Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler Edition — Rekindling the past

By David Finkelstein

The Jeep Wrangler now has a wider appeal due to a long list of factory options and build combinations for the 2015 model year. It's still positioned as one of the most capable and recognized vehicles on the globe, but Jeep marketing has suggested that the 2015 version offers even more — the allure of open-air driving freedom, off-road capability and on-road refinement. This has thrust Jeep Wrangler’s notable popularity to an all-time high.

Manufactured at its Toledo, Ohio, assembly facility, the Wrangler is offered in a number of appealing body styles that are sure to appeal to wide customer base.

Recently, I spent time driving the Willys Wheeler edition. It helped to rekindle part of my childhood when my father drove an old Willys as his daily commute vehicle. Back then, it was a thrill to motor around in a fun product such as a Jeep, and this excitement continues today with the same level of enthusiasm, regardless of age or social lifestyle.

Clearly, Jeep Wrangler’s signature features include classic round headlamps, seven-slot grille, trapezoid wheel flares, removable doors with exposed hinges, a fold-down windshield and innovative removable tops and half doors that allow the Wrangler to retain the brand’s iconic appearance and function.

The Willys Wheeler package I tested starts out as a base Wrangler with an MSRP list price of $22,995 but from there, the factory offers the Willys trim option for an additional $6,100 up-charge. This pricing doesn't include their $995 shipping and destination charges.

So what's included with the extra equipment on the Willys? Besides the long list of standard creature comforts on the base model, you'll also discover special Willys hood badging, rear access swing door “4-Wheel Drive” signage, all weather heavy-duty floor mats, an upgraded premium suspension system, leather wrapped steering wheel, a tire pressure monitoring system and factory air conditioning.

The Willys model also has rear passenger access handles, underside rock rails, user friendly connectivity features plus an electronic vehicle information display dash assembly. Beefy looking17-inch off-road BF Goodrich all terrain mud tires are also included. Special off-road underside axles and related hardware are also part of the Willys  package. Other exterior design cues include a gloss black front grille assembly with a black Jeep badge and gloss black front and rear bumper appliqué's.

The Willys Wheeler Edition comes standard with a unique soft-top and deep-tint sunscreen designed rear windows. Now, speaking of the rear window, keep in mind that it's view from the drivers seat is somewhat impacted due to the rear seat head rests, the rear window wiper motor housing plus the positioning of the rear/exterior mounted spare tire. As a result, you'll tend to relay more on your side door mirrors.

Powering this attractive Jeep is Chrysler's 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine. Its a three-time winner of the prestigious Ward’s 10 Best Engines award. It delivers 285 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. It's further engineered to provide a broad torque band which is essential for extreme off-roading enthusiasts. This power setup is available with a six-speed manual or an optional five-speed automatic transmission.

The automatic will run you $1,350 additional. And with this tranny, the EPA numbers showed 17-mpg city/21-mpg highway with a combined city/highway rating of 18 miles per gallon.

Additional new features for all 2015 Jeep Wrangler's include their standard eight-speaker audio system with improvements that reflect the overhead-mounted sound bar. An optional Premium Alpine Audio Package which includes nine speakers coupled with a new subwoofer and a 552-watt amplifier is also available for $845 extra. Furthermore as standard across the Wrangler line is a Torx Tool Kit for removing the top, doors and bumper end caps accordingly.

The '15 product mix is very extensive. A sampling would include the Sport and Sport S models, their Rubicon Hard Rock edition and the Jeep Wrangler Freedom Edition besides the Sahara model. All variants come with an array of safety and security technology features. Standard electronic stability control, electronic roll mitigation, trailer-sway control, hill-start assist and brake traction control are among two dozen available safety and security breakthroughs. They're engineered to improve handling and accident avoidance while providing occupant safety.

Additional factory options such as the power operated accessories bundle will cost about $1,545 extra. It was included on my test vehicle. The special"dual overhead top" group package will add $2,185 to the MSRP.The 2015 Willys Wheeler 4X4 I tested, showed a grand total price of $36,015.00.