When you hear the words Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, if you are like most people, you immediately conjure up a vision of the iconic four-door Jeep charging over and through rough and rugged (no roads) terrain, navigating challenging rock falls and climbing rock faces, fording rivers with rushing rapids – all while safely and ably taking you to that favorite hard-to-reach outdoor place.
Yep, and so do we. But there is a more civilized side to the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited that makes it a solid every day driver along with being the legendary off-roader – all in the same skin.
Jeep, in their product literature, tells us that the combination of open-air freedom, off-road capability and on-road refinement are what has made it so popular today. We would rephrase that to lead with ‘on-road refinement’ as being the key to making Wrangler even more popular now as a daily driver in addition to being off-road capable with its unique open-air freedom.
To confirm that, not long ago, we set out on a long weekend – driving a 2015 Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4×4 – making a 678 mile round trip journey from Austin down to Galveston Island, Texas. As we expected – after travelling all sorts of highways, roads, trails and beaches too on the journey – we confirmed that the 2015 Wrangler is one smart looking, solid driving, road worthy and comfortable riding five-passenger utility vehicle that is loaded with convenience features and technology that one might not expect in an off-road capable ‘rock climber’.
Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
The Jeep Wrangler is the heart of the Jeep line of iconic sport utility vehicles and comes in both two-door Wrangler and four-door Wrangler Unlimited versions. The Wrangler Unlimited has three trim levels, the basic Sport (MSRP $26,795), mid-level Sahara (MSRP 32,795) and the legendary Rubicon (MSRP $35,995). All are powered by the award winning 3.6L Pentastar V6 engine mated to either a 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic transmission (optional) with part-time transfer cases to enable 2-wheel drive on roads and 4-wheel drive off-road.
For those wanting their Jeep Wrangler Unlimited to be fully a daily driver plus an off-road champ, we suggest the Sahara model as it has a number of features (like the exclusive 18-inch polished cast aluminum wheels and highway smooth running Bridgestone Dueler 693 P255/70R18 OWL on/off road tires) that best support its dual role.
Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4×4
Our ride and drive Wrangler Unlimited came with the optional 5-speed automatic transmission and was clad in a (new for 2015) screaming Sunset Orange Pearl Coat paint and sported the Premium Black Sunrider Soft Top that offers an easy to use foldback feature for partial ‘open-air’ when appropriate. Notably, the Premium Sunrider is made of a special three-ply fabric that not only effectively blocks outside road noise from the cabin, but also provides considerable insulation in the heat of the day.
The Sahara Unlimited with the 5-speed automatic transmission, Premium Sunrider Soft Top and Black Leather trimmed front bucket seats, with Sahara logo embossed on seat backs, priced at $35,945.
Other features included were the Electronic Vehicle Information Center with customizable multiple readouts including oil pressure, transmission and coolant temperatures, digital speed and tire pressures – $595; Remote Start System – $495; Uconnect-based audio including AM/FM/CD/DVD/MP3/HDD with SiriusXM and GPS Navigation on a vivid 6.5-inch display in the center stack – $1,145; plus an awesome Premium Alpine sound system with four 6.5-inch speakers (two are in the fully-padded overhead sound bar), two tweeters and an 8-inch subwoofer in the rear cargo desk – all driven by a 552-watt high power amplifier – $845.
With delivery, our 2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4×4 arrived with a sticker price of $40,020.
As an off-roader, the Sahara is fully equipped with the Pentastar V6 generating 285 horsepower with 260 lb.-ft. of torque engineered to deliver a focus on low end torque for off-roading. Our Wrangler used the optional 5-speed automatic transmission and a Command Track Shift-on-the-Fly Transfer Case that gets the traction to where it is needed, when needed. Sahara features fold-down windshield, removable doors, tow hooks front and rear, multifunctional Overhead Sport Bar, and Skid Plates for the fuel tank, transfer case and automatic transmission oil pan. The Wrangler Unlimited Sahara is equipped with Next Generation Dana 30 Solid Axle up front and Dana 44 Heavy Duty Axle at the rear. The body-on-frame suspension includes front and rear 5-link, live axles and electronic lockers with Monotube High Pressure Gas-Charged Shocks standard. Its 3.21 Axle Ratios will support a towing capacity of up to 2,000 pounds with haul capacity of 880 pounds. Lastly, it has a ground clearance of 9.7-inches with Approach, Breakover and Departure Angles of 41.7, 20.7 and 32.1 degrees, respectively.
Daily Driver Wrangler
As a daily driver, the Sahara was loaded with the following: Heated Front Seats, Rear Window Defroster, 450 mile range with 22.5-gallon fuel tank, Electronic Stability Control, 4-wheel Disc Brakes, Traction Control, Hill-Start Assist, Air Conditioning, Power Locks and Windows, Remote Keyless Entry, Tilt Steering Column, Interior Ambient Lighting, Leather-wrapped Steering Wheel with Mounted Audio Controls, Three Pronged 115-volt Auxiliary Power Outlet, Rear Cargo Space Cover, Rear 60/40 Fold and Tumble Bench Seat (that is removable), Front Dome Light on the Overhead Sound Bar, Tubular Side Steps, Sunscreen Window Glass, Automatic Headlamps, Fog lamps and Power Heated Mirrors.
The cargo space was almost cavernous. Behind the second row, we carried everything we needed for our adventure (and brought back a couple of coolers of seafood) in the 31.5 cubic foot space. With the second row down, the cargo area increases to 70.6 cubic feet, but we did not need it.
The Weekend Journey
Our first day we drove all highway through to Houston and down to Galveston Island. We stayed at the historic Tremont Hotel in downtown Galveston, where we took our Sunset Orange Pearl Coat Wrangler all over the island for a couple of days of diverse recreation that included fishing, exploring the island’s history and nature, and enjoying the distinctive cuisine of places like the Galvez Hotel Bar & Grill, Olympia Grill, Shrimp & Stuff and Jimmy’s on the Pier – to name just a few.
On our last day we meandered along county roads to the west end of the island, crossed the bridge at San Louis Pass and then onto the Bridgewater Highway (two lanes) along the gulf beaches through Surfside Beach and beyond for miles and miles. We finally turned north around Freeport in order to travel a variety of secondary back roads back to Austin – traveling through ‘well known’ small Texas towns like West Columbia, Needville, Wallis, Sealy and finally, Columbus, where we jumped on Highway 71 back to Austin.
A last word on the our 2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara as a daily driver – while rated at 16/20 mpg city/highway with a combined average of 18 mpg – we finished our journey clocking in at 19.2 mpg including a whole lot of secondary road (and beach) driving. Pretty good for an off-road daily driver.