Test Drive: 2016 Jeep Wrangler Backcountry

Jeep, Test Drives
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Specs

Vehicle Type:

front-engine, four-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback

Engine Type:

3,6L DOHC 24-valve V6, aluminum block and heads, port fuel injection

Transmission:

5-speed automatic with manual shifting mode

Engine

3,6L V6
DOHC 24-valve

Transmission

5-speed automatic
with manual shifting

Fuel Economy

16 / 20 mpg
14,7 / 11,8 L/100km

Horsepower

285 hp @ 6400 rpm
213 kW @ 6400 rpm

Torque

260 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm
353 NM @4,800 rpm

Curb Weight

4,598 lbs
2,086 kgs

I think we all have seen the famous Jeep Wrangler before. It’s basically the ultimate off-road vehicle and that’s what it’s built for. This is not a luxurious limousine taking you off-road. No this is a vehicle built with off-road as the main purpose and then made street-legal. What better vehicle could you find than a Jeep Wrangler to explore southern Utah. It was a surprise when I tried to rent a car to go from Las Vegas, NV to Saint George, UT. I already had an SUV in mind but as I saw the Jeep Wrangler popping up, I had to book it. This also means it was no sponsored drive from the rental company or Jeep itself. I paid for it.

I got all excited when I arrived at the Vegas airport and my Avis app showed me a “preview” of the vehicle I would get. Besides the color, nothing really fit the preview image. There was no extended air intake pipe for the engine. Anyway, I was excited! I headed to my assigned space and started loading up the Jeep. I did the usual visual inspections to see if there was any prior damage or something not working. Just as I was about to drive off, I discovered that one cigarette lighter outlet is not working. I need two! I hoped Avis could send a tech there and check the fuse really quick. I went back to the rental counter and they first looked at me if I am sure that the outlet is not working. I acknowledged and one of the agents went out and checked herself. She drove the Jeep up to the rental counter and came back in, acknowledging that the outlet is not working. Both agents looked if they have another Jeep available but the only other one available was purple and just got returned and is being cleaned right now. They told me it will take a minimum of 45 minutes to get it ready. I asked if they have a splitter-cable so I have two outlets or if they would reimburse me for buying one myself. Heck, I even told them if they could give me a discount because I really wanted to get going. It was 7 p.m. and I still had a 2-hour drive in front of me to Saint George. They told me I have to speak to a manager to get a discount. So I went inside to the main counter, talked to the manager. He gave me the refuel-option for free and told me I should wait here, he will get the other Jeep pulled out right away. 20 Minutes later I had the new Jeep pulling up next to mine.

Well, the new one looked better than the silver Wrangler Unlimited Sport, besides the color of course. The purple color is exclusive for the Jeep Wrangler Backcountry. The name might not reveal it properly but the Jeep Wrangler Backcountry was designed winter capability. On the other side, I was happy that I waited. This Jeep was way nicer. It had leather seats instead of cloth seats, nice off-road tires instead of street tires; touchscreen display instead of an old school stereo with just buttons and knobs; steel front and back bumpers instead of plastic bumpers. A subwoofer in the trunk of the Jeep mounted flush with the floor. All this features are standard for the Jeep Wrangler Backcountry.

I loaded up my new purple Jeep and checked the lighter outlets as well and everything was working. What I didn’t notice right away was that the alignment of the steering wheel was off. This would give me trouble further down the road, but I didn’t know yet. I checked to make sure I don’t leave any of my belongings behind and started my drive towards Saint George.

Once outside of Las Vegas, where the speed limit is 70 mph I could hear the noise from the air going by the vehicle and this noise got pretty loud compared to other cars. The next thing I noticed, which makes the Jeep, not the ideal long-distance road trip car, is that the steering had a huge dead band which delayed steering response and on the other side you had to correct a lot to keep straight.

About an hour into my 2-hour drive to Saint George the ESP light came on all of a sudden and kicked me out of cruise control. I pulled over, turned off the engine and made hoped that would reset the whole problem. It didn’t! It was already late at night and I continued my drive all the way to the hotel. The next morning I tried again and hoped maybe the long time sitting over night would help it. It didn’t work either. I did some research and found a weird trick which sounded like it never can work (See the bottom of the page for instructions.). This actually reset the whole problem and everything was fine. I was about to drive the Jeep back to Vegas and have it exchanged for something else.

When I got a chance I took the Jeep out on a little harder trail to Toquerville Falls just north of Saint George. The Jeep really proved himself and got over all obstacles and the rough road with no problems. Once I left the paved road, I put the Jeep in four-wheel drive and started heading down the trail. Climbing over “rock-steps” was no problem for the Wrangler and thanks to the heavy duty front and rear Dana 44 axles the Jeep did this trail without any problems. It was not a super challenging trail, but I wouldn’t recommend to do it without a four-wheel drive and some clearance. By the way, the trail is worth it. The waterfall at the end of the trail is just amazing and perfect to cool down in the summer heat. Read my review about the trail here.

The Interior of the Jeep is kept simple and functional. Irritating for me was that most of the controls you assume to be on the door are actually in the center console of the car like the electric windows or mirror adjustment. This is because people like to strip down their Jeeps. You can remove the doors, roof above the driver and passenger seat and the rear “canopy”-cover very easy and without a lot of work. This gives you now a convertible Jeep with real open-air feeling. I only removed the two roof panels above the driver and passenger seat as a test how easy it is. It is super easy. For the canopy part, you should get another person helping you. Unfortunately, everyone who wants to can pop your hood open and mess with your engine. There are after-market locks available for the hood but the factory latches are not secured and everyone can just go there and open them. No key required.

2016 Jeep Wrangler Backcountry


2016 Jeep Wrangler Backcountry

The Jeep runs in 2-wheel drive mode on the highways and you can shift it into four-wheel drive high and low as you need it. It also has a lockable differential, which I never had to use but it could come in handy if needed.

Like I mentioned earlier, everything is kept very simple but rugged. The instrument panel for the driver gives you the necessary information without being a fancy color display. It gives you what you need to know and you will be busy watching rocks and other obstacles while off-roading. The Jeep didn’t have any fancy extras like newer cars have nowadays. Nothing besides heated seats but you don’t really need them in the summer time.

The four doors make it easy for everyone to get in and out and the trunk is pretty spacious. To open the trunk you have to first fold the lower half of the trunk door out to your left, which has the spare tire mounted on it. After that, you can lift up the top half, which is a glass door to give you a better view out of the back.

2016 Jeep Wrangler Backcountry

Conclusion

The Jeep Wrangler Backcountry is the perfect vehicle for some off-road adventures and I am pretty sure it can get you to most places you would like to go. Besides the factory modifications, this Jeep was all stock as it would roll out of the factory. I really enjoyed the ride and had a lot of fun with it. We can probably discuss the color forever. Some might like it, some don’t but for sure you stand out with the purple one. It also helps to recognize it as the Jeep Wrangler Backcountry because the color is exclusive for this trim but the same trim is also available in other colors. I am happy that the Jeep had an automatic transmission instead of the usual standard manual transmission. I have done crazy off-roading before in a Toyota Hilux in Panama and I can tell you, it’s more fun with automatic. You are already busy enough watching the trail.

Based on the Wrangler Sahara, the Backcountry is available both as a two-door and a four-door Unlimited.

Another thing this Jeep is really good in is catching bugs. After 5 days my windshield had bugs all over the place not to mention the front of the vehicle. It’s not a race car and has no aero dynamic at all. It feels more like driving a wall on four wheels. Acceleration is not even close to a race car, but hey you should be more concerned about torque getting you through the toughest environments instead of going fast with this kind of vehicle.

How to fix the ESP warning light issue!

  1. Go to your Jeep and turn it on
  2. Move the steering wheel all the way to the left
  3. Now move it all the way to the right
  4. Turn off your Jeep, wait a second…
  5. Turn it on again and drive a few miles.

I couldn’t believe that this would actually work but it did. I didn’t even drove 700 feet and the light went away and never came on again. This seems to be a normal issue with the Jeep Wranglers. After off-roading the steering alignment gets off-centered and that’s when the car starts getting confused. It thinks you are driving around a corner but your wheel speeds are all the same and now it doesn’t know what to do. This easy trick helped me. I hope it does for you as well.

Photo Gallery

This is my own opinion about the reviewed car. Many cars come in different trim levels from engine size to color and extras. I am not a car sales person nor will I alter my opinions for sponsored test drives.
The rating below is based on the driven car. As you know every car can have different options and extras, depending on how much you want to spend. I can’t tell you how nice or bad a feature is which is not equipped in the car during my test drive.

Icons made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com is licensed by CC 3.0 BY

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