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2016 Jeep Wrangler Overview
Evolution rather than revolution continues to be the calling card for the Jeep Wrangler. You won't find anything earth-shattering or game-changing with the 2016 version. Instead, when you visit your local dealer's showroom, you'll find a new edition, some upgrades to existing editions, and a few new exterior colors from which to choose. And you'll still get the same boxy and easily identifiable design, the impressive 4x4 off-road capabilities, a functional interior, and a high fun factor, all good news for Wrangler fans.
The 2-door Wrangler seats four passengers and comes in Sport, Sahara, and Rubicon trim levels. There is also a 4-door, 5-passenger Wrangler Unlimited model, which we cover separately.
For 2016, Jeep introduces a new Black Bear Edition, named for a challenging Jeep trail in Telluride, Colorado, and buyers can add it to either the 2- or 4-door bodies. Basically an upgraded version of the Sport S trim, the Black Bear Edition features a number of exterior enhancements, including a Satin Black grille, off-road rock rails, 17-inch 5-spoke black wheels, and black tail lamp guards. A Black Bear Pass trail hood decal and Mineral Gray bumper applique help dress up the exterior. Unique interior features include black cloth Sedoso seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and Iron Gray bezels. Jeep offers the Black Bear Edition in 9 exterior colors, including Firecracker Red, Hydro Blue, and Hypergreen. A Sunrider soft top comes standard, though owners can opt for a body-color hard top instead.
Jeep also made minor upgrades to the Sahara trim for 2016. Outside, Jeep updates the Sahara's exterior look with a new body-color bumper applique, modified 18-inch polished-surface wheels, and high-gloss silver metallic surfaces on the headlight rings and grille throats. The inside also looks a little snazzier, thanks to a Satin Chrome steering wheel bezel and Quick Silver trim on the grab handles, bezels, and vent rings. In addition, Jeep offers new optional Olive Green leather seats with tan accent stitching for the 2016 Sahara trim.
To ensure that the Wrangler lineup offers something for just about everyone, the Rubicon Hard Rock Edition, Willys Wheeler, and Freedom Edition all return for 2016. The Rubicon Hard Rock Edition's upgraded 4WD system features electronic-locking front and rear Dana 44 axles, a Rock-Trac transfer case, and Tru-Lok locking differentials, while the Willys Wheeler also features upgraded hardware like a Dana 44 rear axle with a Trac-Lok limited-slip rear differential and 17-inch Mud Terrain tires. These enhancements give both editions improved off-road capability. The Freedom Edition features a military-themed exterior and interior design.
Outside, all Wranglers display the rugged, classic Jeep look, which dates back decades. Well-known features include round headlights framing a seven-slot grille, a fold-down windshield, and a variety of convertible/removable tops and half-doors. Owners can even customize their Wranglers with numerous exterior paint options. All trims come standard with halogen headlights, fog lights, and a full-size spare tire, while the availability of automatic headlights and power heated exterior mirrors varies by trim. A Sunrider Soft Top also comes standard, with a 3-piece hard top available as an option.
All Jeep Wranglers are trail-rated 4x4s, powered by a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine that dates back to 2012. The V6 produces 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, giving the Wrangler plenty of power for both off-road maneuvering and daily driving. It pairs with either a standard 6-speed manual transmission or an optional 5-speed automatic with a low first-gear ratio for off-roading. Automatic-equipped trims accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 7.7 seconds. Gas mileage remains stuck at a paltry 17 city/21 highway mpg, on the low end for similarly-sized vehicles.
While the Wrangler will never ride like a luxury sedan, it delivers smooth, quick acceleration and feels relatively refined for around-town driving. But its real strength, of course, lies in its off-road capabilities. Sport and Sahara trims come standard with the automaker's shift-on-the-fly part-time Command-Trac 4WD system, which splits torque 50/50 between the front and rear axles, and buyers can opt for an available Trac-Lok limited-slip rear differential for additional torque on low-traction surfaces. Rubicon trims receive a higher-end Rock-Trac part-time 4WD system, which includes a Brake Lock Differential, Tru-Lok electronically locking differentials, and electronic sway bar disconnect.
The Wrangler continues to offer up to 10 inches of ground clearance (on the Rubicon), with a 42.2-degree approach angle and a 32.1-degree departure angle. Hill Start Assist and Hill Descent control come standard across the line. When equipped with the optional Trailer Tow Package, the Wrangler can tow up to 2,000 pounds.
Despite its off-road hardware, the Wrangler offers a relatively quiet cabin with a good balance of comfort and functionality. Nice features like the sculpted dash and soft-touch surfaces mix with prerequisites like a washable interior and drain plugs in the floor--just in case you get flooded out during an off-road trek. Full-metal removable doors with roll-up windows also come standard.
Sport trims get cloth seats, a rear Fold-and-Tumble seat, and Jeep's Uconnect media system, which includes a 6-speaker audio system with steering-wheel-mounted audio controls. The Sahara and Rubicon trims add air conditioning, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, power windows and door locks, and remote keyless entry. In addition, their audio systems upgrade to a 368-watt, 7-speaker unit with satellite radio. Options include leather upholstery, heated front seats, and a 9-speaker Alpine audio system (all standard on the Hard Rock Edition), as well as a 6.5-inch touchscreen with GPS navigation.
Overall, the Wrangler delivers good driving dynamics and performance, though it still has a few rough spots when it comes to road manners, in keeping with its nature (for instance, it tends to wander a little at higher speeds). It will never be a typical family sedan, but that's what owners love about it, and it's why the Wrangler has lasted as long as it has.
Rob has been a contributor to CarGurus since 2007, and an automotive test-driver and writer since the early ’90s. He’s test-driven everything from BMWs and Jags to Bentleys and Saabs, with an occasional Range Rover, Ferrari, Porsche or Lamborghini thrown in. He also created the annual Car of the Year and Exotic Car of the Year awards for Robb Report magazine. He currently resides in Florida.
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