Test Drive: 75th Anniversary Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4x4
Entry Price: $23,295
Price as Tested: $48,630
This week, we’re driving a very special Jeep Wrangler, namely the 2016/2017 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4x4 delivered in 75th Anniversary build and highlighting Jeep’s legacy dating all the way back to World War II. This modern day Jeep Wrangler not only shares genes with the original 1941 Willys Jeep, it has no peers. Granted, other manufacturers have tried to build a similar vehicle, but thanks to Jeep brand loyalty and an expanding Wrangler lineup, all have pretty much disappeared from the market.
To explain the legacy further, the original Willys Overland had to prove its worth as the vehicle of choice for military transportation. Specifically, in 1941 Willys had to demonstrate to top government officials that they indeed had the right vehicle for the military troops here and abroad. Thus, they took their newly developed transport Jeep to Washington, D.C., and had a driver maneuver the ’41 Willys Jeep straight up the 365 steps leading to the U.S. Capitol. The driver turned around at the top, and then drove the Jeep right back down without a hitch to the surprise of the many gathered.
Right then and there, Willys Overland won the military government contract which was given a nomenclature of “G.P.”
As for the name “Jeep,” there are two popular myths. First is the letters noted above “G.P.” (“G” stood for government and “P” its 80-inch wheelbase). When recited together quickly, “Gee-P” it results in the correct “Jeep” lingo. The other tale has to do with soldiers naming the vehicle after “Eugene the Jeep” from the Popeye cartoons of the era. Regardless of which fable one believes, by the time daily cartoonist Mort Walker became famous with his daily newspaper comic strip “Beetle Bailey” in 1950, the Jeep name was cemented into history. Walker’s comic is still in syndication, featuring lowly Army private Beetle Bailey chauffeuring his Sergeant Snorkel and Sarge’s dog, Otto, in a military purpose Jeep.
Now, on to the legendary 75th Anniversary Jeep.
Wrangler is available as a four passenger two-door ($23,295 entry) or an Unlimited stretched five passenger four-door ($27,895 entry). Our tester arrived in the military color drab green, although Jeep calls it “Sarge Green” on the 2016 models and “Recon Green” on the 2017s.
Under the hood sits a powerful 3.6-liter V6 engine putting out 285 horses and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. Our Wrangler came with the optional $1,350 heavy duty five-speed automatic transmission with hill descent. This automatic is designed especially for its rugged 4x4 Command-Trac shift on the fly 4x4 underpinnings. A manual six-speed for gear bangers is standard, while both the automatic and manual come with extra sturdy Dana axles, gas shock suspension, skid plates front and rear, four wheel ABS disc brakes, modern safety and traction assists, and all the necessities for some serious off-road excursions.
However, when you are traveling a 70-mph freeway, Jeep Wrangler rides very well considering it’s a vehicle built for optimal performance ala climbing grades or battling severe weather elements. Granted, the on/off road tires make noise and the interior is noisy, but mechanically this Jeep does exactly what it was built to do and does it well.
What’s really neat about this Wrangler is that you can maneuver in a heavy snow storm and be warm and cozy inside, or, when the sun shines and you want to frolic at the beach or in the mountains, Wrangler literally transforms into an open air fun machine as the doors and top are removable for ultimate fun adventures.
The 75th Anniversary option isn’t cheap by any means, but you sure receive quite a bit for the $4,680 extra you’ll need. Along with a bevy of 75th Anniversary badges that complement the 1941 badges are heated front seats, Trac-Lok rear axle, 17-inch Goodyear Wrangler tires on bronze aluminum wheels, power dome hood, leather seating with cloth insert, special instrumentation, all weather mats, soft top, 40-gig hard drive stereo, electronic info, connectivity group, and much more.
Recommended is the Dual Top Group where for $1,785 you receive a black three piece hardtop. The hardtop results in improved winter warmth and is still totally removable just as the standard black soft top. If you want the hardtop color coordinated, add another $1,100.
Other options our Wrangler featured were front side airbags ($495), hardtop headliner ($495) and a Tru-Lok rear axle ($1,500). Tru-Lok changes the front and rear axle ratios from 3.21 to 3.73 for better acceleration as numerically higher ratios improve acceleration, climbing grades, carrying loads and towing but hurts fuel mileage. A final option included a $600 stereo enhancement that adds 6.5-inch touch display, navigation, SiriusXM for one year and audio jacks for mobile devices. This pushed the final tally to $48,630 retail.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 116 inches, 4,294-lb. curb weight, 22.5-gallon fuel tank, 16 city and 20 highway fuel mileage, 3,500-lb. tow capacity, 8.3 inch ground clearance and 31 to 70.6 cu. ft. of cargo capacity.
After driving so many different vehicles the last 51 years and reporting on them nationally since 1985, I usually don’t get too excited about a “special vehicle.” But the 75th Anniversary Jeep took me back to my days of driving military Jeeps around Fort Jackson, South Carolina, in the 1960s and Camp Drum, New York, in the 1970s.
It may not be a vehicle for everyone, but I wouldn’t mind parking a leftover 2016 or identical 2017 Jeep Wrangler in my driveway on a permanent basis.
Drab green of course.
Likes: Multi-purpose vehicle, legacy, color, entry price.
Dislikes: Expensive options, extra cost side air bags, no backup camera.
— Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and other Gatehouse Media publications. He welcomes reader input at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, Pa. 18840 or email at email@example.com.