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