Skip to main content

Jeep Wrangler vs. Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

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.

What is it?

Image used with permission by copyright holder

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.

What is it powered by?

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
Image used with permission by copyright holder

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.

What’s not included?

2020 Jeep Wrangler
Image used with permission by copyright holder

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.

How much does the Rubicon cost?

2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
Image used with permission by copyright holder

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.

Where does the name come from?

2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
Image used with permission by copyright holder

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.

Ronan Glon
Ronan Glon is an American automotive and tech journalist based in southern France. As a long-time contributor to Digital…
Ford Bronco vs. Jeep Wrangler
2021 Ford Bronco

Ford's born-again Bronco is the most serious rival the Jeep Wrangler has faced in decades. It's a true off-roader, not a family-friendly crossover with a lift kit, and it can be customized in a dizzying number of ways. Users can choose between a two- and a four-door model, and they can take the roof and the doors off regardless of the configuration they choose. We'll need to wait until the Bronco enters production in early 2021 to know which one gets stuck first on a muddy trail. In the meantime, here's how these two off-roaders stack up against each other on paper.

Ford's role in creating the original Jeep developed for World War II is often overlooked. The company built thousands of Jeeps (you can identify them by looking for the letter "F" stepped into most parts), but Willys retained the design when peace returned and transformed it into the CJ-2A, the volume-produced first civilian Jeep, in 1945. Ford didn't enter the segment until it released the first-generation Bronco in 1965. Fast-forward to 2020, and both SUVs borrow styling cues from their respective predecessors, though we wouldn't call either retro-styled.

Read more
After two decades, the Ford Bronco returns with plenty of tech for the trail
2021 Ford Bronco family

The Ford Bronco was one of the original SUVs, but Ford discontinued it in 1996. Since then, SUVs have massively grown in popularity, so it was only a matter of time before Ford brought the Bronco back.

Current SUV popularity also means Ford could have phoned this one in and still sold herds of new Broncos, but that isn’t what the Blue Oval did. The 2021 Ford Bronco has the off-road capability fans expect, but it also boasts tech geared specifically toward outdoor adventure. It’s much more than a big dumb truck with a big screen slapped on.
The new Bronco isn’t one vehicle; it’s three. Like the rival Jeep Wrangler, the 2021 Bronco will be available in two-door and four-door configurations, both with removable doors and roof. In addition, the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport is a smaller vehicle based on a different platform, but sharing exterior styling and some of the off-road tech of the larger Bronco. It’s pitched against the Jeep Compass and Renegade.

Read more
How to watch today’s livestream of the 2021 Ford Bronco reveal online
2021 Ford Bronco teaser

Watch Live! Ford Unveils The All New 2021 Bronco

The 2021 Ford Bronco is one of the biggest car launches of the year, but with the coronavirus pandemic putting the brakes on live events, Ford will reveal the new SUV online. Here's how to watch it.

Read more