2015 Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler

The thing about the Wrangler Willys Wheeler: It is a toy for a grown-up boy.

The thing about the Wrangler Willys Wheeler: It is a toy for a grown-up boy.

No, I am not being sexist here, but just look at this:

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One of the elements of the package that turns a Wrangler Sport into a Wrangler Willys is that decal on the hood. That seems to be the sort of thing that guys would get geeked about; women not so much. Around back there is another seemingly stenciled-on decal that tells the world that it has four-wheel-drive in a script that makes you wonder whether there is a pin-up picture of Betty Grable on the inside of the door.

Even though this is not a vehicle painted in camo-green (it is “Billet Silver Metallic”), it shouts “Military” in a way that really gets the attention of Jeep Nation. (Yes, while it may be somewhat late to use the term “________ Nation,” Jeep is one of the brands with a sufficiently robust and committed following that it is simply how it is, not trendy.)

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For those of you who are not versed in what this “Willys” means: the first civilian post-World War II Jeeps were the Willys-Overland CJ-2A, which went on the market in 1945. The fundamental attribute of the CJ-2A (which was cleverly followed by the CJ-3A—and some people think that the whole alphanumeric nomenclature mish-mash was invented by the European luxury brands—ha!).

And the Willys Wheeler edition is meant to go back to that time of pure functionality.

Functionality like that made possible by a Dana 44 rear axle with Trac-Lok limited-slip rear differential and 3.73 gears. There is a Dana 30 solid front axle. There’s a Command-Trac, 4x4, part-time, two-speed transfer case with a 2.72:1 low-range gear ratio for doing some serious rock crawling. And speaking of rocks, the Willys package also fits on rock rails that bring to mind something that just came out of a serious smithy, not the highly chromed decorative footsteps that are found on profoundly less-capable vehicles.

There are 17 x 7.5-in. high-gloss black wheels surrounded by BF Goodrich KM Mud Terrain tires.

And while sometimes you hear a phrase related to dealers, “We’ll throw in the mats,” which often something that resembles not much more than carpet remnants with a finished border, the Willys Mopar mats are sufficiently serious that it seems as though you could slog through the Everglades before climbing into the Willys Wheeler and not make a mess on the floor.

The Wrangler Sport is the fundamental go-anywhere, do-anything vehicle. The Willys Wheeler doesn’t take anything away from that, it adds a bit more, but mechanically and historically.

And speaking of history: the Willys-Overland company was established in Toledo, Ohio, in 1912. The company had made passenger cars, but after WW II, the Jeep products dominated what the company built in Toledo.

The Wrangler Willys Wheeler is manufactured in Toledo, in keeping with what is now more than a century of highly capable tradition in production.

Selected specs

Engine: 3.6-liter, DOHC V6 with multi-port injection

Material: Cast aluminum block and heads

Horsepower: 285 @ 6,400 rpm

Torque: 260 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm

Transmission: Five-speed automatic

Steering: Hydraulic, recirculating ball with damper

Wheelbase: 95.4 in.

Length: 152.8 in.

Width: 73.7 in.

Height: 70.9 in.

Curb weight: 3,785 lb.

Seating capacity: 4

EPA: mpg city/highway/combined: 17/21/18 mpg