After 75 years, it is still the most instantly recognized sportsman’s off- road/trail vehicle in the world.
By Andy Lightbody
AmmoLand Auto Editor
United States -(AmmoLand.com)- Say “Jeep Wrangler” to any backcountry traveling outdoorsman, off-roader, camper, angler or hunter, and everyone knows what kind of vehicle you are talking about.
After all, with roots that date back to WWII with the military Willys (1941), then the CJ series (which stands for Civilian Jeep) and now the Wrangler, they are instantly recognizable with their large round headlamps, short wheelbase, distinctive grille, separate fenders, removable doors and the always popular fold-flat windshield.
Today and for 2016, sportsmen everywhere know it’s a proven design that has evolved over the years, but without giving up the hardcore nature of being a back roads, trail, rock, snow/ice traveler that is always happiest when the pavement comes to an end. If you think these vehicles are sports cars, you have entirely missed the point! They are not. They will travel in the city and on the highways with a little civility and a host of nice driver/passenger creature comforts, but at 65-80 mph on pavement, they are described best as “being out of their true element!”
All that said, the Wrangler line-up for 2016 remains strong with lots of different designs and models to choose from for your ongoing Outdoor Adventures.
A word of note however, is that many in the auto industry are saying that the Wranglers are going to cease production as early as 2017.
What the folks at Jeep have planned for that year or the 2018 model year is “rampant with speculation,” but it is a good guess that they are going to hear loud howls of disbelief that the legendary series is actually going to disappear.
Two-door and four-door Wranglers are carried over, and while not as traditional “Jeepy” looking as the “ruggedized two-door models, the four-door versions do add additional passenger and cargo room, and actually remain the only four-door 4×4 off roader that is a convertible with a soft top. Here is where on several models, the hard top is actually an option!
To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the venerable Willy’s model, Jeep has actually come out with a 2 and 4-door Limited Edition “Willys Wheeler,” which is mechanically identical to new Wranglers, but has that more “military look,” colors and even a WILLY logo/paint scheme on the hood.
All of the Wrangler models will carryover with the Chrysler Pentastar 3.6 liter V6 powerplant that is mated to a new five-speed automatic transmission. The V6 is rated to 285 horsepower and 260 pound/feet of torque. The older six-speed manual is still offered, but the new combo is quick, responsive and can run from 0-60 in four-door Wrangler Unlimited versions in 8.4 seconds and a fast 7.7 seconds with the two-door models. While the long-through manual shifter may be more reminiscent of the older Jeep Wranglers, the newer combo is a better choice for anyone but the absolute purist!
Gearing for when the Wranglers are “in the dirt and where they belong,” again offers three choices when it comes to backcountry/trail performance in the front and rear axle ratios. Most tame is the standard 3.21:1 that is a good choice for most city/highway use and light off-roading. With this base package, the Wrangler only has to shift once to get up to 60mph. Stepping up is the taller 3.73:1 gearing, which will be the standard offering on the Willys Wheeler edition for this year. At the top of hill is the slow-crawling, max off road performance with the “tall gear” package that features 4:10:1 ratios that are available for the Rubicon models.
Head to the exterior and a walk-around, and the Wrangler for 2016 is all “Jeep.” If you are into really, really, heading to the back country and areas, where few would ever follow or challenge you, the Rubicon is the top-of-the-line Off Roader, and with good reason. It is lean, mean, unchanged and ready to hit the dirt and trails. It has a suspension system that is built for the rough stuff. It is geared for the dirt, has skid plates to protect you when you are rock crawling, and gear/axle ratios designed to get you in…. and out of trouble.
Now that you are ready for the rough stuff, crawl into the Wrangler, and even the Rubicon… and it becomes a whole new world. Instead of WWII basics, you are met with a luxury and opulence that is hard to imagine. Imagine if you can, but you can enjoy….
Depending on how you want your Rubicon or any Wrangler, you have plush seating, and more electronics than you can imagine. Plush… if you want it, or hardcore Jeep… if you do not.
Hardcore? You want the Rubicon series, for it maintains the true off-road Jeep. Want to tame it down? Jeep gives you a host of options for the Wrangler models for civilized on-road and off-road driving options.
As the oldest, most recognizable 4×4 and off road vehicle in the world, what else can you want or what else can you say?
It’s the Jeep. It started as a Willys for the military, evolved to a CJ for decades, and is going to finish off its linage as the Wrangler that we all know and love
About the Author:
Andy Lightbody is a lifelong outdoorsman, sportsman, writer, author, and broadcaster. He has served as the managing editor for Western Outdoors magazine; senior editor at Petersen’s Hunting magazine, and editor for the Guns & Ammo book division. Lightbody has authored countless game and fishing cooking articles, spent the last twenty years collecting jerky recipes from around the world, and was cohost of the TV/web show Cooking on the Wild Side.