Not every Jeep Wrangler is created equal. It’s a capable off-roader by nature, but the Rubicon model gains a long list of equipment that transforms it into a turnkey rock crawler that requires no modifications to hit the trail. It’s not cheap, so it’s not for everyone, but it stands out as the most capable factory-built off-roader on the market — only the upcoming Ford Bronco might give it a run for its money. Here’s how it compares with the standard Wrangler.
Offered with two or four doors, the Wrangler Rubicon is taller and generally more rugged than the base model, which is called Sport in Jeep-speak. The changes start under the sheet metal, where it receives a beefier front axle and electronic remote-locking differentials. It also gains an electronic sway bar disconnecting system, which lets the driver obtain more wheel travel at the push of a button; that’s helpful when crawling over boulders.
Visually, the Rubicon stands out with trim-specific decals on both sides of the hood, rock rails that protect the rocker panels, and 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped by all-terrain tires. Even bigger tires are found on the list of options.
Rubicon buyers have three engines to choose from. The first one is a time-tested 3.6-liter V6 tuned to deliver 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. It shifts through a six-speed manual transmission, but an eight-speed automatic is offered at an extra cost. Next up in the hierarchy is a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 270hp and 290 pound-feet on tap. Note that this engine can’t be ordered with the six-speed stick; it’s automatic-only.
Alternatively, Jeep offers a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 that puts 260hp and a stout 480 pound-feet of torque under the driver’s right foot. The diesel-powered Wrangler offers an impressive 513-mile range, and it returns better fuel economy than with the other two engines. It’s automatic-only, however, and the two-door model can’t be ordered with it.
Four-wheel drive comes standard, regardless of what’s in the engine bay. It’s a Wrangler, after all.
Jeep markets the Wrangler Rubicon as a no-compromise off-roader, not as a fully-loaded luxury SUV, so buyers have several extra-cost options to choose from. Highlights from the list include steel front and rear bumpers ($1,545); the LED Lighting package ($1,195), which bundles — you guessed it — LED lights all around; the Advanced Safety Group ($795), which adds driving aids like automatic high beams and adaptive cruise control; plus the 8.4-inch Radio and Premium Audio package ($1,845) that consists of an in-car Wi-Fi connection, an 8.4-inch touchscreen, navigation, and a better sound system, among other features. Adding an ashtray and a cigarette lighter will cost you $30.
Jeep positioned the Rubicon near the top of the Wrangler range. While the entry-level Sport model costs $28,295 when it’s ordered with two doors, the Rubicon sets buyers back by $38,695 with two doors and $42,440 with four. Note the aforementioned figures don’t include a mandatory $1,495 destination charge, which is like shipping and handling for cars. It’s priced well into luxury car territory, but buyers planning to go off-road get what they pay for.
The Wrangler Rubicon borrows its name from an extremely challenging 22-mile-long trail in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Jeep used to test all of its cars on it, but it abandoned this practice when it started branching out into the car-based crossover segment; there’s no way a stock Patriot can drive from one end of the trail to the other. Few unmodified vehicles can survive it, and this ability is part of what makes the Wrangler Rubicon special.
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