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Jeep Wrangler "Willys Wheeler Edition" Review by Larry Nutson +VIDEO


2016 Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler Edition (select to view enlarged photo)
2016 Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler Edition

SEE ALSO: Jeep Wrangler Specs, Prices and Comparisons 2016-1997

2015/2016 Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler Edition Review

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel


More often than not, timing is everything. In one particular case for me my scheduled drive of the 2015 Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler happened a few weeks before the 2015 MAMA Fall Rally.

MAMA, the Midwest Automotive Media Association, is a Chicago-based organization for automotive journalists and automotive OEM and agency communications professionals. The MAMA Fall Rally takes place at Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Illinois and provides our membership the opportunity to drive and experience a wide variety of vehicles on the road, on the club’s north road-race circuit and also on the club’s off-road course.


2016 Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler Edition  (select to view enlarged photo)

I’ve driven various models of the Jeep Wrangler around the streets and highways of Chicagoland at times in the past. It’s just not my favorite on-highway vehicle. But take the Wrangler off road, and it is the king. This is where it shines. So as it turned out, I got to do just that at the MAMA Fall Rally.

The Wrangler Willys Wheeler edition has been offered by Jeep for a few years now and has become a widely popular model. It salutes the earliest civilian Jeep vehicles with additional off-road hardware for increased capability.

Like it says on the instrument panel passenger grab handle, “Since 1941”.

Based on the Wrangler Sport model, the 2015 Willys Wheeler Edition features upgraded hardware, including a Dana 44 rear axle with Trac-Lok limited-slip rear differential and 3.73 gears, BF Goodrich KM Mud Terrain LT255/75R17 tires, rock rails and a Jeep Trail Rated Kit that includes a D-Ring, tow strap and gloves in a Jeep-branded bag. This works with the Jeep Command-Trac 4x4 part-time, two-speed transfer case with a 2.72:1 low-range gear ratio to give the Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler Edition its improved off-road chops.  

Special exterior design cues include a gloss black grille with black Jeep badge, gloss black front and rear bumper appliques, historic satin black “4 Wheel Drive” rear tailgate decal and “Willys” hood decals and unique high-gloss black 17-inch aluminum wheels. The Willys Wheeler Edition comes standard with a Sunrider soft-top and deep-tint sunscreen rear windows. A premium Sunrider soft-top and black-splatter Freedom Top, the removable hardtop, are available.


2016 Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler Edition  (select to view enlarged photo)

The premium Sunrider soft-top is easier to clean and a more upscale material. Consisting of three layers, the top also helps reduce interior noise and is easier to fasten. The Haartz Corporation, a leading global manufacturer of soft-top convertible material, is the supplier. The premium soft-top uses Haartz’s Twillfast RPC which is an acoustically enhanced three-ply composite made of acrylic twill weave outer fabric, a rubber inner layer and polyester lining fabric.   The rubber inner layer provides enhanced acoustics.


2016 Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler Edition  (select to view enlarged photo)

  Willys Wheeler Editions also feature the Connectivity Group with SiriusXM Radio, and Willys W-based models have the Power Convenience Group and premium tire-pressure monitoring system as standard. Jeep Wrangler’s iconic half doors are an option.


On the street, the Wrangler is not the smoothest ride around. No surprise here, since it’s outfitted for mud, muck, snow, wading through small rivers and streams, climbing rocks and the like. The Willys Wheeler is a 2-door and thus shorter in overall length. This does make for in-city convenience with maneuvering and parking.


2016 Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler Edition (select to view enlarged photo)

Lane changing and negotiating curves requires a bit more attention due to the Wrangler’s higher center of gravity. But when it comes to city street potholes, the Wrangler eats them for lunch.

The folks from Jeep Jamboree, courtesy of Jeep, were on hand to guide us around the off-road course I mentioned. One of the trail professionals just happened to have a Willys Wheeler as his driver. Along with this a number of other very capable off-road suitable trucks and SUVs had been provided by various OEMs.

The Wrangler’s 285HP 3.6-liter V6 coupled to a 5-speed automatic provided plenty of motive power to drive us through the off-road trail. We crossed a fairly mushy-bottomed 12 inch deep stream, climbed up a few hills that had us at some times with one wheel hanging in the air, and we descended some slippery slopes with the hill descent control taking over all but the steering.


2016 Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler Edition  (select to view enlarged photo)

Base price for the 2015 Wrangler is $22,995 and the Willys Wheeler Edition is an additional $6,100. With dual tops, a power convenience group, the automatic transmission, an Alpine 9-speaker audio system plus destination charge the bottom line rolls in at $36,015.


2016 Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler Edition  (select to view enlarged photo)
An American in Paris
Lots more information and specification on the entire Jeep Wrangler model range can be quickly seen at www.jeep.com. There’s probably no comparison to the Jeep, but if you want to look around at other off-road capable utilites you can do that right here at www.theautochannel.com.

For 2016, the Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler continues to be offered in the same configuration as 2015. The Wrangler lineup for 2016 gets a new Black Bear edition and the Sahara gets a few exterior and interior updates.

On a closing note, on recent travels of mine to the Altantic Ocean coast in France, a Jeep Wrangler was not an uncommon sight. Jeep: a true global icon.

© 2015 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy

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