Driving a Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler Edition to commute to work through urban traffic or thrumming tires on the freeway is like using a hatchet to peel taters. Sure, with a bit if finesse it can be done, but it’s not exactly the best tool for the job. I suppose that doesn’t matter because this ode to Jeep’s heritage cuts a swath wherever it goes.
75 Years Of Inspiration
The Willys Wheeler takes inspiration from the original civilian Jeep, manufactured by Willys-Overland. Check the WILLYS script on the hood and 10 hipster color choices like “Rhino” on our Jeep and a range from Firecracker Red, to “Granite Crystal”, “Hypergreen”, and “Tank”. Designers also glammed it up with gloss black grille, Jeep badges, and 17-inch wheels. Willys Wheeler Edition comes standard with the canvas Sunrider soft top that can be partially or completely retracted.
Don’t expect much luxury once you grab that handle on the roll bars and heave yourself inside. Acres of hard plastic, rubber floormats, and canvas seats will take mud and rain like a puddle-cuddling piggy. Ice cold air-conditioning, power windows, and Alpine audio with rollbar-mounted speakers add comfort, but at a certain price, heated leather seats and navigation should be expected. Conjuring music via USB-connected device without a touchscreen is a bit ridiculous.
Shoving A Brick Through The Air
There’s no elegant way to shove a brick through the air, but the Wrangler’s 3.6-liter V6, one of Ward’s 10 Best Engines, digs up 285 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque to burrow a channel. The engine’s oil sump is designed to keep oil pumping even at extreme driving angles and the alternator is placed high for water fording (this is a serious machine). Shifting the six-speed manual transmission may be best for rock crawling, but working it is like stirring a tractor. Choose the 5-speed automatic if urban dwelling is your game. Fuel economy is about the same urban/extra-urban at 17/21-MPG.
But, that’s all about charging asphalt. Wranglers shine off-road, charging hills. Willys Wheeler Edition is stoked with a Dana 44 rear axle with limited-slip differential that works with the Jeep Command-Trac 4x4 part-time two-speed transfer case with low-range gear ratio. Add to that BF Goodrich KM Mud Terrain tires, rock rails, D-Ring, tow strap, and gloves in a Jeep-branded bag to tackle the roughest landscape.
I’m a fan of the Wrangler Willys Wheeler Edition because it pays homage to Jeep’s ancestors during the brand’s 75th Anniversary and does it with flair that is wholly appropriate for today’s drivers. Jeeps will always be cool, but they bounce you around like a pinball, steer with the urgency of a cat waking from a nap, and guzzle fuel like a hound lapping water. But, put down a couple of feet of snow or a muddy road best suited for donkeys and the Wrangler is your tater peeler. And, that short wheelbase that weaves through tight trails is pretty handy in tight parking garages.
At a base price of $23,895, the Wrangler is full-framed value. A little less so is our special edition at $34,330 – with canvas seats and without navigation. Buy it for style, buy it for capability, but be sure you appreciate what you’re buying.
2016 Jeep Wrangler Willys
- Four-passenger, 4x4 SUV
- Powertrain: 285hp 3.6-liter V6, 6-spd. manual trans
- Suspension f/r: Live axles
- Wheels f/r: 17”/17” alloy
- Brakes f/r: disc/disc
- Must-have features: Style, Capability
- Fuel economy: 17/21 mpg city/hwy
- Assembly: Toledo, OH
- Base/as-tested price: $23,895/34,330