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2016 Jeep Wrangler

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2016 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon - 1 - AOA1200px

Overview (Final Score: B)
The 2016 Jeep Wrangler continues with the legacy of the Jeep brand. As the current rendition of the vehicle that literally began the brand and started the entire "#JeepThing" revolution, the Wrangler carries the torch for a lifestyle and persona that defines a significant part of Americana. Just as World War II and its GIs are associated with the Willey's Jeep of the period, today's Wrangler defines the offroad, outdoors, go-anywhere enthusiast of today. The current Wrangler carries plenty of throwbacks to its origins, but carries forward with modern technology that enthusiasts of the 1950s could only vaguely imagine having.

Of all the Jeep vehicles, only the Wrangler is immediately identifiable for what it is and only the Wrangler carries the purity of purpose that makes it so iconic and loved by millions. Yes, the 2016 Wrangler can go on the pavement and get you from A to B if you want it to. No, it will not do so in careful comfort and on-road safety. It's built for other things. Namely leaving the pavement behind and going where no other vehicle can. They're called "Jeep trails" for a reason.

Only a handful of changes come to the iconic Wrangler for the 2016 model year. A special Black Bear Edition has been added for this year, as has a great Olive Green interior color option for the Sahara trim. Other exterior colors have also been added, along with a few minor details on some trim points. For the most part, this is still a Wrangler and still what everyone should expect that to be.

What We Loved About the 2016 Jeep Wrangler

  • Purpose-built with an appeal that is both workaday and iconic.

  • Perfectly tuned for what it's meant to do.

  • Surprisingly good fuel economy given the way the deck is stacked against this.

What We Didn't Love About the 2016 Jeep Wrangler

  • Not for everyone, or even most.

  • Cloth and soft top options are still extremely difficult to master on the install.

  • Very marginal safety.

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Exterior View (10/10 relative to market)
Outside of a few details, the Jeep Wrangler has not changed in appearance in some time. Jeep designers know when they have a good thing and the 2016 Wrangler is a throwback with only two purposes in mind: be extremely capable off the road and be known unmistakably as the Jeep of the Jeeps. The Wrangler is highly successful in both aims.

The basic design of the 2016 Jeep Wrangler is a rectangle with a smaller rectangle on top. Square windows, trapezoidal wheel wells, and square side mirrors accentuate this design. That is all offset by the round Jeep headlights, rounded slots on the front grille, and rounded door buttons and wheels. Everything about the Wrangler says "we're going offroad."

Various trim points for the Wrangler change the exterior's looks. The Rubicon model, for example, includes a more aggressive hood and larger, meatier offroad tires. The Hard Rock edition adds extremely robust bumpers, highlighted tow pins, and more. The bodyshell roof can be color-matched to the exterior paint or had in standard black. Removable roof panels can be opted for as well. Finally, the Unlimited model stretches the frame a bit and adds rear doors.

Nobody who sees a Jeep Wrangler will mistake it for any other vehicle on the road. Notably new for 2016 are several color options not offered before for the Wrangler.

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Interior Comfort, Quality, Ergonomics (8/10)
The 2016 Jeep Wrangler retains function as its primary purpose in interior design, much like all Wranglers models before it. Simple concessions to modern life are seen in the touchscreen infotainment, drink holders, and airbag notices. Otherwise, everything found inside the Wrangler has a specific purpose and is built to convey a robust quality. Small touches are noted to make sure you know you're in a Jeep (as if a mistake could be made), including embossed Jeep logos and trail-ready badges, including one on the windshield.

There are drawbacks to the function over form design, however. The 2016 Wrangler's interior is less comfortable than those used to other Jeep models might expect. Rear seating, especially in the two-door, is cramped and designed almost literally as a lightly padded bench. Driver controls are simple, but not always within easy reach. And the touchscreen is the older Chrysler Uconnect system on a small 6.5-inch screen. Cargo is also limited, sitting at about 13 cubic feet in the two-door and 31.5 cubes in the Unlimited model (all seats up).

All of that said, the purpose of a Jeep Wrangler is not to provide modern comfort and convenience, but to convey occupants over any terrain presented and to do so with the most capability offered in any sport utility on the market. For those who know what to expect from an old school Jeep, the interior of the Wrangler is exactly what's needed and probably exactly what's desired.

Options include a T-top style removable roof with two panels that can be removed without tools on the two-door Wrangler and four panels that require no tools for the four-door Unlimited. The rest of the top can be removed with an included Jeep toolset. Soft top options are also available, including a full soft cover and a "bikini-style" cover. Most fully grown adults will be able to remove the soft tops and t-tops on their own, but removing the entire hard top will require two adults and a good storage area for storing it.

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Technology (7/10)
Technology in the 2016 Jeep Wrangler remains limited to an outdated Chrysler option based on a 6.5-inch touchscreen with limited capabilities. For most Wrangler owners, the included Bluetooth connection, satellite radio option, and simple navigation upgrade will be enough. There are few other inclusions with the touchscreen, however, and those who need more will have to either do with less or hope for a good aftermarket upgrade.

The 6.5-inch screen is low resolution by today's standards and can be slow to respond in some cases, especially when switching from Bluetooth phone use to music streaming. The face of the touchscreen flips out to reveal the CD slot and most Wranglers will only have one USB port, though multiple 12Vs and a 120V plug are available.

Fuel Economy (8/10)
The 2016 Jeep Wrangler is definitely not a Prius. The two-door Wrangler is EPA rated at 18 mpg combined (17 mpg in the city, 21 mpg on the highway) when either the manual or automatic transmission are had. The Unlimited model is also rated at 18 mpg combined, with a 16 mpg city and 21 mpg highway rating.

In our real-world driving of a Wrangler Rubicon Hard Rock with an automatic transmission, we saw 17 mpg overall and saw just about that last year in the same configuration with a six-speed manual. So these numbers are realistic for the real world, including a lot of time with the transfer case in 4WD. A testament to the well-made V6 that powers the Wrangler.

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Predicted Reliability, Initial Quality Ratings (7/10)
According to the J.D. Power and Associates Vehicle Dependability Study, the 2016 Wrangler warrants only an "About Average" rating. Our caveat to that would be that given the Wrangler's expected hard use as an offroad machine, much of the reliability may be due to its heavy use rather than to inherent problems in the design. Backing this is a lack of safety recalls for the 2016 Jeep Wrangler, so we've boosted its reliability expectation accordingly.

Safety (5/10)
There have been few crash tests conducted on the 2016 Jeep Wrangler, with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety having given the vehicle a best "Good" rating for the moderate overlap front crash test, a lowest Marginal rating for the small overlap test (a sore point for most SUVs), a Poor for the side impact results, and another Marginal for rear crash protection. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not crash tested the 2016 Wrangler.

Performance (10/10)
A 3.6-liter V6 producing 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque is standard in the Wrangler, as is two-speed four-wheel drive. A six-speed manual transmission is standard as well, but a five-speed manual is an option. Hill-start assist is standard with both transmissions and hill-descent control is standard with the automatic. Towing is rated at 2,000 pounds for the 2016 Wrangler and 3,500 pounds for the Wrangler Unlimited.

The Rubicon package adds lower-range gearing to the transmission, larger tires on 17-inch alloy wheels, a Dana 44 front axle to match the standard Dana rear axle (which is shortened to a 4.10 ratio from the 3.21 standard), electronic locking differentials at both front and rear, and an electronic-disconnect sway bar. Our test model also included the Hard Rock package, which adds robust winch-ready bumpers and a more aggressive hood.

All of this, whether opting for any of the standard Wrangler packages or the Rubicon, translates to an extremely robust, offroad-ready machine that not only lives up to, but defines the Jeep nameplate. There are few places that the Jeep Wrangler will not go and it's this machine that shows why the term "Jeep trail" exists to describe any rarely-trodden path wide enough for a small vehicle like the Wrangler.

On the road, of course, the Wrangler is a bit rough to drive and not very comfortable. "Roads are merely ways to quickly get to somewhere where there aren't any roads," a Jeep enthusiast once told me. That's a real truism in the Wrangler, no matter its package.

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Pricing and Value (9/10)
Considering what's included in the package, just about every trim and model option for the 2016 Jeep Wrangler is an excellent value for those buying one for its intended purpose. The base Sport model begins around $24,000 and a very well-outfitted Rubicon Hard Rock like the one we drove rings in at well under $40,000. In between those is a range of prices and model options for every budget, all of which equate to a very offroad, back-country-capable machine.

There are better options for the not so rough-and-ready buyer, of course, at similar or better pricing and with better interior amenities. None will have the offroad capability of the Wrangler, but the Wrangler definitely has an intended audience and not everyone fits in that mould.

Total Score and Competitive Comparison (60/80, 80%)
The 2016 Jeep Wrangler has no real competition. Most of the roads-optional options in the Wrangler's price path are now gone with similarly-capable competition being much further up the economic scale. The Wrangler is truly the last of a breed that has shrunk in population size, but shows no signs of dying. The Wrangler itself endears a whole culture of enthusiasts and boasts one of the largest aftermarkets in the automotive space. If events like the Easter safari in Moab and the numerous rock climbing and mud bogging clubs nationally are any indication, there will always be "#JeepThing" loyalists ready to embrace this most iconic of vehicles.

Who can blame them? There are few affordable toys on the market today that match the Jeep Wrangler for its honesty of purpose.

Trim Engine Drive Train MSRP
4x4 Sport 2dr SUV 6 Cylinder 4X4 23895
4x4 Willys Wheeler 2dr SUV 6 Cylinder 4X4 28195
4x4 Black Bear 2dr SUV 6 Cylinder 4X4 28195
4x4 Freedom 2dr SUV 6 Cylinder 4X4 29595
4x4 Sport S 2dr SUV 6 Cylinder 4X4 26895
4x4 Willys Wheeler W 2dr SUV 6 Cylinder 4X4 30295
4x4 Sahara 2dr SUV 6 Cylinder 4X4 29995
4x4 Backcountry 2dr SUV 6 Cylinder 4X4 34595
4x4 Sahara 75th Anniversary 2dr SUV 6 Cylinder 4X4 34675
4x4 Rubicon 2dr SUV 6 Cylinder 4X4 33195
4x4 Rubicon Hard Rock 2dr SUV 6 Cylinder 4X4 37995

Comparison of 2016 Jeep Wrangler with Similar Cars

2016 Jeep Wrangler
2016 Jeep Wrangler
Jeep Wrangler vs. Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
Jeep Wrangler vs. Ford Bronco
Jeep Wrangler vs. Toyota 4Runner

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