Words: Stephen Spyropoulos
Photography: Stephen Spyropoulos
Published: February 29, 2016
Jeep enthusiasts are well aware that the modern day Jeep Wrangler is a distant relative of the 1945 Willys-Overland CJ (Pronounced the way Gary Coleman said “Whatcha talkin bout Willis”, not “Will-eez”). Since 1950, when Willys won the rights of the “Jeep” nomenclature, there have been countless iterations of the classic design. And don’t be fooled, this design is a classic: the body-on-frame architecture that remains on Wranglers is a peek into the past, and the prominent front end still features the distinctive vertical-slot grille.
Here’s a quick history lesson: Real jeeps (lower case j) have 9 slots in the grille. The 9-slot grille was designed by Ford in 1942 so when Jeep (capital J) wanted to use it as their logo they needed to change it sufficiently to avoid copyright issues with Ford. This is why Jeeps have 7-slot grilles.
But instead of conquering hostile enemy beaches like our forefathers did, today’s Wranglers are mainly used for moderate to extreme off-roading and in most cases, city driving. To pay homage to the Willys CJ, Jeep released a special Willys edition of the current Wrangler. The $2,900 option over the base Wrangler four-door fits the Jeep with exterior features to make it more rugged, like the original Willys, and to help it look the part.
Functionally, the Willys Jeep gets a tougher Dana 44 rear axle with a limited-slip differential and the front gains a Dana 30 axle, all in helping the 3.6-litre V6 put the power down like a freight train. The Willys also gains beefy BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain tires and rock rails. Visually, the Willys gains a Tank paintjob that is a throwback to the olive green drab exteriors used in the war effort. Gloss-black bumpers, front-grille, a “Willys” hood decal, and a retro “4 Wheel Drive” decal round out the package.
Beneath all of the pizzazz, this is still a Jeep Wrangler through and through. The steering feels like you’re churning rice pudding, and the big mud tires don’t do the Jeep any justice on any surface except mud. I often tell myself that if any other vehicle drove the way this Jeep did, it would be totally unacceptable.
But for some reason, maybe you can call it “a Jeep thing”, I found myself totally caught up in the sheer capability of the Wrangler. Every time I found myself looking at a mud-covered trail I could not help but say “what the heck” and just have at it. It did not just stop there either. When using the Willys in an urban environment, it becomes an assault vehicle. Stuck in traffic with a median stuck in between you and freedom? No problem. The family behind you in the Toyota Corolla will be amazed by the way you climb over the obstacle and carry on about your day.
Just as it did in the war, the current Jeep has the tendency to be useful for whatever the situation, even filling in for roles that it wasn’t necessarily designed for. Yes, anybody with a smidge of common sense can agree the Wrangler is a great off-roader but even with its size and weight, the Jeep still retains a sense of sportiness. Pop off the roof, unhook the doors, push down the front windshield, and you have just unveiled a capable and carefree summer cruiser, ready to take on a muddy swamp or a quick bomb down a sandy beach.
The Willys Wheeler Edition can best be described as the happy medium between the pricier Rubicon and the Sahara editions. Although, I do wish the interior was up to par with the Sahara’s. The moment you step into the Willys you feel like an army brat that has just received his first orders.
Here is a quick summary of the first five minutes I spent with the Jeep after I picked it up. Firstly, there is no remote start option, so you know you’ll have to brave the arctic weather and manually start it yourself. Hop into the Jeep and your bum is met with a cold cloth covered seat. Your eyes frantically search for a heated seat button, there is none.
Your breath fogs up the front windshield. You’re blinded. You reach for the steering wheel and it is frostier and offers no respite. Another night in the Willys, another night without the creature comforts that a $46,000 vehicle should offer. But hey, it’s a Jeep. You’re not worried about simpletons and their heated seats, you have trails to conquer!
Our tester came with the upgraded premium waterproof Alpine entertainment system ($695). Bass was heavy and treble came through crisp and clear. While the sounds were sublime, the main 6.5-inch screen, which is an additional $775, is perhaps the biggest let down on the Jeep. The Bluetooth connectivity was terrible after you spent 15 minutes just figuring out how to connect your phone. The screen also looked like it was an afterthought, with no real design to integrate it into the dash. It appeared as if someone had quite literally just bought an aftermarket unit and slapped it there.
The Willys Wheeler Edition does not give the Jeep any changes under the hood, and you’re still left with the 3.6-litre that delivers 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque to your choice of either a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic. While five cogs were acceptable back in 2006 when the “JK” generation of Jeep came out, it is starting to feel old and contributed to my measly 15.5 L/100km average. Come on Jeep, add another gear.
The antiquated automatic doesn’t detract from one very real fact however. Many Wrangler buyers don’t even look at reviews before purchasing. They know they want a Jeep, and that’s that. The Wrangler is a fantastic kit, and at a base price of $34,495 I can’t recommend any other option for going off-roading. For those looking to retain that militarized Willys feel will find solace in the Willys Wheeler Edition.
Still, I wish there were some more benefits from choosing the Willys Edition over the base Jeep, mostly interior wise. Jeep has been quoted as stating 75% of Wrangler buyers off-road their vehicles, the remaining 25% who don’t, really should start. To just drive city streets and do the ‘Jeep wave’ to other Wranglers is only a small part of the adventures that lay in store for owners. Plus, how cool would it be to show Grandpa a Jeep painted in that same shade of army green that he remembers from his younger days?
型号 Model: 2016 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Willys Wheeler
顏色 Paint Type: Tank Clear Coat
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $34,495
試車售價 Price as Tested: $46,225
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,423
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,173 / 1,872 / 1,801
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,717
引擎 Engine: 3.6L Pentastar VVT V6
最大馬力 Horsepower: 285 hp @ 6,400 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 260 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 5-speed automatic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, 4WD
油耗 Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 14.8 / 11.7
油耗 Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 15.5
輪胎尺碼 Tires: BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM; LT255/75R17