Okay, I’ll be honest from the get go – I love Jeeps and I’ve owned three so far. There’s something about your first vehicle that always stays with you; my first, a two-door 1991 4.0 High Output Jeep YJ, painted in midnight blue, was probably the most fun vehicle I’ve ever owned. No, it didn’t have air-conditioning, power windows or door locks, and the seats were somewhat comfortable, although only for front passengers. But the YJ was versatile and had character, and that’s what made it special. I could take it to the beach, with no top and doors, or clean it up and step out of it in a suit for a formal function. Great memories for sure, but let’s move on with the review.
No longer is the Jeep Wrangler a two-door setup, and many owners are happy with the change. Since 2007, the Wrangler has been available with four-doors, hence labeled the Unlimited. The 2015 Unlimited Sahara still retains the look of the Wrangler, with its square body structure, tall ride height, and the signature 7-slot grill (to signify it’s availability in all 7 continents). Our test Jeep, including the hard top, was painted Firecracker Red; not my personal colour of choice, but it will make a statement, especially if you’re wanting to stay secluded in the back country. Integrated fog lights at the front and a full-sized spare mounted on the back complete the package. The Wrangler’s look is overall simplistic and utilitarian, which is exactly what this Jeep is built for.
Getting into the Unlimited Sahara is a chore if you’re new to the vehicle – yes, it’s high so just get used to it. The extra ride height is there when, and if, you go off-roading. The cabin is where you’ll notice the most significant changes as compared to the older Wranglers. Now, the Unlimited Sahara comes complete with power windows and door locks, automatic climate control, heated seats, a 6.5” touchscreen with navigation, steering mounted controls, chrome/leather wrapped shift knob, a subwoofer, and bright interior accents. But under all this “luxury” there’s still the wash-out interior with removable carpet and drain plugs, in case you need to power wash the interior – aahh, good ‘ol Jeep. Rear passengers now enjoy good space and seating, although the smaller rear doors make entry and exit a little cumbersome.
Jeep has made engine choice very simple: you can only get the 3.6 liter Pentastar V6, which puts out 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. The Pentastar is a great motor and provides the same low-end torque and umph of the 4.0 HO straight-six engine that was in my 1991 YJ. Our test vehicle was equipped with the 5-speed automatic (6-speed manual is available), which is probably the transmission of choice for most families. Granted, you’re not going to win drag races, but for a Wrangler, it’s pretty quick, with 0-60 run times of about 8.4 seconds.
So, you have to ask, how does the new 2015 Unlimited Sahara drive? This part of the review is going to be slightly lop-sided as most of my driving was within the city; however, I did have some hours to take it off-road. On the negative, the Wrangler Unlimited isn’t the most impressive on-road vehicle; steering is quick, but feels disconnected from the road and lacks feedback. Some of this can be attributed to the big 18” OWL tires, which are built more for off-road rather than asphalt. Combine the steering with a limited turning radius, and you’ll find parking, especially parallel, to be tedious in the initial stages. Once you get used to it, no problem. The ride is a little rough, yet definitely not harsh or punitive – it’s much better than my ’91 YJ, but doesn’t really compare to a modern, fully-enclosed SUV or crossover. My kids actually liked the minor jolts when going over speed bumps on the way to school: “Go over more bumps, Dada,” was all I heard, and of course, I obliged. On the highway, the four-door Wrangler’s body shape does affect its fuel economy. With a boxy design and lack of much aerodynamics, this isn’t a vehicle built to be driven as a regular highway commuter. Fuel economy is rated at 14.8 L/100 km city and 11.7 L/100 km highway – not bad, but not great.
During my time with the Wrangler Unlimited, there was continuous rain for most of the week. Although my kids couldn’t enjoy the Jeep in all its naked glory, it did allow me to re-live, er, rather test, its capabilities on some muddy off-road terrain, where the Jeep feels right at home. A friend’s empty farm acreage was a great location to get the Jeep dirty. In 4WD mode, I was able to drive through mud, on flat and hilly terrain, with no problem; the Jeep just kept moving without a glitch. This year, Vancouver wasn’t blessed with much, if any, snow, but I bet that this Jeep would perform exceptionally well in winter conditions. After the muddy farm, I took the Jeep on some off-road trails in the Abbotsford area, where again, I had no trouble on terrain of any type. When a manufacturer puts a Trail-Rated emblem on the truck, you know it’s tried and tested and the Wrangler Unlimited doesn’t disappoint.
Ever since Jeep introduced the Unlimited version in 2007, giving buyers more options, Wrangler sales have steadily increased over the years. Just look around and you’ll notice a lot of shiny, clean Jeep Wranglers on the road, whether two-door or four-door. Granted, most of these probably won’t see dirt trails or back country roads, but that’s not why people buy them. The Jeep Wrangler has poise, character, charm, strength, and of course, amazing off-road capability. How much do I like the Wranglers? Well, all my Jeeps had the same bumper stickers: “God Drove a Jeep” – enough said.