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2016 Jeep Wrangler Sahara 4WD Review By John Heilig

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)


By John Heilig
Senior Editor
Mid-Atlantic Bureau
The Auto Channel

REVIEWED MODEL: 2016 Jeep Wrangler Sahara 4WD
ENGINE: 3.6-liter V6
TRANSMISSION: 5-speed automatic
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 285 hp @ 6,400 rpm/260 lb.-ft. @ 4,800 rpm
WHEELBASE: 95.4 in.
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT: 164.3 x 73.7 x 72.5 in.
TIRES: P225/70R18
CARGO: 12.5/56.5/61.2 cu. ft. (behind rear seats, rear seats folded/rear seats removed)
ECONOMY: 17 mpg city/21 omg highway/17.0 mpg test
FUEL TANK: 18.6 gal.
CURB WEIGHT: 3,976 lbs.
COMPETITIVE CLASS: Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, GMC Terrain
STICKER: $36,960 ($995 delivery, $6,470 options ($1,350 transmission, $1,995 hard top)
BOTTOM LINE: While the Jeep Wrangler has a well-deserved reputation as an off-road icon, its nob-road credentials leave a lot to be desired.

No one can question Jeep Wrangler’s off-road capabilities. It’s the on-road that’s a problem. There are few vehicles I’d rather choose for an excursion over a rugged mountain top trail or down a dried river bed. It seemed to me that the Wrangler test vehicle I drove had enough of a personality and self-image that it seemed to be looking for excuses to leave the pavement.

It’s on the road where the Wrangler seems unhappy. It’s rough riding, tends to be top-heavy with the optional hard to installed, and is not a fun car to drive. Keep in mind, though, that I’m probably not the Wrangler’s ideal demographic, which would tend to be more youth-oriented. 

2016 Jeep Wrangler
Sahara 4WD (select to view enlarged photo)

Also, the Wrangler is not a fast vehicle. It seemed that it always wanted to be at or below the speed limit. The accelerator pedal seemed hard-sprung, which is a good thing if you’re climbing over rocks on the Rubicon Trail, but not necessarily on the highway. And with the huge off-road tires, it isn’t very happy in the rain. That’s on pavement. If we were slogging through the mud, I’m certain the Wrangler would have been as happy as a pig in slop.

Our tester also had loose steering. I felt as if I was constantly moving the wheel, even when I was driving down a smooth straight road. The Wrangler’s front suspension is a live axle, with coil links, a track bar and a stabilizer bar. The live axle rear has trailing arms, track and stabilizer bars and coil springs. The live front axle may be why it seemed looser than the predominant McPherson strut front skuepsnsion-equipped cars I usually driver.

My wife and I also had problems with the doors. They must be slammed hard to get them securely shut. This may be because they are removable, but it is disconcerting to feel you have done your job and still see the “door open” notice on the instrument panel. Because of the removable doors, the power window and mirror switches are located in the center of the dash on what would be the center stack on a more conventional vehicle.

We also found the Wrangler difficult to enter. It rides fairly high (another reason for its off-road capabilities). There’s a “chicken bar” in the glove box area that the passenger can grab and pul him- or herself into the Jeep. 

Entering the rear seat can be a challenge (again, read this as a senior citizen problem). For easiest entry you fold the passenger seat forward. It tilts forward providing enough room to get in the rear. Rear legroom is tight, though.

2016 Jeep Wrangler
Sahara 4WD (select to view enlarged photo)

Cargo space behind the rear seats is small, especially with the folded tonneau back there. Oddly, folding the rear seat backs does little to improve carrying capacity because you still have to contend with the seat there. Removing the rear seat altogether creates a lot of cargo volume. Access to the rear is relatively easy. The rear “door” with the spare mounted on it moves out of the way, and the rear glass opens easily.

The shifter for the five-speed automatic transmission is mounted on the center console, as is the all-wheel drive shifter that gives you all that great off-road control. 

For entertainment there is a standard Chrysler audio system. Heating and cooling functions are controlled with three knobs on the center stack.

I realize I have complained a lot about the Wrangler, but one feature I enjoyed was the hidden Jeep icons. Like “Hidden Mickeys” at Disney World, these Jeep icons can be found on all the wheels and on the windshield. There may have been a few others, but these are the ones I found. 

2016 Jeep Wrangler
Sahara 4WD (select to view enlarged photo)

I respect Jeep Wrangler and its off-road capabilities. Sadly, at least for me, it isn’t a lot of fun on the road. 

(c) 2016 The Auto Page Syndicate

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