Jul 29, 2016

New Jeep Wrangler Unlimited: What to Know Before You Buy

With the 2016 model year, the Wrangler arrives at a special time in Jeep’s existence as the off-road brand marks its 75th anniversary. Now in its third production cycle, the Wrangler is available as an Unlimited version: a larger version of the nameplate that places it in four-door mid-size SUV territory, instead of the regular two-door compact size. The 2016 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited is thus the obvious choice to go with if you treasure ample interior space, among other attributes that the vehicle provides.

Power and Handling

The 2016 Wrangler Unlimited is split into an astounding eleven trim levels, making sure that it covers a wide range of customer tastes and preferences. Powering the SUV is a 3.6-liter 24-valve V6, which provides 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Although the engine is linked to a 6-speed manual transmission for ultimate gear shifting control and fuel economy, you have the choice of going with a 5-speed automatic transmission for more convenience.

The automatic transmission comes with hill descent control, which ensures that you maintain a safe vehicle speed when descending hills during off-roading. This is accomplished by using engine braking and electronic brake control to determine terrain conditions and then adjust to a slightly slower set speed than normal when the terrain is rough. Also, the automatic gearbox comes with sequential sportshift mode. So, if you want more gear shifting control, the 5-speed at least gives you a choice.

As if the aforementioned features for optimizing off-road performance isn’t enough, the 2016 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited uses part-time four-wheel drive (4×4) as its standard drivetrain, thus guaranteeing optimal traction.

Depending on your choice from the available trim levels, the Wrangler Unlimited comes with a Rock-Trac or Command-Trac Shift 4×4 system. The Rock-Trac features Tru-Lock electronic locking differentials and a low-gear ratio for allowing the Unlimited SUV to crawl at a lower speed for greater control and low-end torque available at the wheels. You get the Rock-Trac if you choose the Rubicon trim level; it is supremely designed for handling any terrain you venture onto.

The Command-Trac Shift, which goes on the other trim levels, is a shift-on-the-fly system with a 2.72:1 low range for rock crawling and neutral for flat towing. Added on the vehicle are Dana-branded heavy duty axles and power rack-and-pinion steering for a smooth driving experience, regardless of how rough the road is. Overall, towing capacity is measured at 3,500 lbs, and fuel economy is estimated at 16/21 mpg.

Interior Features

Designed as a five-seater, the 2016 Wrangler Unlimited comes with an eight-speaker stereo system, which includes an auxiliary jack for connecting your mobile device and steering wheel-mounted controls for eliminating the need to reach for the dashboard unit. As you upgrade in trim, you can spruce up the infotainment set-up with features like a USB port for charging your mobile device, Bluetooth for hands-free phone calling and streaming audio, a navigation system with 6.5-inch touchscreen display, 40 GB of hard drive space for saving your favorite albums or music tracks, and a one-year SiriusXM satellite radio subscription.

The top-tier Rubicon Hard Rock trim in particular provides you a nine-speaker Alpine premium system if you are a more of an audiophile. And for other comfort and convenience amenities, remote keyless entry, leather-seat upholstery, and heating capability on the front seats are available on certain upper trim levels.

Exterior Features

In terms of exterior features, halogen headlamps and fog lights are standard. Upgrading your trim level increases the chance of getting enhancements or additions like a trailer hitch receiver, chrome tail lamp guards, headlamp automatic on/off feature, and power adjustability and heating capability on the side mirrors.

Safety Features

For auto-crash safety, the 2016 Wrangler Unlimited has dual front impact airbags, with the option of adding dual front seat-mounted side impact airbags on some models. Four-wheel disc brakes are present for shortening stopping distances. Electronic roll mitigation reduces the potential for wheel lift during severe or sudden driving maneuvers. Electronic stability and traction control systems join forces to ensure command of the vehicle in bad weather or on slippery surfaces. And hill start assist is onboard for preventing the SUV from rolling back when you start drive from a stopped position on a hill. To keep the thieves away, the 2016 Wrangler Unlimited has an electronic security system that includes an engine immobilizer.

How It Stacks Up

The 2016 Jeep Wrangler is in a crowded and fiercely competitive segment, which easily exposes its pros and cons. On one hand, it is soundly beaten by the main competition in terms of fuel economy. In that area, the Honda CR-V reigns supreme. Also, its number of standard convenience and tech features pale in comparison with vehicles like the Volkswagen Tiguan or the GMC Terrain.

However, perhaps no compact (or mid-size) SUV comes close to matching the off-road credentials of the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. You’d be hard-pressed to find an SUV that has standard four-wheel or all-wheel drive, let alone more than enough features to make it an off-road beast. Plus, it counts a removable roof as one of its unique features and a great addition as an off-roader; no other SUV offers that.

So, ultimately, if you love exploring the great outdoors, you might not be able to pick a better affordable vehicle than the 2016 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited.

Pavel Vaschenkov / Shutterstock.com

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