2016 Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler
By Harold Osmer
Are you cool enough to own a Jeep? Not the comfy, four-door, enclosed, SUV Jeep. A REAL, iconic Jeep? Open air, high ride height, squared off, function over form, short wheelbase, tall tires, in-your-face Tank green Willys-style Jeep? Feel up to it? If you have to ask...
All that aside, we tested the 2016 Jeep Wrangler Willys and found ourselves dreaming of off-road adventures, camping excursions, and generally having a good time at the beach or mountains or wherever — where ever! — else we decided to go.
We had our test vehicle for street work only and found the ride surprisingly smooth and quiet. Even with off-road tires and a soft top, Wrangler Willys conversation volume levels remain at comfortable levels. We have attended off-road demonstration events and unsurprisingly found the Jeep to operate and function just as you would hope it to—climbing steadily over anything and everything. That particular demonstration taught us about approach and departure angles, something we had little previous need to contemplate.
Mother nature dropped a fair amount of rain on us during our Jeep visit. Getting through traffic and errand running was quite fun. Again, our off-road tires provide ample grip on slick surfaces and the Jeep never once displayed squirrely or dramatic behavior. Expectedly agile, our Jeep maneuvers through tight parking lots with precision. No backup cameras needed, just point and go. Large outside mirrors and a high driving position combine for great outward visibility. Jeep utilizes a recirculating ball steering system for smooth turning and Wrangler draws a decent circle at just 34.6 feet diameter.
Wrangler's soft top feature folds up neatly and tucks away with little trouble. It helps to be tall when changing positions, but standing inside the vehicle is a viable option. We drove over Topanga Canyon to Malibu Bluffs Park with the top down on our only clear day and felt right at home. There's nothing quite like a topless drive on a sparkling Southern California winter day.
If you've ever wondered what race drivers mean when talking a car "rotating", get aboard a Jeep and go around a few corners. Combining quick ratio steering with a short wheelbase will demonstrate the term exactly. Our test Jeep turns on a point. Off-road and rugged conditions dictate this design and drivers are amply rewarded.
Our 6-speed manual transmission shifts smooth and easy. The clutch is light and shift-on-the-fly four wheel drive will prove handy when called upon. Low ratio gearing allows climbing strength. The trade off is low mileage numbers. Then again, mpg numbers won't get you out of a rain-soaked gully.
While impractical as an only-car for city use, we appreciate the fun loving, carefree, workhorse, adventurous spirit that only a traditional Jeep can provide. Off-road driving clubs abound and it's easy to see the allure. Jeep Wrangler is at home in the wild and comfortable enough on city streets. Great combo.