The Jeep Wrangler is made for good times, no matter where they take place. Meeting some friends downtown for dinner? Drop its fabric top, hop in, crank up the tunes, pull up to the restaurant, and hand the keys to the valet. Going camping? You can pitch your tent anywhere you want. Just aim the nose of your Wrangler toward where you want to end up, throw the transfer case into 4L, and put your right foot down. The Wrangler will get you and your pals over logs, across creeks, through mud, and to the top of awe-inspiring peaks. Just remember to bring the s’mores ingredients.
It hasn’t always been that way for the Jeep brand, though. Its earliest vehicles served America during World War II, enduring the global conflict as they helped American soldiers complete their missions and get home safely.
Back in 1940, the US military was looking for a “light reconnaissance vehicle” that had a rectangular body, four-wheel drive, bucket seats, and a fold-down windshield, among other features. Willys-Overland entered a vehicle known as the Willys Quad as its production bid against competitors from American Bantam Car Manufacturing Company and Ford Motor Company. All of the samples delivered by each company exceeded the Army’s requirement of a sub-1,300-pound weight, but the Army realized that was too low a limit and decided to raise it for the next round of bids in 1941. Once again, Willys threw its hat into the ring in the form of the Quad. According to an FCA press release, “With modifications and improvements, the Willys Quad became the MA, and later the MB. But the Army, and the world, came to know it as the Jeep.”
The first civilian Jeep followed in 1945. The CJ-2A came equipped with round headlights, a visible spare tire, and an external fuel cap. Several other CJs came after that, leading to the first official Wrangler, which debuted for the 1987 model year. The square-eyed YJ gave way to the TJ and its round lights. The current generation of the Wrangler, the JK, first hit dealership lots as a 2007 model.
A lot has changed since 1941, but not everything. Jeep is still around, making vehicles. For the 2016 model year, it’s honoring its long history with 75th Anniversary Edition versions of several of its SUVs. Each one is available in a special green paint and comes decorated with unique badges, accents, and interior elements.
We recently got our hands on a 2016 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 75th Anniversary Edition based on the popular Sahara model. Even at the beginning of our week with it, we realized that something else hasn’t changed: The Wrangler is still a good-times machine.
2016 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 75th Anniversary Edition Exterior
The 75th Anniversary Edition Wrangler Unlimited is available in six colors. Before our media review vehicle was delivered to us, we crossed our fingers that it would show up coated in “Sarge,” a heritage-inspired color that’s exclusive to the commemorative rig. Jeep did not disappoint. The deep green coordinated perfectly with the handsome and understated Low Gloss Bronze 17-inch wheels, tow hooks, badges, and bumpers. The power dome hood, a la the Rubicon Hard Rock, was less subtle, but it looked so macho that we didn’t care.
Our Wrangler test vehicle came equipped with a multi-piece body-color hard top. The chilly weather during our time with it kept us from taking all of it off. Fortunately, we did get a few pleasantly warm afternoons – and happened to be in the Wrangler when the sun was out. To make the most out of the mercury being at the sweet spot of the thermometer, we easily removed the two panels above the front seats. With the sun on our skin and the wind in our hair, we felt warm and cool at the same time.
2016 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 75th Anniversary Edition Interior
We were ready for anything behind the Wrangler’s wheel. We could warm up in the heated leather front seats, which featured sporty Ombre Mesh inserts. If we needed to get to a place we’d never been to before, we could enter the destination into the navigation system using the 6.5-inch touchscreen. On the way there, we could either jam out to music playing through the Alpine audio setup or call our friends through the Bluetooth phone connection to get details about where to park for the night’s festivities.
2016 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 75th Anniversary Edition Performance
All Wranglers are powered by a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 with 285 horsepower and 260 lbft of torque, both of which are routed through a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic, which our Wrangler had. Those output numbers come from Jeep. These fuel economy figures come from the EPA: 16 city, 20 highway, and 18 combined mpg**.
We didn’t get a chance to take our Wrangler loaner off-road, but we know how capable the model is when it comes to rough terrain. We’ve taken several current-generation Wranglers, including Saharas, into battle against land formations as devoid of sympathy as they were full of large chunks of rock and elevation changes – and emerged victorious. Our test vehicle was ready to take on Mother Nature with body-protecting rock rails, skid plates to guard the transfer case and fuel tank, Command-Trac four-wheel drive, and a heavy duty rear axle.
2016 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 75th Anniversary Edition Safety
In addition to the roll bar structure above us, we were protected by multistage airbags, Electronic Stability Control, and Traction Control. Electronic Roll Mitigation was running in the background, ready to spring into action and apply the brakes if it detected an impending glass and steel somersault.
2016 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 75th Anniversary Edition Overall
It’s been a long time since Jeep vehicles first helped the United States Army to safety and victory, but the rugged good looks and capabilities of those rigs are still alive and well in the 2016 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 75th Anniversary Edition. Prices for it start at $38,475*. Our test vehicle had an as-tested price of $48,630. Visit an AutoNation Jeep dealer to get your own four-wheel tribute to Jeep history, then let the good times roll.
*MSRP excluding tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.
**Based on EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.