AN ES­SEN­TIAL JEEP

THE WRAN­GLER IS THE MOST OFF-ROAD-CA­PA­BLE JEEP, AND THE RU­BI­CON IS THE MOST OFF-ROAD-CA­PA­BLE WRAN­GLER.

4 x 4 Australia - - Driven -

WALK into a Jeep show­room and you’ll see a wide va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent ve­hi­cles all sport­ing a Jeep badge. Trou­ble is: ap­pear­ances are de­cep­tive. Of all the ve­hi­cles cur­rently sold as Jeeps, only the Wran­gler can be con­sid­ered a ‘proper’ Jeep.

What’s im­por­tant here is that the cur­rent­gen­er­a­tion Wran­gler dates back nearly 10 years and is near­ing the end of its pro­duc­tion cy­cle. What the next gen­er­a­tion Wran­gler will bring to the party is yet to be con­firmed. Could this be the last ‘proper’ Jeep? Only time will tell.

For the off-road en­thu­si­ast the stand­out in the Wran­gler range is the Ru­bi­con, which has al­ways been petrol-only. But un­like times past it’s now only avail­able as a four-door and with an au­to­matic gear­box.

The Ru­bi­con is me­chan­i­cally dif­fer­ent from the ‘bread and but­ter’ Wran­glers thanks to lower diff and trans­fer case ra­tios, so even with the five-speed au­to­matic you have an im­pres­sively low 53.5:1 crawl ra­tio. Un­like other Wran­glers the Ru­bi­con also comes with front and rear driver-switched diff locks and a front sway bar that can be dis­con­nected (via a dash­board switch) to max­imise the front wheel travel.

The Ru­bi­con’s front and rear coil-sprung live axles un­der­pin its im­pres­sive off-road abil­ity. They pro­vide gen­er­ous travel at both ends and, com­bined with the elec­tronic trac­tion con­trol and ex­tra-low gear­ing, will get you most places. If things get tough then dis­con­nect­ing the front sway bar gives you even more front-wheel travel, and if you still need more help you have the front and rear lock­ers to call upon. Off-road kit in a stock 4x4 sim­ply doesn’t come any bet­ter.

What even­tu­ally stops the Ru­bi­con is its ground clear­ance, but this is eas­ily ad­dressed via a big­ger wheel/tyre pack­age or a lift kit, given the live-axle de­sign.

On the road the 3.6-litre V6 is smooth, will­ing and flex­i­ble; rapid even at high en­gine speeds. It’s all helped by a slick five-speed au­to­matic with ‘man­ual’ shift­ing.

The Ru­bi­con does its best work off-road, but it isn’t too shabby on-road pro­vided the tar­mac is rea­son­ably smooth. At higher speeds on bumpy roads it tends to bump steer, but this is some­thing you learn to live with.

The Ru­bi­con’s in­te­rior is nicely fin­ished and gen­er­ally com­fort­able, but shorter driv­ers will find the vi­sion over the dash isn’t as good as it could be. Bonus points for the re­mov­able pan­els in the hard­top and the fact the hard­top can be re­moved al­to­gether and re­placed with a fold­down soft-top. And if you re­ally want the ope­nair feel, you can al­ways re­move the doors. This alone makes the Ru­bi­con (and any Wran­gler for that mat­ter) unique in to­day’s 4x4 mar­ket.

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