The Wrangler 75th Anniversary Edition is an exciting take on an old favourite.
Faithfully trekking on with the same formula for decades, the Jeep Wrangler has evolved ever so slightly with the times. Almost shamelessly avoiding adding certain creature comforts and driver assist features, the Jeep is targeted specifically to a very special audience, one that swears by the capable off-roader and refuses to divert from this path. Wrangler dashboards have boasted the “Since 1941” badge for a while now, and the year 2016 marks the 75th anniversary of the vehicle. To commemorate this, we borrowed the keys to the 2017 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 75th Anniversary Edition, and spent a week with it to see just how far has come.
Regardless of what environment it’s placed in, the Wrangler will never be confused for anything else. It has plenty of Jeep emblems and logos placed carefully in and outside of the vehicle. This commemorative model has unique bumpers front and rear, bronze tow hooks, a special Power Dome hood, and badges throughout that clearly announce what this model is. At first glance, it looks like a lightly modified model, but especially when painted in this aggressive military green, this truck looks special and factory issued. The “Unlimited” name means this is the four-door model, as opposed to the traditional two-door layout. Even still, the top comes completely off, the doors are removable, and the windshield can be folded down onto the hood.
One thing that hasn’t changed this decade is the powertrain for the Wrangler – the only available engine is the 3.6L Pentastar V6 that is a staple in the Fiat-Chrysler family. Available in models ranging from the Pacifica (reviewed here) to the Charger and even the Durango (reviewed here), output in the Jeep is 285 horsepower at 6,400RPM and 260 lb-ft of torque at 4,600RPM. It’s not fast by any means, but it’s a huge improvement over the dated 3.8L that it replaces. Response is adequate, allowing the Wrangler to hold highway speeds effortlessly. It also has good low-end grunt for those off-road adventures.
Most will opt for the five-speed automatic, but our test vehicle was equipped with the six-speed manual. Automatics around the industry now have six, seven, eight, or even nine gears, so the five-speed is dated, but it’s rugged and durable, something the Jeep strives for. The manual transmission is equally rough and tough, with long throws, a retro floor shifter tilted towards the driver, and pedal placement that’s far apart (forget about heel-toe downshifts). The thing is, it still drives well, and driving a Wrangler is like riding a bicycle. Even if you have been out of the game for a while, re-gaining comfort is like putty.
Considering the Pentastar engine is decently refined, many may expect the Wrangler to be somewhat quiet on the highway. False – our car was equipped with the standard soft-top (removable roof and doors), which means wind noise is plentiful. The brick-like aerodynamics don’t help with this at all, but again, this is part of the Jeep’s appeal. It still uses a ladder frame with Dana 30 (front) and Dana 44 (rear) solid axles. There are skid plates underneath for off-road protection, and the two-speed four-wheel-drive transfer case can be toggled on the fly. Remember; this thing is made for off-road use first and foremost. On-road comfort is a second priority.
That said, when traversing off road, the Jeep is a total tank, with an almost unstoppable ability. All models, from the base Sport all the way through the Rubicon and Anniversary model tested here, are indisputably capable and will demolish almost any trail desired. Some off roaders will prefer the automatic transmission, but on our soft-roading adventure during our test week, the manual was perfect for the job and handled the obstacles with ease. The turning circle is startlingly tight, permitting sharp turns at low speeds without any surprises. Helping this prowess is the 75th Anniversary Package, which adds Rock Rails steps, a Track-Lok locking rear diff, and 245/75/17 tires, along with a series of interior upgrades.
Taking into account that this is an off-roader with no aerodynamics, the fuel economy numbers aren’t surprising. Strictly rated for 87-octane regular gasoline, we averaged 13.5L/100km in ideal conditions over the course of our test. Even on a strictly highway commute, the Wrangler will sit comfortably at 11.8L/100km, but won’t do much better. The average buyer using it daily will experience numbers in the 13L/100km range, allowing for about 500km per tank. Mileage will worsen significantly when off-road, but those numbers will vary.
It’s no secret that auto writers are coddled with the plethora of luxury and sports cars/trucks we get to test. Even the most mundane compact hatcbacks now come packed with huge screens, navigation, and adaptive cruise control. Therefore it’s almost refreshing to get back into a Wrangler once a year and be reminded that not everything on the market has gone soft. The old-school feel of the Jeep continues throughout the interior, with a very upright driving position and a familiar interior that hasn’t changed in ten years. The saddle brown leather with seat embroidery is unique to the 75th Anniversary model, and it looks and feels great. As for the rest of the interior, it’s simplistic and Spartan, with only the bare minimum (even on this top trim model) essentials.
Jeep still employs their old Uconnect system, and other than the almost-dead Town & Country (reviewed here), the Wrangler is the only vehicle to not get the new touchscreen infotainment system. This is easily the most dated part of the car, and considering the appeal the Wrangler has, it’s the only thing I would really like to see upgraded. The USB port doesn’t support iPods (old or new), and Bluetooth pairing takes way more effort than it should. Again, this is a system designed over a decade ago, and especially when seeing the resolution on the navigation map, it becomes evident.
The convertible top on a Jeep Wrangler isn’t the most convenient application, but after all the time we have spent reviewing various trim levels over the years, we have it down to a science (which means owners will, too). This is done by unzipping and removing the rear windows, folding down the back window, unclipping the top itself from the top of the windshield, and slowly folding it back onto the back of the truck. It sounds easier and faster than it is, and it’s best to have two people to get the job done painlessly. Those who opt for the hardtop have more of a challenge on their hands, but the top panel comes off for a “sunroof” feel.
After taking into account that the cheapest way to get into a Wrangler is just over $20,000 (when including incentives offered at the time of this writing), the $53,000 sticker on this model appears to be a bit high. It is, but it should be taken into account that this is the highest trim level available, only around this year to celebrate the truck’s birthday. Our tester included everything except the optional hardtop and automatic transmission, so this means navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, power windows and locks, and keyless entry are all in play.
The 2017 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 75th Anniversary Edition is an exciting take on an old favourite. The Wrangler still lacks driver assist features, collision warning, and even a rear-view camera, but none of that matters. With the Toyota FJ Cruiser now officially discontinued, the Jeep is a segment of its own at this point. A massive, loyal following means the Wrangler has a very strong aftermarket, and the perfected classic formula means it will be bulletproof for years to come.