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Old 01-06-2011
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Default REVIEW: Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Review

If there were a 4◊4 version of Germanyís perilous Nurburgring, it would have to be the 35 kilometer Rubicon Trail in the Sierra Nevada mountain range in the United States.

The words Ďhardcoreí and Ďdangerousí go some way to describing what confronts those who attempt the cross the unpaved section of the ĎTrailí, but Ďimpossibleí might be a better description for immoveable obstacles such as the Devilís Postpile, Walker Hill, the Soup Bowl and Million Dollar Hill. The term Ďseven miles in seven hoursí is often used to describe the rate of travel on the ĎRubiconí. Enough said.

So itís entirely fitting that Jeepís most capable off-road vehicle, the two-door Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, is so aptly named after what some hardcore enthusiasts regard as the ĎMission Impossibleí trail.

While thereís a decent size premium to be paid for the silver Rubicon transfers on each side of the bonnet, donít be too disappointed in the fact that apart from those stickers, thereís little if anything that distinguishes it from the standard Wrangler Sport, at least from an exterior perspective.

That said if I bought a Rubicon, I would want other folks to know that Iím driving what is effectively the top of the food chain in Jeepís off-road armoury. So those ĎRubiconí transfers are a big deal to the buyers who pay the additional premium.



Itís more than likely though that most of a Rubiconís kilometres will be notched up on the bitumen, so it still needs to perform reasonably well around town as the family chariot, despite its legendary off-road reputation.

For starters youíll need to climb into the Jeep, as itís quite a step up into the cabin, although without being too difficult. In fact, after a few days of ownership, you wonít give it a second thought, but small kids under 10 years will require a boost upwards. Enthusiasts will buy the short wheelbase three-door version, but those who need a certain level of practicality will be better off with the four-door Rubicon.

The new 2011 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon comes with a much improved interior, which means that itís a notch up on what youíll find in the Land Rover Defender, the Rubiconís direct competitor in the off-road department.

This is a vastly improved fit-out compared with the previous model and looks, and feels more car-like than a serious 4◊4 vehicle. Thankfully, Jeep has moved on with the Wrangler and realised that off-road duties occur on the occasional weekend only, and during the week, the Rubicon serves as a daily commute vehicle.

There are plenty of soft touch materials and metallic look accents in the cockpit, similar to that in the latest Jeep Grand Cherokee. The thick-rimmed leather bound steering wheel is a nice bit of kit too, and adds a touch of class to the Rubicon.

Add to that features such as automatic headlights, and an Infinity Audio System with a 368-watt amplifier and subwoofer producing a very decent sound, and the Rubicon isnít a bad place to spend some time. There are a couple of option packages available at reasonable prices, but if the budget is stretched, just go for the Connectivity Group for a around a couple of hundred dollars. That will give you Bluetooth hands-free calling with Address Sync, making for stress-free communication while on the run.

Jeep call this particular variant the Jeep Wrangler two-door Soft Top (only our test car was equipped with a removable hard top), so this being a sunny day, we have obliged and released the front section of the roof for that open-air experience. Itís a simple task that only takes a few minutes to remove, and can be comfortably stored behind the rear seats. You also have the option of removing the remaining rear section, but youíll need to do that at home, as storage in the vehicle would be a problem, if you are carrying any rear-seat passengers.



Shod with what are essentially Ďall terrainí tyres, the Rubicon provides a firm and somewhat jittery ride over anything other than a well-maintained freeway surface, although, turn-in reveals little or no body roll, even when travelling at speed. In that respect, itís better than some sedans in its handling ability. While the Rubicon is sprung firmly and has a knack for finding any and all imperfections in the road surface, large speed bumps and those unforgiving metal car park humps are ironed out completely by the Jeep.

Thereís a tonne of safety gear on board the Rubicon too with front airbags, ESC, Brake Assist, All-speed Traction Control (ASTC), Electronic Roll Mitigation (ERM), Trailer Sway Control, Brake Lock Differentials (BLD), and the must have Hill Start Assist, which takes the pain out of city commuting for those that choose the six-speed manual box.

Our off-road test route for the Rubicon, were the various trails around famous Zig-Zag Raliway, not far from Lithgow, in the Blue Mountains.

The word Ďtrailí probably doesnít convey the degree of difficulty in climbing the deep-rutted slopes or the seemingly vertical sections around the so-called quarry.

We might be in the most capable 4 x4 Jeep has to offer, but those soft ruts look nasty all the same, and today we donít have the luxury of a support vehicle to pull us out if we get bogged. Time to engage the full suite of the Rubiconís off-road armoury before we tackle the trail ahead, and they are formidable additions to an already Ďtougher than nailsí Jeep Wrangler platform.

First off we engage the legendary Rock-Track 4:1 low range for slow crawling up and down these ruts. A simple double-tap on the button to the right of the steering wheel locks both front and rear differentials (or you can lock one or the other), while another button disconnects the front sway bar for impossible levels of wheel articulation.

Unless youíre negotiating a very steep bit of ground, youíll find that first gear is too slow, and second or third will be more useful. What is immediately obvious is the ease at which the Rubicon can conquer relatively difficult terrain.

Not only that, itís the comfort inside the cabin that surprises me most. The result of the disconnected sway bar means that even though one wheel is 45 degrees up or down on the opposing wheel, the Rubicon remains stable and sits relatively flat. It hasnít been five minutes behind the wheel, and already Iím mighty impressed.

While the 3.8-litre V6 petrol engine is more than competent and certainly up to the task, the lack of torque down low in the rev range is not ideal Ė especially on the tarmac Ė but itís less of an issue on the rough stuff with low range engaged. Itís a shame Jeep doesnít offer the choice of the 2.8-litre diesel powertrain with its stump-pulling 460Nm of torque from the automatic variant. To me, that would make more sense from both an off-road and fuel economy perspective than the petrol unit.

Throughout the morning, it didnít seem to matter how steep or deep the ruts were, the Rubicon made mince meat of anything we tackled, and all with ridiculous ease.

Itís difficult to convey just how steep some slopes are through a camera lens, but trust me when I tell you the climb up to the quarry wall was bloody steep, so when the opportunity presented itself, there was considerable debate as to what the consequences might be if things didnít go to plan. Of particular concern was that there were just precious millimetres either side of the vehicle, and simply no room for error.

With the Rubicon performing faultlessly all morning through mud, water and up the rut-laden trails, this narrow vertical was another matter entirely. We decided to give it go, a decision influenced to some extent by the large group of motocross riders who had gathered at the bottom to see if the Rubicon could make it up or not. All a bit of an anti-climax really as the Jeep went straight up in second gear without any loss of traction whatsoever.

It doesnít mind getting wet either, as tested through some deep muddy pools, again with plenty of traction through the slippery stuff, even at crawl speed.

The Rubicon is an extraordinarily capable piece of off-road equipment that simply wasnít challenged during what we thought was a sufficiently difficult route. Itís also versatile enough for the daily commute.

You can get into a Jeep Wrangler for as little as $32,000, but if you want the Rubicon, be prepared to step up with another $10,000 for that privilege. You would need to be a seriously committed off-road enthusiast to pay the sizeable premium over the Wrangler Sport, but knowing what this Jeep is capable of, we understand completely if you canít resist it.

By Anthony Crawford

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Old 21-08-2012
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I realize this was posted a year ago but I thought I'd add my impressions of the JK Rubicon having owned one for 3 months now.

As a used car option the Rubicon is the cheapest way to get into something with twin lockers, decent articulation and a reasonable drive.
Having said that it is clearly built with a specific purpose in mind, and that is rock-crawling. The low range gearing (4:1) is too short for most 4wding IMO unless you are running 35s, and the lockers can only be used below 20kmh or so in low range. The throttle response has purposely been set up to be very dull and unresponsive, probably to avoid getting bumped around while going over rocks.

These are all completely unsuited to Victorian 4wd terrain which is generally medium speed bush trails with a lot of mud throughout. You need to be able to generate some decent wheelspin to clear the mud effectively which disables the lockers, and it gets annoying having to shift from 4LO to HI and back all the time. The ESP cuts into the fun in 4HI too, there should be a switch to totally disable it including the ABS.

I still enjoy it heaps and can get through most obstacles with a lot of fun, but part of the reason I bought it was for the "unstoppable" reputation so I was a bit disappointed to see it was hobbled from the factory.
All of these are minor issues in the grand scheme of things, and can be fixed with electrical bypass mods and other tricks, but the whole reason I chose this car was because I wanted something that "just worked" and didnt need constant tinkering, otherwise I wouldve gotten a GU like everyone else.

Also, and this isn't picking on the Rubicon specifically, but the Wrangler motors is complete and utter rubbish. It's near identical in spec to the old GM Ecotec V6 that powered thousands of commodores which although rough were fairy perky and are very common in various 4wd conversions, yet the Wrangler unit produces less power and feels incredibly massively lethargic, as if it's doing me a favor by responsing when I push the GO pedal. Yeah the electronic throttle is responsible for much of that, but at the end of the day someone at Chrysler decided that it was acceptable for sale to the public and thats not ok.


TL;DR - Awesome offroad performance, but dont expect the world.

Last edited by BeatOffTheBush; 21-08-2012 at 11:18 PM.
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Old 22-08-2014
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BeatOffTheBush View Post
I realize this was posted a year ago but I thought I'd add my impressions of the JK Rubicon having owned one for 3 months now.

As a used car option the Rubicon is the cheapest way to get into something with twin lockers, decent articulation and a reasonable drive.
Having said that it is clearly built with a specific purpose in mind, and that is rock-crawling. The low range gearing (4:1) is too short for most 4wding IMO unless you are running 35s, and the lockers can only be used below 20kmh or so in low range. The throttle response has purposely been set up to be very dull and unresponsive, probably to avoid getting bumped around while going over rocks.

These are all completely unsuited to Victorian 4wd terrain which is generally medium speed bush trails with a lot of mud throughout. You need to be able to generate some decent wheelspin to clear the mud effectively which disables the lockers, and it gets annoying having to shift from 4LO to HI and back all the time. The ESP cuts into the fun in 4HI too, there should be a switch to totally disable it including the ABS.

I still enjoy it heaps and can get through most obstacles with a lot of fun, but part of the reason I bought it was for the "unstoppable" reputation so I was a bit disappointed to see it was hobbled from the factory.
All of these are minor issues in the grand scheme of things, and can be fixed with electrical bypass mods and other tricks, but the whole reason I chose this car was because I wanted something that "just worked" and didnt need constant tinkering, otherwise I wouldve gotten a GU like everyone else.

Also, and this isn't picking on the Rubicon specifically, but the Wrangler motors is complete and utter rubbish. It's near identical in spec to the old GM Ecotec V6 that powered thousands of commodores which although rough were fairy perky and are very common in various 4wd conversions, yet the Wrangler unit produces less power and feels incredibly massively lethargic, as if it's doing me a favor by responsing when I push the GO pedal. Yeah the electronic throttle is responsible for much of that, but at the end of the day someone at Chrysler decided that it was acceptable for sale to the public and thats not ok.


TL;DR - Awesome offroad performance, but dont expect the world.
Interesting..Probably because it's Suited to Rock Crawling in the States..
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Old 22-08-2014
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Old 12-09-2014
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Any news for the 2015 Rubicon?
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Old 12-09-2014
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BeatOffTheBush View Post
Also, and this isn't picking on the Rubicon specifically, but the Wrangler motors is complete and utter rubbish. It's near identical in spec to the old GM Ecotec V6 that powered thousands of commodores which although rough were fairy perky and are very common in various 4wd conversions, yet the Wrangler unit produces less power and feels incredibly massively lethargic, as if it's doing me a favor by responsing when I push the GO pedal. Yeah the electronic throttle is responsible for much of that, but at the end of the day someone at Chrysler decided that it was acceptable for sale to the public and thats not ok.


TL;DR - Awesome offroad performance, but dont expect the world.
Are you talking about the 3.8l V6 or 3.6l V6, they are completely different engines in performance and torque.
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Old 23-09-2014
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BeatOffTheBush View Post
These are all completely unsuited to Victorian 4wd terrain which is generally medium speed bush trails with a lot of mud throughout. You need to be able to generate some decent wheelspin to clear the mud effectively which disables the lockers, and it gets annoying having to shift from 4LO to HI and back all the time. The ESP cuts into the fun in 4HI too, there should be a switch to totally disable it including the ABS.
There are aftermarket ECU programmers such as the Superchips Flashpaq that take care of that: Rubicon Lockers in 4Hi, much better Throttle Response, Adjustable idle (for Winches for example). Should come as a factory standard though.
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