The new Jeep Wrangler Unlimited is the kind of vehicle where a front winch is definitely not out of place and probably should be standard equipment.
After all, we’re talking about a 4X4 that now comes with a Torx tool kit for removing the cloth top and the four doors.
This convertible Jeep comes in two-door Wrangler or four-door Wrangler Unlimited versions. They are offered in Sport, Sport S, Willys Wheeler, Freedom Edition, Sahara, Rubicon, Altitude, X and Rubicon Hard Rock models. My test vehicle for the week was a Sunset Orange 2015 Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4X4.
The only engine available is a 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 with 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Jeep says that the oil sump was designed to provide oil to the pump even at extreme vehicle angles, and the alternator was placed up high so the vehicle could maintain its water-fording capability.
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That, in essence, is what the Wrangler Unlimited is all about – going off-road. It’s not that the Wrangler doesn’t have any creature comforts: it does, and they make it a serviceable daily driver. But off-roading is in the Wrangler’s DNA (the Jeep is famous for its service in World War II), and it’s designed to adapt to just about any task you can throw at it.
Besides removing the Wrangler Unlimited’s four doors and Sunrider Soft Top, the front windshield can be lowered and secured against two rubber bumpers on the hood for a full open-air experience, although at slow speeds.
In addition to a five-speed automatic transmission, the Wrangler Unlimited has an AutoStick feature which allows for manual shifting, which can be useful when towing or driving on slick streets.
For the most traction, including going off-road, the Sahara model offers standard Command-Trac Shift-on-the-Fly part time four-wheel drive with four operating modes: 2H (two-wheel drive high range), 4H (four-wheel drive high range), N (neutral, which allows the vehicle to be towed) and 4L (four-wheel drive low range).
Also standard is a Dana 44 heavy duty rear axle, a Dana 30 solid front axle, 3.21 front and rear axle ratios and skid plates for the transfer case and fuel tank.
All of that gives the Wrangler its go-anywhere adeptness. One might think that its rugged attitude might carry over into the cabin, but the interior is notable for its comfort and technology. So instead of cloth seats and an AM dial radio, you get comfortable leather, heated front seats and a nine-speaker Alpine sound system, a 6.5-inch touch-screen display with voice recognition, navigation and satellite radio.
That will allow you to drive it on the highway, although that’s not playing into its strength. While the ride is acceptable, the cloth top lets in a lot of road and wind noise at highway speeds.
Cargo space is good. There is 31.5 cubic feet of storage behind the rear seat and 70.6 cubic feet with the rear seat folded. The rear seat headrests fold automatically so the 60/40 rear seats can fold without moving the front seats.
Three years or 36,000 miles; five-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
The base price of the Wrangler Unlimited Sahara is $32,795. Options include the leather, heated front seats, an Electronic Vehicle Information Center, tire pressure monitoring display, five-speed automatic transmission, hill descent control, Premium Black Sunrider Soft Top, an Alpine nine-speaker sound system with all-weather subwoofer, satellite radio, 40 GB hard drive, 6.5-inch touch-screen display with navigation and a remote start system. The sticker price, including destination, was $40,020.
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2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4X4
ENGINE: 3.6-liter, 285-horsepower Pentastar V-6 with 260 pound-feet of torque
TRANSMISSION: Five-speed automatic with Command-Trac Shift-on-the-Fly part time four-wheel drive.
WHEELBASE/LENGTH: 116/184.9 inches
GROUND CLEARANCE: 9.7 inches
CURB WEIGHT: 4,294 pounds
BASE PRICE: $32,795
AS DRIVEN: $40,020, including options and destination
MPG RATING: 16 miles per gallon in city driving, 20 on the highway