Patrick Rall's picture

Driving the Jeep Wrangler X: 5 Ways to Improve on Perfection

I recently had a chance to spend some time behind the wheel of a 2015 Jeep Wrangler X Unlimited and rather than focusing all of the things that the 4-door Wrangler does so well, I paid close attention to those areas which I believe can be improved upon for the next generation.

The Jeep Wrangler is an incredible vehicle, offering off-road and general all-terrain capabilities that are unrivaled in the American auto industry. While the description of a sport utility vehicle has changed a great deal over the past few decades, the Wrangler is the undisputed champ when it comes to a vehicle that can go anywhere in any conditions while still being a great daily driver on paved roads. Some other companies make trimlines that offer off-road capabilities that can challenge the Wrangler, but at the end of the day, if most people were asked “what kind of vehicle would you pick to go off-roading”, they would answer the Jeep Wrangler.

However, there is the constant demand from the big mouths on social media and from the anti-Jeep media who are cruising around in their Miatas, Tweeting that the Wrangler is old and outdated and it simply has to be vastly refreshed very soon. They all ignore the fact that the Wrangler is easily the most capable all-terrain SUV on the market, insisting that the classic Jeep needs to be refreshed just because every vehicle gets refreshed every 5 years. They also ignore the massive amount of tradition and buyer loyalty behind the Wrangler design, expecting things from the next generation Wrangler that would make it less capable and ultimately, less of a Jeep Wrangler.

low wrnalger rear mud

I recently spent a week driving the 2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited X, which is nearly the top of the line for the 4-door SUV and since this Jeep isn’t all that different from the last Wrangler I tested, I wanted to focus on the aspects that could be improved in the next generation Wrangler. However, I understand the importance of not trimming the capabilities or the look of the Wrangler, so I focused on things that could be changed with the future Wrangler that wouldn’t hurt its abilities to drive pretty much anywhere in any condition.

The Jeep Wrangler is Practically Perfect
Realistically, I don’t have any complaints with the 2015 Jeep Wrangler X. It is predictably stiff on the highway, but not enough to be bothersome and when you leave the paved roads, this tried and true SUVs handles unpaved roads, off-road trails and flooded fields better than the Wrangler. If you do lots of driving in shaky footing and you don’t want to need to modify your vehicle, the Wrangler X is the best option for the money, hands down. It is under $40,000 well appointed, including a removable top system, a solid navigation/infotainment system, plenty of room for four adults and their luggage and the ability to handle rough conditions as well as any vehicle sold in the US.

wrnagler low front mud

The Jeep Wrangler hasn’t changed much in the past decade because it doesn’t need to – it is unrivaled in terms of a vehicle that offers the perfect mix of on-road and off-road driving, with only far more expensive pickup trucks rivaling the mudding capabilities with pricey premium trimlines. However, since some people insist that the next generation Jeep Wrangler needs to be changed, I’ve come up with a list of 5 ways Chrysler could improve the future Wrangler. Honestly, I expect that to many people, these suggestions seem pointless, but there are so few areas where the Wrangler needs improving – this list is the best that I can come up with.

#5 – Improve the Sound of the Engine
The 2015 Jeep Wrangler X Unlimited is powered by the same 3.6L Pentastar V6 that is available in almost every Chrysler Group vehicle, offering 285 horsepower and 260lb-ft of torque in the most rugged of the Jeeps. I would expect that the Pentastar V6 in the Wrangler would have some growl to it, but the exhaust is relatively silent while the engine is incredibly noisy. I understand that the location of the driver’s seat relative to the engine and the bare chassis nature of the Wrangler are going to permit more engine noise to enter the cabin, but I find it odd that the Wrangler’s Pentastar is the loudest and the least pleasant sounding vehicle to use that engine.

wrnagler engine cover

While I bet that most Wrangler owners don’t think twice about the sound of the engine or the tone of the exhaust, I am nitpicking here, and some isolation from the engine bay sounds along with an exhaust system that adds a little more character to this rugged Jeep would be one area where they can improve the next generation.

#4 Improved Fuel Economy
The 2015 Jeep Wrangler X Unlimited is fitted with an older 5-speed automatic transmission, which limits the Pentastar V6 to EPA ratings of 16mpg around town, 20mpg on the highway and 18mpg combined. I found these figures to be very realistic and I think that for a vehicle of this size, those numbers aren’t bad, but with the constant push for improved fuel economy from every segment, the Wrangler will inevitably need to improve in that area.

wrangle rbadge

Fortunately, the company has the 8-speed gearbox in all of their rear wheel drive vehicles and something similar to that transmission should go a long way in improving fuel economy.

There is also the possibility of improving aerodynamics with the next generation Wrangler, but you can only add so many curves before you lose the look that is so critical to this classic Jeep. Adding a feature like the adjustable air suspension of the Ram 1500 to the next Wrangler could include an aero mode to improve highway MPGs, while the new transmission should contribute to the cause as well.

#3 A Quieter Interior
The 2015 Jeep Wrangler X Unlimited is an awesome vehicle that is really unlike anything else available in the US. When you climb in and close the doors, you can see the metal framework of the vehicle, as the doors and window frame/dash area are very minimal. This helps to improve interior space while also making the vehicle lighter and making the doors easier to remove. The downside to this minimal use of padding, sound deadener and other objects that absorb exterior noise while driving is that you get more wind, road and engine noise inside. Also, the removable roof panels are practically air tight, but their thin, lightweight fiberglass design doesn’t do much for sound insulation, so most people will likely find the Wrangler to be one of the loudest vehicles on the road.

wrangler low rear clean

For most Jeep owners, this is a very unimportant strike against the Wrangler, as this is a vehicle best enjoyed with the top removed (and it removes very easily – especially the front panels), the doors off and the windows down. Once you open a window or remove a roof panel any concern about interior noise goes – well – out the window, so it really isn’t that big of an issue. It is, however, one area that the next Wrangler could be improved via the use of new metals and glass that do a better job of absorbing sound.

#2 – Door Handles that Don’t Gather Mud
This is a problem that has to plague every Jeep Wrangler owner, as it has been an issue with every newer Wrangler I have had the pleasure of testing. Once I get into any kind of mud – even as minimal as a dirt road after a light rain – the door handles get packed with mud. That makes it very difficult to open the doors from the outside and while I don’t care about that when I am out playing in the mud, my wife and kid do care when we are headed to dinner and they grab the door handle in the dark, only to get a handful of mud and grass.

mudywrangle rhandle

The design of the Wrangler door handles with the button at the trailing end requires you to put your hand right where the mud gathers. In the winter, this was where snow and road muck gathered, so it isn’t a problem that is specific to those who go mudding. Something as simple as having the button at the front end of the handle would allow you to open the door without putting your hand right where the muck builds up.

#1 – New Chrysler Gauge Cluster and Infotainment System
The 2015 Jeep Wrangler X Unlimited comes with a great infotainment center and a simple gauge cluster with two large analog gauges a small digital readout. The Wrangler X has satellite radio, USB access to the hard drive, Bluetooth capabilities, voice control and navigation, so there really isn’t anything wrong with it. The problem is that so many other new Jeep products and other vehicles throughout the Chrysler Group brands have the gorgeous premium UConnect system with an 8.4 inch touch screen and the customizable gauge cluster.

wrnagler dash

Compared to other vehicles in the same dealership showroom, the Wrangler infotainment and gauge setup looks very dated, so above all else, the best way that the Chrysler Group could improve the next generation Wrangler in a way that won’t kill any of the capability of this classic SUV is to bring in the systems that they use elsewhere.

The good news is that this is also the most likely change for the next generation Jeep Wrangler.

The Final Word
If you read through the list above and thought to yourself that you really don’t care about any of my points, then you are probably the ideal Jeep Wrangler owner. At the end of the day, while my 5 ideas above would make the next Wrangler better than the current model, the current Wrangler is still the best all-terrain vehicle sold in the US – and maybe the world.

clean wrangler x u road

If you are in the market for a new SUV that can go anywhere in any road or weather condition, the Jeep Wrangler is the best vehicle for you and if you are looking to spend under $40,000, the Wrangler X package offers more style and bang for the buck than any competitor on sale today.


Sign-up to our email newsletter for daily perspectives on car design, trends, events and news, not found elsewhere.

Comments

Sadly, Jeeps have a long history of lots of little niggling things going wrong. The transmission does not fail, but the button falls off.
Nearly spit my coffee across the table when I read the part of your post about the buttons falling off. I was adjusting my air the other day and the knob fell off in my hand. Nothing that a dab of superglue couldn't fix. But you are right about the lots of little things. The list will go on and on. However, most true Jeep owners and lovers are aware of such things. Myself I have really enjoyed all those little things. The after market has all our bases covered and if it needs fixin' or upgraded there is any number of catalogs from friendly people ready to meet your needs. Buying a Jeep Wrangler is the best thing I've ever done. Happy trails.
Good Day Patrick, With regards to off-road capabilities I agree with what you have to say, pretty amazing. However the Wrangler is far from perfection. 2 improvements that you do not list and probably should sit at the top of needed improvements are; Quality/reliability and safety, both substandard by 2day's measure. In this respect hasn't changed much since I owned, (purchased new) an '81 CJ-7. It had some serious off road chops and was allot of fun. The quality and safety left ALLOT to be desired and through what I have read and what I have heard from owners I know, that still seems to be the case. So may I suggest that the 2 top issues that need to be addressed are, safety and quality. Be well.
Great points. I agree with all but #2. A higher priority, IMO, would be an LED headlight option. That would be both a spec bump over the current options and provide practical visibility improvements for drivers.
I bought my first jeep wrangler in Feb. 2014 - Rubicon Unlimited - and will not go back to any other vehicle. I love my jeep. I love the traction and the low gear ratio - I can easily pull my boat of the water at a very steep angle, over rocks, stumps, through mud, etc. in low gear without touching the gas...that being said, I would change 2 things: 1. ability to easily remove my heated mirrors and remount them to the frame; The electric wire does not have a disconnect on the mirror end; 2. heated steering wheel - my wife drives a different Dodge model with a heated steering wheel, and I love it. The jeep needs one.
You say, " However, there is the constant demand from the big mouths on social media and from the anti-Jeep media who are cruising around in their Miatas, Tweeting that the Wrangler is old and outdated and it simply has to be vastly refreshed very soon. " Well, I drive a newer Miata (MX-5) and am looking for my third JEEP Wrangler next spring. My only suggestion for improvement is the fuel mileage so does that mean you're the anti-JEEP media type? Don't disparage one group while trying to praise another. You show ignorance in offending everyone.
I made it clear that the improvements are superficial at best and I am clearly not anti-Jeep. Nice try though. It doesn't change the truth about many of the autowriters who don't understand the Wrangler (or most trucks) because it is so unlike what they drive every day.
Patrick, I'm guessing you are Torque's Jeep guy so I'd thought I'd pass this along; Every year there is a, "Winter Festival" in Lake George NY. One of the many different, "spectacles" it offers is an open invitation to the 4 X 4 ice races on the frozen lake. They run the gambit from stock to modified to xperimental. Long wheelbase and short wheelbase. Stock tires, "Home made" studded tires and experimental tires, (like flappers). Back in the day my wife and I ran our CJ-7 in the modified with stock tire class, won several firsts and seconds over the years. It is an absolute hoot and a holler. Some of the machines that show up are pretty knarly and impressive. I just bring this up as it is something a mite unique that probably would make for a good article for Torque. I know you, (or whomever @ Torque) would have a Blast and it showcases a side of 4 X 4ing potential other than your typical off roading potential of having 4 wheels driven. Just a thought to pass along, if you want more info 'bout the, "Carnival" Google, "Lake George NY Winter carnival". When we were running back in the 80's hundreds of vehicles would show up to compete, it's a pretty big deal here in the Northeast. Have a Good Day.