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2015 Jeep Wrangler: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader February 2015

What does it say when a vehicle not known for outstanding safety features, excellent gas mileage or sophisticated interior design is also one of the best-known, most-loved vehicles on the road today? It says that sometimes fun and freedom trump caution and logic, and no vehicle demonstrates that better than the 2015 Jeep Wrangler and its elongated sibling, the Wrangler Unlimited.

The freedom to roam where and when you want and not worry about getting stuck is what Wrangler owners love most. The Wrangler lets you travel topless, doorless and even without a windshield if you feel like it. If you embrace the Wrangler's minimalist, function-over-form cabin layout, opting for the most affordable model only requires sacrificing creature comforts, not capability.

Although its shape still strongly resembles the original CJs of the '70s and '80s, the 2-door 2015 Jeep Wrangler is larger in both length and width. The 4-door Unlimited expands the Wrangler's fun to those who need a legitimate back seat with dedicated doors. Both models are available with removable soft-top or hardtop shells. No matter which Wrangler you choose, you'll be throwing caution (and logic) to the wind, and that's half the fun of owning one of these iconic Jeeps.

What's New for 2015?

The 2015 Wrangler gets an 8-speaker standard audio system (up from 6 speakers in previous model years) and offers a new 9-speaker Alpine system, too. A Torx tool kit for top, door or bumper removal is now standard on all models.

What We Like

Open-air cockpit; great off-road ability; wide range of trims and prices; it's a Jeep

What We Don't

Poor fuel economy; subpar crash-test scores; uncomfortable rear seat

How Much?

$23,790-$36,490

Fuel Economy

All Wranglers are powered by a 3.6-liter V6 engine rated at 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Two transmissions are offered: a 6-speed manual and a 5-speed automatic. Four-wheel drive with a dual-range transfer case is standard, while the Rubicon model gets an extra-aggressive crawl ratio for even more rock-crawling capability.

The Environmental Protection Agency rates the regular Wrangler at 17 miles per gallon in the city and 21 mpg on the highway regardless of transmission. The Wrangler Unlimited drops to 16 mpg city/21 mpg hwy with the manual and 16 mpg city/20 mpg hwy with the automatic.

Standard Features & Options

The 2015 Jeep Wrangler is offered with two or four doors (Unlimited) in three main trim levels: Sport, Sahara and Rubicon.

The Sport ($23,790) starts with 16-inch steel wheels, a black removable soft-top, fog lights, manual accessories, a tilt steering wheel, cruise control, a height-adjustable driver seat, and an 8-speaker audio system with steering-wheel-mounted controls and an auxiliary audio jack. The Sport Unlimited ($27,590) adds the larger 4-door body and air conditioning.

The Sahara ($29,590) boasts 18-in alloy wheels, an upgraded suspension with gas shocks, tubular side steps, automatic headlights, body-color fender flares, silver bumper trim, heated exterior mirrors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, air conditioning, a 115-volt household-style power outlet, power accessories and an optional body-color hardtop (the lesser trims offer only a black hardtop). The Sahara Unlimited ($33,390) is similarly equipped.

The hardcore Rubicon ($32,690) features 17-in alloy wheels, a performance suspension, a special Rock-Trac 4-wheel-drive system with an electronically disconnecting front sway bar, a heavy-duty front axle, front and rear electronically locking differentials, rock rails and manual accessories. The Rubicon Unlimited ($36,490) is similarly equipped.

Options are extensive and include many items that may be standard on other trims. If you want a Rubicon with power accessories, for example, Jeep will be happy to oblige. Bluetooth/USB connectivity and a 9-speaker Alpine sound system with a subwoofer are optional across the lineup, while the Sahara and Rubicon can be outfitted with a touchscreen interface that includes navigation. Various customization options and special-edition models can be explored on the Jeep website or at your local dealer.

Safety

The 2015 Wrangler comes with just the basics on the safety front, including dual front airbags, anti-lock disc brakes, traction control and roll bars. Front-side airbags are an extra-cost option.

The government has not crash-tested the Wrangler, but the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the 2-door Wrangler a worrisome report card, including Poor (the worst score of four) for the side-impact test and Marginal (second-worst) for both the small-overlap front test and the head-restraint and seat test. The Wrangler Unlimited improved to Marginal in the side-impact test. Both models were deemed Good (the best score) in the moderate-overlap front test.

Note that IIHS only tested Wranglers without the optional side airbags.

Behind the Wheel

Considering its solid front and rear axles, 10-in ground clearance and off-road tires, the Wrangler can't be expected to handle well by modern SUV standards. The Wrangler is easy to manage under normal driving conditions, though, with good feedback from the steering and fairly level cornering at reasonable speeds. The ride is still rough, and there's not much shelter from wind and road noise, but that's to be expected. The Pentastar V6 provides good power, especially with the manual transmission, which is surprisingly fun to operate.

Where the Wrangler shines is off the pavement. The base 4x4 system is remarkably adept at tackling snow, mud and sand. Unfortunately, unlike more modern 4-wheel-drive systems, the Wrangler can't operate at highway speeds with its 4-wheel-drive system engaged. Serious off-road enthusiasts will love the Rubicon, which features an electronically detachable front sway bar, a heavy-duty Dana 44 front axle and a 73:1 crawl ratio that lets you bushwhack at speeds as low as half a mile an hour.

Other Cars to Consider

2015 Nissan Xterra -- The Xterra is a more civilized SUV that can nonetheless conquer some pretty tough trails, and it's competitive on price, too.

2015 Toyota 4Runner -- Similar in concept to the Xterra but with a few more features and a higher price tag, the 4Runner has delighted off-road enthusiasts for many years with its combination of capability and reliability.

2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee -- If you're looking for great off-road ability in a vehicle that carries the legendary Jeep name but offers better safety and a more carlike ride and interior, you'll love the Grand Cherokee.

Used Toyota FJ Cruiser -- Although it's now discontinued, the FJ Cruiser remains a highly competent off-road vehicle with more creature comforts than the Jeep. Its fixed roof produces plenty of blind spots, however.

AutoTrader's Advice

It doesn't come cheap, but we love the Sahara. Its body-color fenders and matching hardtop make it look like a miniature Mercedes-Benz G-Class, and it comes with enough standard features to keep us happy. The beauty of the Wrangler is that you can have one built just about any way you like. Don't forget to specify those side airbags, though.

Find a Jeep Wrangler for sale

RELATED INVENTORY
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
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Used 2015 Jeep Wrangler 4WD Unlimited Sport
Used 2015 Jeep Wrangler
$28,250
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Used 2015 Jeep Wrangler 4WD Sahara
Used 2015 Jeep Wrangler
$24,900
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Used 2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon
Used 2015 Jeep Wrangler
$33,896
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Used 2015 Jeep Wrangler 4WD Unlimited Rubicon
Used 2015 Jeep Wrangler
$29,730
This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2015 Jeep Wrangler: New Car Review - Autotrader