Should anyone have worried? Jeep was not going to kill an icon even in the face of increasing pedestrian safety and ecology protecting measures. At first glance you may ask what has changed, but look closer.
Both the 2016 Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited are actually longer, slightly, to accommodate a reduction in head height – yes, the roof is moving toward the floor and the seat rake has been increased to still accommodate the tallest of drivers. This change, coupled to an increased rake on the grill and a little bit of a lean on the rear window lowers the Wrangler’s coefficient of drag, oh so slightly, from that of a cinder block. Looking at it with a squint do we see some Dodge Nitro DNA sneaking in?
The good news is the windshield still folds flat and the top comes off – this is still a Jeep with Willys heritage. The better news is that to keep the overall sense of serious off-roader the wheels and tires got bigger; more ground clearance without the on-highway safety issue of a big lift. The down side to this combination is that the turning circle is not exactly improved even with a narrowing of the contents of the engine bay.
If you thought those wheels looked too close to the fenders to offer serious suspension travel then the even better news (!) is that is there is articulation where needed; at the simple turn of a dial up to two inches of additional suspension lift is available, but only in ‘Low’ ratio to keep this a ‘trail only’ enhancement. The secret is that this Wrangler has gained a Range Rover like ‘progressive air suspension’ that promises European type firm handling on highway whilst keep that ‘good old’ sloppy axle articulation on the trail.
Compressed air has also been put to been put to use at the rear – gone is the rear wash wipe assembly to be replaced by an air blade/wash that works on both hard and soft tops. Compressed air also provides in-cab tire inflation/deflation as an option with bead-locked tires.
This Wrangler has also lost weight. The hood and grill are a ‘pedestrian impact friendly’ polycarbonate whilst a number of the side panels are aluminum. The engine has been pushed back slightly to accommodate a sloping radiator and fan assembly designed to spring down on impact with those increasingly prevalent suicidal pedestrians.
The interior has gone upmarket without losing any of its practical ‘wash down’ elements; everything just looks classier with better materials and less add-on glitz - think (again) Range Rover rather that budget rental. Heated leather seats are now standard on the ‘Rubicon II’ with branded nylon seat covers supplied free to silence the inevitable moans from the hard-core off-roaders.
Engine options are a tweaked 3.6l PentaStar, with a sportier engine management curve, and the much anticipated diesel. The former is a benefit of having firmer on pavement handling allowing Jeep engineers to un-cage, a little, the tiger within. The latter is 3.0l common rail turbo diesel that is slightly thirstier, but more responsive than the 2.8l previously found in rest-of-world Wranglers.
For those hoping for a hemi option – sorry, no can do. The world has moved on leaving the hemi as an expensive after market option for those with money to burn. For all practical purposes the re-curved PentaStar and the lighter weight vehicle will smoke any hemi equipped Wrangler anyhow.
So there it is, why did you worry? Oh, hang-on, that is a photoshopped 2013 JKU and those features were all made up by someone who has been driving Wranglers for 20+ years and wants to continue for another 20+.