Jeep’s advertising often boasts that driving one of their vehicles will allow you to get out there and commune more closely with nature. A recent television spot for the Cherokee hints that even in the city, driving a Jeep might mean an unexpected encounter with a pair of friendly-looking wolves. And while much car advertising is pure hyperbole and fantasy, in Jeep’s case – certainly in a soft-top Wrangler Sport – it turns out to be the straight-up truth.
I say this because 15 minutes after picking up my 2016 Wrangler Sport test vehicle in sunny Richmond, where I took a few minutes to lower the rather complicated soft-top, I was sitting in traffic on Oak Street in Vancouver with pellets of nature’s wet, icy sleet smacking me in the face and melting down the back of my neck. Raising the top wasn’t really an option, since it’s a five-minute operation. So I sat there with reggae music blasting and the heat cranked way up, communing with nature’s chilly winter interlude and pretending it was a brief tropical shower.
The Jeep Wrangler Sport (the Sport being the iconic short wheelbase two-door, with the Unlimited being the long wheelbase four-door) carries into 2016 essentially unchanged from 2015, with revisions limited to some paint colour changes (Hypergreen and Mojave Sand debut while Baja Yellow, Sunset Orange and Copper Brown are history) plus some available special editions (notably the 75th Anniversary Edition).
Actually, the basic formula has remained largely unchanged since the much-loved military 4×4 first began wartime production in 1941. For Jeep aficionados this is a very good thing, and the real die-hards will likely be buying up 2016 models rather than wait for the redesigned 2017 version because, hey, what if Jeep spoils it or dilutes the formula? (Word is there won’t be too much water added the Jeep’s spirit, however, with the solid front and rear axles, traditional low range-equipped transfer case, steel body-on-frame construction and near-unstoppable off-roading capabilities all present and accounted for in the redesign. The folding windshield is apparently history though, and other tweaks will see the suspension reconfigured for improved highway manners and the underbody reshaped in order to fit Chrysler’s eight-speed automatic.)
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My test vehicle was a modest Sport S version (one step up from the base Sport model) and it didn’t showcase any of the new-for-2016 colours or trims, but it did showcase all the goodness (and, let’s face it, quirkiness) the Jeep Wrangler is known for. It’s one of the very few true mainstream off-roaders left on the market (there’s the Toyota 4Runner, and a few remaining 2015 Nissan Xterras, and after that you step up into more expensive Land Rover and Mercedes G Class territory). It’s certainly the only convertible SUV available in North America.