Back for 2015, the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4×4—yes that is its full name—returns with its same open-air, off-roading might and a better sound system to boot. It continues to be a great choice for people who value raw practicality and motoring fun over a fancy interior and a quiet ride.
Drivers who have seen or driven a recent Wrangler Unlimited will notice the new model year doesn’t bring any significant exterior changes. It’s still in the JK generation, and remains the only four-door 4×4 with a removable top on the market.
Although being the wet season I didn’t get too much chance to drive around sans roof, removal is fairly easy using a simple set of hand-actuated levers. Even the doors can be taken off if you really want to be one with the environment, and all models now include a standard Torx tool kit to help facilitate the procedure.
Being a big fan of Jeep’s long history and its military background, I personally love the way it looks. From the classic round headlamps and vertical slat grille to the fat tires and wide angular fender flares, it’s all business.
It might be a little too utilitarian for some. For instance, the doors swing freely open from the hinge with nothing catching them but what is essentially a piece of rope. Not the greatest feature in tight city parking spots.
As I hinted at earlier, all Wranglers now get a new standard eight-speaker audio system. My press vehicle was equipped with the optional nine-speaker premium Alpine setup that does sound quite good. It also had the Uconnect multimedia centre, Chrysler’s proprietary infotainment system, allowing for the standard suite of Bluetooth connectivity, integrated voice command, USB port, navigation and SiriusXM Radio. Don’t forget about those audio control buttons located behind the steering wheel!
The Sahara is fitted with the same 285-horsepower 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 engine from last year. At 260 lb-ft, torque isn’t an issue, nor is towing with a max capability of 3,500 pounds.
Four-wheel drive is standard, and you can choose between high- and low-range gearing as well as a 2WD mode. Note that the latter can result in a squirrely rear end around corners in the wet. Surprisingly, a 6-speed manual transmission is available along with the 5-speed automatic that I tested.
Wranglers aren’t designed to only look tough: engineers have purposely built in things like a special oil sump to deliver oil to the pump at extreme vehicle angles, and an alternator that’s placed high up to avoid getting wet during deep puddle excursions.
That said, it doesn’t mean, of course, that you can’t drive a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4×4 properly in the city. I’ve noted in the past that despite this Jeep’s considerable girth (1,872.9 millimetres overall width), it still fits fine on regular roadways and in parking garages. It’s also got plenty of interior space with seating for five, and no passengers should complain about legroom.
They may make a comment about the noise, because there’s not much sound deadening of any kind. You can hear each shift and every engagement of the throttle, which, in my opinion, is how it should be with this class of automobile.
Just don’t cry when you pull in to the gas station for the first time, because the fuel economy is not pretty: my combined city/highway number for the week was 18.5 L/100 km.
MSRP (as tested): $44,850
Motor: 3.6-litre Pentastar V6
Horsepower: 285 @ 5,100 to 6,400 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 260 @ 4,800 rpm
Gearbox: 5-speed automatic
Layout: four-wheel drive
Observed Fuel Economy: 18.5 L/100 km combined
Benjamin Yong is a freelance writer from Vancouver, B.C., and belongs to the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/b_yong.