By Keith Buglewicz
KBB Expert Rating: 6.5
There are few vehicles that have remained as faithful to their origins like the 2015 Jeep Wrangler SUV. Despite decades of development, multiple iterations and even necessary nods to modern technology, the Wrangler remains true to its hard-earned and thoroughly deserved reputation as the universal standard for off-road vehicles. There's something here for anybody who wants off-road utility, from the simple and inexpensive 2-door Sport with a soft top, to the go-anywhere Rubicon. The longer Wrangler Rubicon SUV offers four doors and a more usable back seat, but it does it all with the same off-road prowess as the original. All come with Chrysler's excellent Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 engine. Competition? Maybe the Toyota 4Runner or Nissan XTerra, but neither SUV has the Jeep Wrangler's off-road chops.
Not only will the 2015 Jeep Wrangler let you take the road less traveled, it will let you take no road at all if you prefer. If you want to go even farther, an ample aftermarket is ready to step in.
Be warned: The 2015 Jeep Wrangler is not the kind of SUV you get because you think it'd be cool-looking to drive one in the city. It's loud, the suspension is stiff, and it's short on creature comforts. That's fine for off-road, but for around town, look elsewhere.
KBB Expert Ratings
A Rubicon Hard Rock edition improves the 2015 Jeep Wrangler's off-road capability. There's also a 31-inch tire package available for Sport models, and all Wranglers get a standard Torx tool kit to remove the roof. The new 8-speaker audio system can be upgraded to a new 9-speaker Alpine audio system.
With front and rear solid axles and body-on-frame construction, the 2015 Jeep Wrangler is downright primitive by modern standards. But that's what makes it work so well off road. There's...
... generous ground clearance, minimal overhangs, and that distinctive Jeep look, of course. Being equipped with 4-wheel drive, the Wrangler is nearly unstoppable off road. Yet in spite of its off-road bias, it's not quite as bad as you might imagine on pavement. The suspension deals with pavement irregularities as well as it deals with off-road bumps and ruts, and the precise steering is as welcome off-pavement as on. Still, it's ridiculously loud at highway speeds, and its barnlike aerodynamics means you'll use a lot of gas to not go very fast. So just drive it to the trails, where you'll slow down and take advantage of the excellent Pentastar V6 engine and the Wrangler's legendary off-road capability.
3.6-LITER PENTASTAR V6
Chrysler's Pentastar V6 is the best thing to happen to the Jeep Wrangler since aftermarket winches. With smooth operation, nice throttle response and even decent highway fuel economy, it's just about as perfectly suited as it can be. In addition to the 5-speed automatic, there's a 6-speed manual available.
COMMANDING OFF-ROAD CAPABILITY
If you're not buying a Jeep Wrangler for its off-road capability, then you're simply doing it wrong. The ground clearance, the solid axles, the short overhangs...all of it combine to make the Wrangler excel at its task.
Very little about the Jeep Wrangler's interior conveys a sense of elegance or status. The Sport's cloth seats are durable, as are the numerous hard plastics throughout the interior. While it's true the higher trim levels offer leather seats, and a 9-speaker Alpine audio system is available, they add comfort, not outright luxury. That said, the rear seat folds flat for extra cargo space, and the 4-door Unlimited models offer plenty of rear-seat room for three people, plus twice the cargo space behind the rear seats as the standard 2-door Wrangler.
There's no mistaking the 2015 Jeep Wrangler's unmistakable styling for anything other than a Jeep. The box-on-wheels shape was originally designed for ease of manufacture; now Jeep doesn't dare alter it any more than Elvis could let himself go blonde. The upright windshield isn't just easy to see out of, it also folds down for those times off road when you need to lean over the hood. The wheels are pushed to the corners, giving the Wrangler unmatched approach and departure angles. About the only changes are to trim and appearance packages, like the Willys Wheeler or the Rubicon Hard Rock.
Two things are standard on every 2015 Jeep Wrangler: A 285-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 engine, and 4-wheel drive with a low-range transfer case. Beyond that, you get stability control with roll mitigation, hill-start assist and trailer sway control. New this year is a Torx Tool Kit, which includes T-30, T-35, T-40 and T-50 wrenches to remove the top and doors. What aren’t standard are power windows and door locks. Nor do you get standard air conditioning on base models.
The options list for the 2015 Jeep Wrangler is extensive, and again, aimed at the Jeep's core audience. For example, you have a choice of final-drive ratios, with the lower-number axle ratio offering better fuel economy and lower engine rpm for a quieter ride, while the higher number enables better acceleration, and climbing and towing ability. You'll find most of the extras in option packages, like the Black Steel and 31-inch Dueler Tire packages. But there are others, like the Freedom III Package, Trail Kit and Trailer-Tow Package. There's also a huge aftermarket industry of third-party parts and accessories.
There's only one engine available for the 2015 Jeep Wrangler: a terrific 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, with 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Its smooth power delivery makes easy work of highways or rock crawls, and it's easily the best engine ever in a Wrangler. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard, and a 5-speed automatic is available as an option. In the 2-door Wrangler, there's no difference in fuel economy between the two.
3.6 liter V6
285 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm
260 lb-ft of torque @ 4,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/21 mpg (Wrangler), 17/20 mpg (Wrangler Unlimited, automatic), 17/21 mpg (Wrangler Unlimited, manual)
The 2015 Jeep Wrangler is surprisingly affordable. The basic Wrangler Sport, with the V6 and 4-wheel drive, starts at a reasonable $23,500 Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP). The 4-door Wrangler Unlimited Sport is about $3,800 more. On the other end of the spectrum, a fully loaded Sahara or Rubicon can easily exceed $40,000. Various packages like the Willys Wheeler add about $3,000 to the price of a Wrangler Sport or Wrangler Sport S. Wranglers enjoy historically high resale values, with 3-year-old examples projected to return almost 60 percent of their original window sticker. Keep in mind that if you are considering aggressive off-roading, the fully loaded top-of-the-line Rubicon's $40,000 price is still a steal compared to the cost of upgrading a more basic Wrangler through the 4WD aftermarket. To make your best deal, be sure to check KBB.com's Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area typically pay for a Jeep Wrangler.