Driving the Jeep Wrangler X: 5 Ways to Improve on Perfection
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media and from the anti-Jeep media who are cruising around in their Miatas, Tweeting that the Wrangler is old and outdated and it simply has to be vastly refreshed very soon.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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.