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2014 Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler Edition flies under the radar at the LA auto show

Fri, 22 Nov 2013 00:00:00 -0800

We almost missed the 2014 Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler Edition on the floor of the LA auto show, where it just made its world debut.

Part of it was the thick, chaotic press-day crowds. The vehicles in its immediate vicinity -- a pack of Nissan GT-Rs and the silly-but-striking Wrangler Dragon Edition -- did their best to monopolize our attention. Plus, the Wrangler Willys Wheeler Edition is, despite its tongue-twister of a name, pretty subtle as far as Jeep special editions go. There's no gold-grille trim, gold-edged wheels or absurd dragon decals. No video game tie-ins, either.

It wasn't until late in the day, as the empty exhibition halls were getting ready to close their doors, that the Jeep jumped out at us. We were really glad we didn't miss it because we're really pleased with what we saw.

Take the interior:

Graham Kozak
There's nothing too fancy about the interior, which is great.

Note the no-nonsense cloth seats. Note the lack of a console-mounted touchscreen (Willys Wheeler drivers use maps, damn it). You can barely see 'em, but about the only features this interior has -- beyond the requisite radio and climate controls -- are decidedly functional slush mats. Oh, and there's a leather boot on the six-speed manual gear selector. You could get a five-speed automatic, but why would you ever do that?

Think of this as a the SRT Core version of the Jeep Rubicon. You get a helping off-road goodies, like a Dana 44 rear axle with a limited-slip differential, 3.73 gears, BF Goodrich KM Mud Terrain LT255/75R17 tires and rock rails without all the upmarket interior bits you'd be afraid to get muddy.

We think guys who like trucks can at least respect the idea of this vehicle, which is more than we can say about a lot of Jeep's special editions. Drive one, and you'll probably get a nice nod of approval from said truck guys; they'll break into a grin when they notice absolutely killer, very smart details like the vintage "4 Wheel Drive" badging on the back.

You'll be able to buy the Willys Wheeler Wrangler early next year. The two-door will cost $25,795; the four-door Unlimited stickers at $29,595. When you think about it, that's a small price to pay for simplicity.

About the Los Angeles auto show

The LA Auto Show has long served as a spotlight for "green" cars, and a popular place to unveil new hybrid and electric vehicles. We'll have photos, video and complete coverage of all the manufacturer reveals and top news from this year's LA Auto Show right here, so check back often.

By Graham Kozak