With the unexpected heavy snowstorm we recently had, and if you really have to be on the roads, it would be nice to own a Jeep. And if you’re into off-roading, hunting/fishing in rugged places, or are a snow sports fan, there’s only one Jeep.
The 4WD Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is the Trail Rated choice. It’s truly an SUV that can go where others fear to tread. With 17-inch Goodrich All-Terrain tires that have deep cleats and a wide 11.5-inch footprint, the tires grip like glue but are only part of Rubicon’s sure-footedness.
Other traits include front and rear locking axles for when traction gets nasty in deep snow, mud or sand. Or, when plowing snow. The locked axles supplement your 4WD system in that all four wheels lock to provide true 4WD traction.
Disconnecting sway bars too take this even further. By disconnecting the sway bars, it allows more articulation of the front wheels. It enables the left and right front tires to move up and down independently from one another, thus enabling the Jeep to traverse rocks, gulley’s, rutted roads, small diameter downed trees and up to 30 inches of water fording. And both features engage by merely pressing buttons on the dash.
Two winters back our son bought a new Wrangler Unlimited (4-door) Rubicon. When a friend got stuck in very deep snow during a fierce snowstorm we had, he went to his aid but got stuck as well. Then it dawned on him that besides 4WD low gearing he was in, he was able to lock the front and rear wheels. It was just the ticket to get him unstuck and retrieve his friend who had to abandon his vehicle. His friend is a nurse on a Medivac chopper, so he had to be on the road.
The two-door Wrangler we tested was fun to drive. It turned on a dime (34.5 feet) but because of a short wheelbase and stout suspension that comes with the Rubicon model, it rides on the firm side. With a new link coil suspension and high pressure gas charged monotube shocks, Wrangler rides considerably better than Wrangler’s of old. Because of this stoutness, road imperfections can be readily felt but that’s to be expected of a Wrangler. It’s far from wimpy. This SUV was designed (and is delighted) to be taken off-road so everything on it is heavy-duty. However, it still maintains a semblance of civility for every day driving.
For 2018, Wrangler is all new starting with the suspension, engines, drivetrains and swankier interiors. Added to this, it can now be equipped with high-technology, that all together blends modern conveniences with tough ruggedness that Jeep Wrangler’s are noted for.
Noticeable though with the large, wide tires, is that there’s a constant need to add steering inputs as the Jeep seems to venture left and right. It’s a demanding task and lesser so with the 4-door Unlimited.
Compared to earlier Wrangler’s, the 2018 is a bit longer, wider and has a new easy-fold windshield that requires removing four bolts instead of 28. It also has easier to remove aluminum doors.
Wrangler Rubicon’s interior is exceptionally attractive. After a high 25-inch step-in, or step on the tubular rock rails at slightly less height, you’ll be treated to heavily padded leather seats with contrasting stitching. And sitting smack in the middle of the dash is an 8.4-inch touchscreen offering a host of apps including weather, nav, traffic, Wi-Fi 4G hotspot capability, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and more.
You’ll also notice two gear shifts. One for the 8-speed automatic transmission and a shorter one for Jeep’s proven 4WD system that maintains 2H, 4High, Neutral and 4Low gearing. This is the 4WD system of choice for serious off-roaders. You’ll see SUVs and crossovers with AWD or 4WD and with settings for snow, mud, sand and more. But those are electronically controlled whereas Wranglers’ are mechanically controlled with instant engagement. It’s a no-brainer as to which conditional gear to select compared to the electronic systems.
Wrangler’s back seat access is a bit of a squeeze after folding and sliding front seats forward. Only two adults can be accommodated since twin cup holders molded into the rear of the console box won’t allow any leg room for a third rider. Speaking of which, rear leg room is sufficient provided the fronts aren’t racked well rearward.
Back in the cargo area, and after swinging out the spare tire-mounted tailgate, there’s a 30-inch liftover. With the rear seat upright there’s 31.7 cubic feet of space that measures 18 inches deep, 41 wide and 35.75 high. Tumble the seatback fully forward and capacity expands to 72.4 cubic feet for 34 inches of cargo area depth. There’s more cargo space of course in the longer 4-door Wrangler Unlimited. And a standard roll bar behind the front seats protects front and rear passengers in the event of a rollover.
Wrangler’s are offered with two engine choices and a diesel is upcoming in 2019. There’s the 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder with 268-hp and 295 lb/ft of torque, and a Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 with 285-hp and 260 lb/ft of torque and the one that was tested. While the 2.0L has more power and torque ratings, if any snow plowing or towing (has a max tow capacity of 2,000 lbs.) is intended, the 3.6L is preferred. As such the 3.6L has lots of grunt moving this 3,955-pound SUV that exhibits spirited acceleration. With an 8-speed automatic transmission, Wrangler Rubicon earns EPA mileage estimates of 18 city, 23-highway mpg. And that’s with Start/Stop engine shut-off and a low 4.10 rear axle.
Wrangler is offered with several roof configurations both hardtop and soft-top and a new Sky One-Touch powertop. Wrangler is the only vehicle that has a myriad of features to enhance its looks or performance. And those can be had through Mopar Parts or aftermarket companies.
Wrangler also carries a cult of sorts. Pass another oncoming Wrangler and you’re bound to get wave from the driver.
Now all this ruggedness, technology and proven reliability doesn’t come without a price. What started out at a base price of $37,495, quickly escalated after adding leather seats and trim ($1,395); Customer Preferred Package 24R ($795) that includes trailering package with receiver hitch, 240 amp alternator, 700 amp maintenance free battery; LED lighting group ($895); Infotainment system ($1,495) that includes UConnect, Wi-Fi Hotspot, satellite radio with weather, traffic and nav, Alpine premium audio and more; Steel Bumper group ($1,295); All-Weather floor mats ($150); 8-speed auto transmission ($2,000); 3-piece hardtop ($1,05) includes rear wiper, rear window defroster, hardtop panel bag; and delivery ($1,445) took the bottom line to a whopping $48,060. Yes, you read right, almost 50 big ones. The 4-door Unlimited is already there.
But there’s only one Jeep. And a Wrangler is its name.