simple, light, easy to manufacturer and incredibly strong, but because the tires don't react individually, the ride becomes extremely uncomfortable. The tall and boxy profile of the Wrangler also means it's not very aerodynamic, and results in greater wind resistance and noise throughout the cabin. On bumpy, undulating roads, the journey can be unpleasant and rowdy, making you wish you took your other daily driver.
But there are some days where you will be glad you saved a garage spot for your Jeep. Where the pavement ends, the Jeep shines. Snow, mud, sand, whatever. Shift the transfer case into 4WD via the chrome-tipped shifter and let the 18-inch Bridgestone Dueler A/T tires sink in and parade forward. The 4WD system is remarkable and will do just about anything you tell it to. Braving through a heavy snowstorm and icy roads, the Jeep delivered impressive amounts of grip, the handling was easy, the tires kept digging, and the high sitting position gave me a clear view of the treacherous road ahead, paths impregnable by the sedans and coupes that populate my neighbours' garages. It was during moments like these where I started to see the appeal and began to appreciate these 4x4 Swiss Army knives. Reliable and capable when summoned for action, the Wrangler was built to weather the elements. And if that isn't enough for you, then the Rubicon trim is right up your alley. For those going extreme rock crawling, hunting, or serious off-roading, the Wrangler Rubicon offers a 4.10 rear axle ratio, a Dana 44 heavy-duty front axle, a performance-tuned suspension, and a special Rock-Trac 4WD system with an electronically disconnecting front sway bar.
Jeep interiors were never the most luxurious and the Wrangler is no exception. But the automaker now offers some creature comforts - air conditioning, power heated mirrors, a premium audio system, automatic headlamps, and heated seats, yes heated seats in a Jeep! - that go a long way into making the ride more bearable and livable. The cabin has been garnished in brown and black colours that deliver an upscale look, though the panels lack angles, and the dashboard is incredibly shallow. There's also a mix of tactile materials and durable cloth seats that are hard to stain and easy to wash. You can tell that the engineers designed the Wrangler's interior to survive the muddiest and grittiest of terrains.
The cabin is airy and roomy, one wouldn't describe it as cramped but the rear seats lack bolstering and support, making it very uncomfortable for those unlucky few that didn't call shotgun. The side steps are also pretty useless. Step on it, and you're too high up, forcing you to squat your glutes and squeeze your head through the door. Don't use the step, and you're too low to ingress gracefully without a hop. The driving position is also a bit odd. The seats are positioned very upright, but it allows for greater and more predictable visibility through the narrow windows. Though many modern cars come with a rear view camera, the Wrangler doesn't get one. However, I never found myself needing one as the spare wheel on the back acts as a useful reference point for easy rear-in parking. A handy 3-prong 115-volt auxiliary power outlet is also located in the center console, meaning you can plug in your phone charger and other items without needing an additional car adapter. There's also an on/off switch so you don't electrocute yourself if the plug gets doused from the outdoors.
Driving the Wrangler will remind you of how much more refined other modern SUVs or crossovers have become. But then you have to take into consideration how unrefined the old Wranglers were. We now have amenities like heated seats, automatic headlamps, and a premium sound system with satellite radio that can make the journey that much more enjoyable. Jeep isn't looking to provide luxury elements like suede inserts or bright TFT displays on the dash, and they certainly aren't the most practical or comfortable city cruisers on the market. But its iconic styling and esteemed off-road abilities has made the Jeep Wrangler one of the most dependable and exciting vehicles to drive. Jeep loyalists know that, and they also have the satisfaction of knowing that when the stars align and the weather is downright treacherous, all the sacrifices of comfort and practicality will pay off in spades.
Click here to read our Chinese review of the 2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara.
型号 Model: 2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4x4 Sahara
顏色 Paint Type: Firecracker Red
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $35,395
試車售價 Price as Tested: $43,455
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2946
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4684 / 1872 / 1801
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1994
引擎 Engine: 3.6L Pentastar VVT V6
最大馬力 Horsepower: 285 hp
最高扭力 Torque: 260 lb-ft
波箱 Transmission: 5-speed automatic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, 2WD/4WD
前懸 Suspension-Front: Leading link
後懸 Suspension-Rear: Trailing arm
煞制-前 Brakes-Front: 4-wheel disc
煞制-後 Brakes-Rear: 4-wheel disc
油耗 Fuel Consumption (City/Highway/Combined)- L/100 km: 14.8 / 11.7
輪胎尺碼 Tires: 255/70R18 - Bridgestone Dueler A/T