The 2015 Jeep Wrangler is a unique throwback that, while nostalgic, is also exceedingly capable without being dated.
Driving a 2015 Wrangler is a bit like driving a classic car in that it feels old-school and nostalgic, but unlike the classic car experience, the Wrangler wants none of your coddling. For 2015, the Wrangler makes available many of the technological amenities you’d expect of a vehicle made in this day and age. The Jeep Wrangler is purpose-built for a specific audience and those who aren’t in that audience will not likely give the Wrangler a second thought. Those who are? They are fanatics about their Jeeps.
The Wrangler gets its design from the original Willys Overland Jeep of World War II fame. The half trapezoid fenders, square-ish body shape, and now-signature Jeep headlights and grille are all hallmarks dating back to the 1930s. For 2015, however, the Wrangler is a far cry from the original Willys. It has a much more powerful engine, a far more rugged chassis and with off-road and technology options that the GIs of WWII would have never dreamed possible.
The choices of trim levels for the 2015 Jeep Wrangler are relatively few, but still complex. There are three basic trim levels for the Wrangler (Sport, Sahara and Rubicon), as well as two-door and four-door (Wrangler Unlimited) body styles. There are five sub-trims as well, which are available depending on the main trim chosen. The Wrangler also has one of the largest selections of aftermarket accessories in the industry. A V6 engine, manual transmission, and four-wheel drive are all standard equipment.
Because the 2015 Wrangler is completely unique, there is little choice but to give it a top score. The exterior look of the Wrangler is unmistakable and well-known globally. Little has changed since the Willys Overland days outside of a growth in size and ground clearance.
The base Wrangler Sport comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, tow hooks at front and rear, fog lamps and a soft top. As with previous model years, the 2015 Wrangler has removable doors and a windshield that can be folded down.
The Wrangler Sport has several stand-alone options available, including a removable hardtop, half-doors with plastic windows, a premium soft top and a number of wheel and tire combinations. The Wrangler Unlimited has a longer body and two additional doors.
The Sahara model adds 18-inch alloy wheels, a slightly higher ride thanks to a heavy-duty suspension with gas shocks and body-colored fender flares. Other optional equipment is the same with the exception of the half-doors, which are not available for the Sahara. You can also get a painted hardtop that matches the body color on this model.
The Rubicon model builds on the Sport with unique 17-inch alloy wheels and larger tires. Rubicon badging is also added. Options such as the hardtop and half-doors are available here.
Special edition Jeep Wrangler models include the Altitude, which is identical to the Sahara with the exception of unique 18-inch alloy wheels, a painted hardtop and black exterior accents. The special edition X is a Sahara model with 17-inch alloy wheels, larger off-road tires, black exterior trim, a unique hood design, and a painted hardtop. The Freedom Edition has unique fender flares, gray accents that include gray 17-inch alloy wheels and unique graphics. The Willys Wheeler is identical to the Wrangler Sport, but adds black accents to include 17-inch alloy wheels, unique decals and tinted windows. Finally, the Hard Rock is based on the Rubicon, and adds black exterior trim (including black 17-inch alloy wheels), a unique domed hood and special bumpers.
Many would say that using the term “spartan” to describe the interior of the Wrangler would be giving too high an impression of its amenities. Except in the very high trim levels, those amenities are few. “It’s a Jeep thing,” of course, and those who buy a Wrangler aren’t expecting a soft ride, a plush interior or a lot of technology options.
The plain interior of the Jeep Wrangler is, however, extremely robust and well-made. Seating is comfortable enough, though in the standard two-door Wrangler the rear seats are a bit cramped for adults. Children will be happy so long as they enjoy a lot of bounce to their ride.
In the Wrangler Unlimited’s four-door cabin, the rear seating is more than adequate for adults, though seating three across is a bit of a squeeze. The Unlimited adds a 60/40 split-folding rear seats as well.
In the base Sport model, accessories are all manually operated, but cruise control, a tilting steering wheel and a height-adjustable driver’s seat is standard. New for this year is an eight-speaker audio system as standard. Air conditioning is optional in the two-door Sport and standard in the Unlimited model. An optional Power Convenience Group adds keyless entry and an auto-dimming rearview mirror as well as power windows, door locks and mirrors. Stand-alone options include a satellite radio upgrade, a nine-speaker Alpine audio system and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter.
The Sahara model adds to the list of amenities above with automatic headlights, a 115-volt power outlet and upgraded cloth upholstery. Also available is leather upholstery, heated front seats, automatic climate control and a navigation system with a 6.5-inch touch screen.
The Rubicon adds to the Sport’s interior with automatic headlamps, a leather-wrapped steering and shift knob, satellite radio and a 115-volt outlet. The Power Convenience Group is available on the two-door Rubicon and standard on the Rubicon Unlimited.
The Altitude special addition adds to the Sahara’s standard interior package with heated front seats. The X upgrades the Sahara’s standard equipment with automatic climate control, heated front seats, leather upholstery and the Alpine audio system. The Freedom Edition comes with cloth upholstery with leather trim and the Alpine audio system. The Rubicon Hard Rock adds black leather upholstery, heated front seats and the Alpine stereo system.
All Jeep Wrangler models have standard four-wheel drive and a two-speed transfer case. A six-speed manual transmission is standard and a five-speed automatic is available. A formidable 3.6-liter V6 engine that produces 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque is standard on all models. The EPA estimates that the 2015 Wrangler gets 17/21 mpg city/highway, while Wrangler Unlimited models get 16/21 mpg. The automatic transmission drops highway mileage by one mpg in the Unlimited.
While the V6 provides plenty of power, the Wrangler isn’t particularly composed on the highway and can’t tow very much at all.
The maximum tow rating for the Wrangler is 3,500 pounds, but most Wranglers are only capable of about 2,000 pounds. This is largely due to the Wrangler’s unique build and V6 engine, which is tuned to propel the Jeep through thick and thin rather than pull items that might be along for the ride behind the rig.
The Sport and Sahara models come standard with a 3.21 axle ratio. Both models can be upgraded to a 3.73 ratio, and a limited-slip rear differential is available. The Willys Wheeler edition upgrades the Sport with standard 3.73 axle ratios and the limited-slip differential.
The Wrangler Rubicon gets a number of upgrades that enhance its capability, including an upgraded front axle, lower gearing and electronic locking front and rear differentials. The front sway bar is changed to one with an electronic disconnect for more wheel reach and under-hood insulation for the engine is also added as standard.
Although technology is not the Wrangler’s strong suit, 2015 models have more to offer than Jeep fans might expect. The base model has almost nothing to offer in this regard except the stellar eight-speaker factory stereo system. Our near-fully loaded Wrangler Rubicon Hard Rock had as much as can be expected out of this throwback crawler, though.
Nearly all technology equipment in the 2015 Wrangler is available either as stand-alone upgrades or as additions through the Connectivity Group. This adds Bluetooth, a USB port, voice controls and an upgraded trip computer with a configurable display that includes information like tire pressure monitoring.
Navigation is an option, bringing with it a 6.4-inch touch screen. Some special editions, such as the Altitude, X and Willys Wheeler, add the Connectivity Group as standard.
The 2015 Jeep Wrangler achieved the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s highest rating of Good in moderate overlap front crash tests. It received a Marginal score in tests for the head restraints and seats, as well as the small overlap front crash test. In side-impact crash tests, the Wrangler received a Poor rating. The Wrangler Unlimited fared slightly better, earning a Good rating in small overlap front crash tests and a Marginal rating in side-impact tests. As of this writing, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not crash tested the Wrangler.
Standard safety equipment in the Jeep Wrangler is sparse by today’s standards. Front air bags are standard and front side airbags are an option. No air bags for the rear seats are available.
If you’re thinking about purchasing a Jeep Wrangler, you probably realize that cost-effectiveness has a lot to do with the fact that the Wrangler is a purpose-built “go anywhere” machine.
Our primary concern in that regard is that the base level Wrangler Sport, with a starting price of about $23,000, is capable, but not as capable as a Jeep buyer might expect. To meet those expectations, buyers should look toward the much more trail-capable Rubicon model, which starts at about $32,000 (or $35,700 if you’re looking at a Wrangler Unlimited).
At that point, the Wrangler offers off-road performance that few competitors can match. The nearest competitors in terms of capability and price would be the very capable Nissan Xterra and Frontier models, assuming you opt for the Pro-4X trim. The Wrangler Rubicon handily trounces those in terms of capability when the pavement ends, but still lags behind in highway and in-town driving comfort, as well as interior equipment options. On the other hand, the Wrangler in all its forms enjoys robust resale values and a strong aftermarket of parts and accessories.
The 2015 Jeep Wrangler has a history and reputation that it must live up to in order to satisfy buyers who want a purpose-built machine like this. Unlike most sedans, crossovers, minivans and pickup trucks, the Wrangler is unique in that its owners have a singular expectation for it: go-anywhere capability that will take them to places where good times in nature are possible. On that front, the Wrangler always delivers and only rarely disappoints. It’s as tough, capable, and fun as it’s always been. Nothing more, nothing less.