2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Overland 2.8 CRD Auto 4dr – A Comprehensive Review & Buyer’s Guide

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Overland 2.8 CRD front view

Jeep Wrangler?

Since WWII, the Jeep name has been as synonymous with a 4-wheel-drive vehicle as it can be, to the point where owners of 4x4s will get annoyed when someone refers to their vehicle as a ‘Jeep’, when it’s a Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Toyota etc.

The Jeep Wrangler is an incredibly popular 4×4 worldwide, with a massive and highly devoted group of owners, its look are still homogeneous to that original Willys Jeep of World War II and beyond, and this is one machine that can truly be called a 4×4 off-roader, and not simply an SUV.

I was sent the 2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Overland 2.8 CRD Auto 4dr to see what this icon is like both on and off-road…

Exterior. Butt-ugly or beauty?

The Jeep Wrangler has a very likeable design, for it is both unique and characterful. The Wrangler’s styling is also as identifiable and iconic as the Land Rover Defender‘s, and the cool factor is off the scale. This is not a vehicle designed to fit neatly into the surroundings of a modern metropolis, to slink prettily past glass-plated buildings or sit basking in coloured lights under neon-lit bridges.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Overland 2.8 CRD front side

Instead, the Wrangler’s home is wading through deep water, scrabbling for grip up a gravel trail so steep you can barely walk up it, or pushing its way through the grime and mud of a disused logging track. To me, the Jeep Wrangler stands for freedom, and its looks correspond perfectly to that ideal. I don’t care if that sounds cliched, because this is a 4×4 that appears every bit as tough and capable as it actually is.

Up front, the grille – with its upright slats, is unquestionably related to its forefather’s, and those oversized wheel arches are fantastic, furthering the sense of drama you get when looking at the Wrangler from any angle. The front bumper juts out far, and the length is something you have to keep in mind when parking the Jeep.

One of my favourite features are the exterior door hinges, which provide a military-esque vibe and indent that tough image further. Chunky door handles, square windows and hard edges abound, cementing the fact that the Wrangler is not a vehicle that simply dabbles in light off-roading, but one that is wholly ‘fit-for-purpose’.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Overland 2.8 CRD front grille

After you look at the Wrangler for a while, you’ll probably start to see that the ‘shut lines’ (gaps between the panels), are huge compared to most normal SUVs. Is this simply to add to the tough image, or just bad build quality? Neither. In fact, The Wrangler basically comes almost to pieces!

Notice the abundant amount of bolts around the base of the front windscreen, and the rubber mounts on the bonnet. They aren’t for show. Unscrew the bolts around the windscreen and flip some of the clips inside, and the windscreen will drop down and sit on the bonnet, exactly like the original Willys Jeep did.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Overland 2.8 CRD with Isuzu D-Max

The roof panels above the driver and front passenger can be removed individually, and you can also take off the large centre piece, as well as the entire rear of the roof and boot section in one. Oh, and just in case you didn’t think the Wrangler was stripped down enough by this point, the front and rear doors can be taken off quickly and simply, leaving you with an entirely open Jeep, perfect for the ultimate open-air off-road experience.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Overland 2.8 CRD front roof sections removed

Okay, the Land Rover Defender car do similar, but the point is that the Jeep panels are simple and easy to remove, and they’re also relatively lightweight, meaning one person can do the job on their own in a matter of 15 minutes or so.

If you want to make your Wrangler your own, the amount of both manufacturer and aftermarket parts, as well as customisation shops (at least in the USA), is simply staggering. I’ve visited the States a few times, and the last time I was in Tennessee, where there seemed to be a Jeep showroom every few miles, with the obligatory Wrangler sat outside -usually with one front wheel on a rock – suspension pumped up, oversized tyres poking out, bright orange or lime green paintwork catching the eye.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Overland 2.8 CRD rear view

That’s what I love about the Jeep Wrangler. It already looks immensely cool, and should you want to customise yours there’s a world of accessories to do so. You can’t help but like the Wrangler, and I say long live that utterly brilliant and unique design.

Interior. Neat, or nothing special?

I mentioned the Land Rover Defender earlier. Well, the Jeep Wrangler’s interior is how they should have done the Defender’s before the end of its life.

While the Defender’s interior was uncomfortable (for the most part), cramped, ugly and a bad design overall, the Wrangler demonstrates how an interior can still be utilitarian and practical whilst comfortable (for the most part), nicely laid-out, decently roomy and have actual luxuries that don’t feel like they’ve been added simply to keep buyers happy.

In the UK there are three models of Wrangler; Sahara, Overland and Rubicon. I was sent the Wrangler Overland, which is more luxurious than the Sahara, while the Rubicon is a special order vehicle, built for those who want to properly take their Jeep well and truly off the beaten path (and bring it back again).

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Overland front leather seats

The spec level on the Overland version is decent enough, with leather seating, cruise control, heated front seats, all-electric windows and mirrors, air conditioning and a touchscreen media system with satellite navigation Bluetooth and Uconnect device support.

While this is easy to use and the menus simple, the system overall does feel very last-generation and quite outdated. For instance, the graphics and sat nav are okay, but nowhere near as slick as the modern systems Jeep now use, and the fact there’s no DAB (digital radio) is an annoyance – a bit like having only non-Freeview TV channels in the UK.

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Its speakers aren’t great either, and while the bass and treble are adjustable, the sound produced still lacks a load of the mid-range goodness that really makes your tunes rounded and full. Forget that though, as really it’s simply a small side-issue, easily rectified by aftermarket systems.

One thing I believe the cabin lacks is a splash of colour. It really is just grey and black, and even a ‘highlights’ option only adds a few pieces of silver trim here and there, so it’s really quite dull and boring, regardless of the fact it has character. Yes, it’s an off-roader with practicality in mind too, but the option of spec’ing some different coloured trim and seats would be nice. I’ve seen older ones with with contrasting tan leather, which looked far more appealing than black-on-black.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Overland front interior

Let’s deal with the comfort level first of all. Up front, the leather seats are soft-while-supportive, wide and comfortable. There’s plenty of cabin leg, elbow and head space to go alongside those too.

In the rear, unfortunately, the seats are compromised big time by the fact the backrests are fixed in an almost bolt-upright position, to the point that you’re physically sitting forward slightly. They cannot be reclined because the seats meets solid trim in the rear. Personally, I’d like to think there was some kind of modification kit where a section of seating is cut away to allow you to recline them. If there is, answer in the comment section below!

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Overland rear seats

So, the rear seats are uncomfortable, which is unfortunate as the leg room is okay and this would otherwise make a superb family touring vehicle. Perhaps on the next model Jeep will look to rectify this issue, as it would make sense to do so.

Going back to the positive, I like the dash layout. It’s all rather plasticky, but at the same time it doesn’t feel cheap as everything is solid, tough and bolted together well. The round air vents are a good design as you can spin them all the way around, and aim the airflow exactly where you need it.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Overland ventilation controls

The heating controls dials do the job perfectly well, and if you’re wearing thick gloves while driving off-road in winter, they’re chunky enough to grab and adjust, as are the buttons for the electric windows, heated seats, downhill descent, traction control etc.

Jeep have made sure to include good storage spaces around the vehicle, and they’ve been clever with them too. There’s a huge glovebox for starters, and the space under the front armrest is deep and wide too. However, to not compromise on leg space, there are no door pockets, instead replaced with heavy-duty elasticated netting, which again do their job absolutely fine.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Overland rubber mats

Practical stuff include industrial-strength grab handles for those in the front and rear, to save you from being thrown all over the place whilst tackling rough terrain, and the thick rubber Jeep overmats with their tyre tread design not only look fantastic, but are highly practical too. On that, there are large drain holes front and rear for when you’ve either been wading in deep water (without the doors on), or have washed out the interior should it have been utterly grafted.

The analogue dials in the driver’s binnacle are simplistic, highly readable and suit the Wrangler perfectly and there’s also a small readout screen which gives a load of useful information on your speed, direction, exterior temperature, mpg, tyre pressures, coolant and transmission temps and oil pressures.

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With a square body shape, the Wrangler can fit plenty into the boot, with 498 litres behind the rear seats, and 935 with those folded. Again, Jeep have been clever and provided little hidden stowage spaces for all the bolts you remove when taking off the door hinges and roof panels, and they’re even marked so you know you’re putting the right ones back again. Very cool.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Overland dials

As well as that, under the solid carpeted boot section is a storage box deep enough to perfectly house the soft rear top, should you wish to leave the hard sections at home. As it’s a Wrangler and there are a gazillion aftermarket parts for it, I’ve seen an lockable storage box that fits neatly into that section, should you be using the soft top.

Finally, there are also four hefty metal tie-down points in the boot, and Jeep have even thought to include cutouts in the rubber overmat so you can use them while protecting the floor. Yet another great useful detail that the Wrangler has, and which you’ll keep noticing over time.

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Engine & transmission

In the UK at this point (May 2016), the Wrangler currently has just one engine – a 3.6 litre V6 naturally-aspirated petrol, which produces 284 bhp and 256 lb ft (347Nm) of torque. I was actually sent the diesel version, which was the only one on the press fleet and with an engine they’ve just stopped selling for the moment.

This engine is a 2.8 litre, 4-cylinder inline turbocharged diesel putting out 197 bhp at 3,600 rpm and 339 lb ft (460 Nm) of torque at a low 1,600 rpm. It drives through the rear wheels normally, and there’s obviously 4-wheel-drive to use as well.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Overland 2.8 CRD engine

There’s only one transmission available with the petrol version (and the same as I was sent for the diesel model); a 5-speed automatic ‘box with ‘Autostick’, which allows manual changes.

The CRD turbo-diesel auto will do the 0 – 62 mph run in 10.7 seconds, going on to 107 miles per hour at the top end. The petrol V6 does it in 8.9  seconds, and reaches 112 mph.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Overland 2.8 CRD 5-speed automatic

Official UK fuel economy stats for the 2.8 CRD are rated as: urban: 28,2, extra urban: 38.7, combined: 34.0, with CO2 emissions of 217 g/km. The petrol is worse off by around 8 – 10 mpg, and emissions are actually higher at 273 g/km.

In the CRD, I averaged around 27 – 30 mpg, but in all honesty I was having way too much fun driving to really notice things like dull average economy stats, and surely Wrangler owners don’t buy their cars with fuel consumption in mind?

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

There’s a sense of drama about sliding behind the wheel of a Jeep Wrangler, and one you rarely find on vehicles, unless it’s something sporty, powerful or simply full of character. In this case it’s the latter. Push the hefty agricultural-type door handle button in and the door pops open away from the thick seals.

Because the door are removable, there’s no normal two or three-stage hinge, replaced instead with a hefty strap to stop them flicking open all the way. This takes some getting used to, as the door almost always closes back unless you hold it open, which is a little annoying should you lean back into the cabin for something you’ve forgotten and it suddenly hits the back of your legs.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Overland door hinge strap

‘Tis but a small point though. Firing the 4-cylinder 2.8 CRD diesel into life, I’m pleasantly surprised to hear it’s actually not anywhere near as agricultural or noisy as I’d expected, and certainly compared to the Defender’s 2.2 diesel it’s positively smooth and refined.

On the go, however, when flooring the accelerator to pass a car or get up to speed the 4-pot turbo-diesel does start to sound more agricultural than when you’re simply cruising about in a high gear. I’m definitely recommending trying the 3.6 V6 petrol over the diesel, especially if you’re not interested in fuel economy. It’ll certainly suit the Wrangler better too.

The large auto gear shift clunks its way loudly through R, N and into D. It’s not long into driving the Wrangler before it becomes apparent the 5-speed auto isn’t really very good. Its gear shifts are sluggish and badly-timed, and unless you’ve got your foot fairly hard down on the throttle it’ll change up a gear way too early, leaving the Wrangler CRD chugging along with the engine bogged down at low rpm, sometimes to the point of the car almost slowing down on hilly sections, and resulting in me shouting at it and having to floor the accelerator again.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Overland 5-speed automatic

You can use the selector for manual changes by clicking it left or right in D, which livens things up somewhat, but again the changes still feel unhurried. After a week with the Jeep, I still never really liked the gearbox as it felt very last-generation to the majority of modern automatics. I think I’d prefer it over a manual still, but only because I believe an auto is the better choice for off-roading (which I’ve done plenty of in my own vehicles).

Power and torque from the 2.8 CRD actually felt adequate, and should you decide to plant your right foot you’ll likely be surprised at the turn of speed from the Jeep, the engine responding strongly at both lower and higher revs. It also cruises well at motorway speeds (70 mph in the UK), sitting more quietly, in terms or wind and road noise, than I would have expected, especially with that removable hard top system on.

The suspension is nicely balanced too. Considering the Wrangler’s kerb weight is over 2,250 kilos (4,960 lbs) it doesn’t wallow about as I’d presumed it would, but instead sits quite well on a winding road. It has a decently soft ride over low-speed damaged roads, while bringing confidence when using it off road – which I’ll talk about in the next section.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Overland windscreen detail

Something I did notice was that it lacked grip on wet roads, and more than once I found the rear end kicking out on roundabouts, even with gentle, smooth acceleration. The ESP system didn’t kick in quickly either, and it didn’t seem to recognise I was doing a slow drift sideways until I’d covered a good few metres.

However, I’m not going to blame the Wrangler for the sliding action at all. The reason? The Bridgestone Dueller tyres it had on were exactly the same ones as were fitted to the long-term Isuzu D-Max I tested, and I found exactly the same issue in the wet on that vehicle, and there are many bad reviews of these tyres on the internet to back this up. Fine for dry weather and decent performance off-road, but completely terrible on wet tarmac roads. If they’re fitted to one you’re going to buy, insist on getting them changed.

One more negative point. The Wrangler’s headlights are completely rubbish, producing such dim, feeble and yellowy light on unlit roads that it felt like I was in some incredibility old car, with even full main beam not really doing much to help. Certainly, I’m recommending you immediately upgrade the bulbs to modern ones – something like Osram Night Breaker or Phillips X-treme Vision are a cheap and easy fix to this, and are perfectly road-legal in the UK.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Overland driver view

That and the lazy auto gearbox aside aside, I found the Wrangler to be very enjoyable to drive. The view out of that ‘pillbox’ flat windscreen onto the bonnet with its rubber mounts, and at the sides those oversized arches, is just fantastic, and each time I jumped inside, closed the door too and fired the engine, it always felt like an adventure. Plus there’s no getting away from the fact you do feel cool too.

4WD and off-road. Stuck or superb?

Having a Jeep Wrangler on test without taking it off-road is a bit like driving a Ferrari around 30 mph routes for the entire week – pointless. So, you’ll be happy to know that I got the Wrangler well and truly muddy.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Overland off-road

Using a 4×4 or capable SUV for the purpose it was build for makes me happy, and whenever I have one on test I try to do just that. I’ve owned two Mitsubishi Pajeros in the past, and off-roading was something I throughly enjoyed doing when I’d had enough of simply plodding about on tarmac.

Jeep have always been serious about making their vehicles fit for purpose, and capable of tackling everything from rough tracks to boulder-strewn mountain passes. You only have to do a quick search on YouTube, and you’ll be inundated with videos of Wranglers doing what they’re best at, with their drivers grinning from ear-to-ear.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Overland through water

I could have simply said there’s more than enough proof that they’re superb off road, but it was way more fun to physically do it myself. I’d taken along the Isuzu D-Max pick-up truck as both a back-up (and vice versa with the Jeep) and so I could test them at the same time.

The place I took them is about as rough as it gets around the area, and after a few days of rain and sleet beforehand (and during the day too), the former quarry has turned into a quagmire, with ultra-slick mud – the type that fills tyre grip instantly – and sections of water deep enough to test the capabilities of the Jeep.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Overland climbing steep muddy hill

 

From the off it’s obvious that the Wrangler Overland is a capable beast. Selecting 4-wheel-drive and either High or Low ratio – depending on the terrain – is a simple affair with the pull of the separate lever located next to the main gear selector. With many modern cars switching over to either a simple dial or button 4×4 select, the Wrangler’s is refreshingly old-school, and it’s enjoyable taking the effort to physically do it yourself. Certainly, a modern electronic selector system would not suit the character of Jeep either.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Overland off-road gear selector

Once 4WD is engaged, the Wrangler takes on a different persona. The drive is more focussed and solid as all four wheel grip the ground. Through particularly boggy sections it didn’t even flinch, hill climbing was done with zero fuss and it genuinely felt like it wasn’t even trying on steep sections.

This video by Jeep explains how the Command-Trac 4WD system works. If you go for the Rubicon model, you’ll get the even better Rock-Trac 4×4 system, plus a whole host of other off-roading gear to make sure you can go just about anywhere.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Overland 2.8 CRD wading through deep water

Ground clearance for the Overland is 228mm up front and 220mm at the rear, while the approach (A), departure (D) and breakover (B) angles are follows: A: 35º, D: 28º, B: 18º, with a maximum wade depth of 482.6 mm (19″) at 5 mph.

The deeper water crossings showed no water ingress into the cabin, even after five or six runs back and forth the seals proved watertight. Of course, if you’re doing that regularly it’s better to put a snorkel kit on, with breathers for the axles,  transmission and transfer box.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Overland 2.8 CRD wading through deep water

Jeep offer packages to upgrade the Wrangler’s off-road capabilities further, but even with the standard Command-Trac system it felt every bit as good and capable as other ‘proper’ 4x4s I’ve taken on that bit of land, and with the options to make this beast even more proficient over challenging terrain, it would be interesting to see just what it can do at the max.

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Price

(Figures correct May 2016) Being able to take all the body panels off the Wrangler makes it a unique 4-wheel-drive vehicle really, but there are still challengers regardless of that, which are genuine 4x4s built to cross the toughest of landscapes successfully.

First off, the Jeep Wrangler costs from a little over £30,000 for the 2-door version, almost £32,000 for the 4-door model and they top out at a little over £34,000. I think that’s an entirely reasonable price, and it’s certainly in keeping with the competition.

Rival true 4x4s available in the UK/Europe and within a similar price range include the Mitsubishi Shogun and Land Rover Defender, although should you want a lot of that off-road fun for less than half the cost of any of those, consider the Suzuki Jimny too.

2015 Jeep Wrangler Overland 2.8 CRD Auto 4dr verdict & score

While the all-wheel-drive SUV and crossover market is growing at an incredible rate, there are only a select few genuine 4x4s still being produced in the world now – ones that are build to tackle the toughest terrain and not be worried about a bump or two to the body work or undercarriage, and that have every conceivable off-road accessory available because of exactly that.

The Jeep Wrangler is one of those thoroughbred 4x4s. Wrangler owners buy it specifically to go off-road, because they know it will. With its easily-removable panels and fold-flat windscreen, the Wrangler gives you that feeling of open-air absolute freedom you simply can’t get on an enclosed vehicle.

Sure, there are a few things that could be improved on the Wrangler, such as the automatic gearbox, which always seems to be changing up to early, the outdated touchscreen system which feels really last-gen by current standards, the bolt-upright rear seats are really uncomfortable, the standard headlight bulbs are pathetically dim and the diesel engine is noisy under hard acceleration, so I’m recommending trying the 3.6 V6 petrol instead.

Aside from that, it’s really hard not to like the Jeep Wrangler. For the most part it is comfortable and there’s a surprisingly good level of ‘luxury’ equipment included on the Overland to make it that bit more useable every day.

It’s difficult to find another vehicle with such soul and character, and the grin-factory is off the scale when you get inside and look out through its pillbox windscreen over the traditional Willys Jeep-style bonnet, and it gives such a strong feeling of adventure each and every time you drive it – on or off-road. I love it, and I want one quite badly.

Do you own a Jeep Wrangler, or have questions about this new one? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below! Read more CarProductsTested.com Jeep reviews here.

Exterior  10
Interior  7.5
Engine (CRD)  7
Transmission  5.5
Price  8
Handling  6.5
Drive & Ride  7
Off-road ability  9
Overall Score  7.5 / 10 

Specs

Model (as tested) 2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Overland 2.8 CRD 4-door
 Spec includes  (Overland spec) Black leather seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, 60/40 split folding rear seats, 6.5″ touchscreen system including satellite navigation, Uconnect, Bluetooth & USB connectivity, Alpine premium audio system, cruise control, climate control. See Jeep website for full spec
Safety  Multistage front airbags, electronic roll mitigation, traction control, anti-lock 4-wheel disc HD brakes, electronic stability control, sports bar with full padding, hill-start assist, hill descent control, front tank & transfer plate skidplate shields
Options you should spec  A whole load of off-road gear!
Off-road information  Ground clearance: front: 228mm (9″), rear: 220mm (8.6″) | Approach angle: 35˚ | Departure angle: 28˚ | Breakover: 18˚ | Wading depth: 482.6mm (19″)
Price (not inc. options)  (correct May 2016) 2dr & 4dr: £30,000  – £34,000
Engine  Diesel, 2.8 litres, 4-cylinders (in-line), 16-valves, turbocharged
Power, Torque  Power: 197 bhp @ 3,600 rpm | 339 lb ft (460 Nm) @ 1,700 rpm
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Rear wheel drive & selectable 4WD | 5-speed automatic
Towing capacity  Towing: Braked on standard axle: 1,000 kgs (2,204 lbs) / with optional axle: 2,200 kgs (4,850 lbs) | Unbraked: standard axle: 450 kgs (992 lbs) / optional axle: 750 kgs (1,653 lbs)
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed: 107 mph | 0 – 62 mph: 10.7 seconds | Euro NCAP rating: Not Tested
Fuel economy (UK mpg), CO2  Urban: 28,2, Extra urban: 38.7, Combined: 34.0 | CO2: 217 g/km
Weight (kerb)  2,253 kgs (4,967 lbs)
Websites  Jeep UK, Jeep USA, Jeep worldwide 

Words: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris Davies | Films: Water wading filmed by Alex Carnall, edited by Chris Davies, Interior tour video: Chris Davies

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