Is the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon the ultimate 4WD? The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon is a dedicated Off Road package. Wrangler – there really is no other vehicle like it.
To this day, the Jeep Wrangler continues to be the ultimate off-road icon. Yes, they’re fun to drive, they are supposed to be a small, square vehicle with only two seats, right? Well no, enter the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon.
Steve Lawson finds that you can Love ’em or Hate ’em! Jeeps can handle any road anywhere especially the American Icon “Jeep Wrangler Rubicon”
Standard components of the Rubicon include front and rear generation II Dana 44 axles, front and rear electronic lockers, rock rails, electronic sway bar disconnect, 32 spline rear axle with an 8.8 inch ring gear, 4:1 Rock-Trac transfer case, 4.10 axle gearing, 7 speaker infinity sound system, removable doors, a fold-down windshield and a host of any other available option can be added if you wish, but are they practical to own? Let’s find out.
Where: Watagan’s State Forest
Conditions: Lousy and getting worse (like going to a Leo Sayer concert)
What are we driving: The Rubicon
We hit the road and headed up the F3 with the 3.8L OHV V6 petrol engine singing loudly and drinking plenty of fuel (why don’t they give us an option of diesel in the Rubicon). Going from the black top to the forestry roads of the Watagan demanded a stop to air down; it would help with what lay ahead.
Whiteman’s Ridge Road is a tuff little bugger after it has been raining, and not many ‘stock’ vehicles have fun with that piece of dirt, in fact it stopped our stock Defender and SWB Prado at our last outing and yet the Rubicon just drove up it like it was a driveway.
You soon realise that every road is bumpy in the Rubicon. Especially when rocks, ruts, side slopes, trenches, logs, and mud. Lots and lots of mud are the order of the day. The wheelbase, high ride height, and a suspension tuned for WW111 and will have you experiencing more vibrations than you ever needed or wanted if you’re sitting in the front seat. If you’re unlucky enough to be banished to the rear bench, God help you.
The Rubicon knows its place, and it knows its owners want a vehicle capable of doing the city thing and be capable of going anywhere off-road. Make no mistake this 4X4 is that vehicle. Things getting a little tough? Put it in low and let it go. Things getting a lot tougher? Hit one or both buttons and lock the diffs. Need or just want a little bit more articulation? Press the buttons to release the bars and go baby go.
Wrangler is more about attitude and less about practicality than most other 4X4s on the market. Since its 1996 launch, the Jeep Wrangler has been extremely popular down under. Whilst Jeep has recently announced a facelift with an all-new interior to its 2011 line up, the vehicle over the years has advanced mechanically and equipment levels although basic have continued to improve especially the 2007 upgrade.
It’s the styling that has proved consistently popular with customers seeking a legendary and rugged product from Jeep. With one glance, there is no mistaking the Jeep design cues – seven-slot grille, round headlamps, wheel flares and an upright rectangular windshield – make it clear the 2010 Wrangler is a Jeep.
Behind the wheel
There’s a good view of the road, even if thick pillars, the tailgate-mounted spare wheel, block the rear view and the high mounted brake light. The driving position is upright with only limited adjustment.
The steering wheel adjusts for height (but not reach) and the driver’s seat can be made higher, you can’t adjust the wing mirrors from inside the car which is a bit awkward, for example if you are not the only driver using the car. A Washout interior is ideal if it’s being used as a workhorse. The dash is wipe-clean and hard wearing; as are the seats and carpets which are removable with a host of drain plugs in the floor. If you’re used to a family hatchback, it may appear rather basic, although for those who purchase this vehicle it will be part of the appeal.
Dimensions of the Wrangler (4,751L x 1,877H) suggest it may be a large car, but there’s surprisingly little room inside. The car suffers from poor packaging, meaning that there’s not actually much leg or should room for the driver or front passenger and it feels quite narrow.
In the back, legroom and foot room is poor because the floor is sloped and isn’t totally flat. On the road there’s substantial road, wind and engine noise, which makes longer journeys tiring. As its high off the ground, Wrangler can be difficult to get into for some, though our model had new blow-molded side steps, which made entry easier.
Sport is the entry-level model with an electronic stability programme, remote central locking, three-piece hard top, electric windows, 17-inch machined-cast aluminium wheels with P245/75R17 All Terrain tyres, height adjustable steering wheel, height adjustment on the driver’s seat, radio/ and underbody off-road protection (fuel tank and transfer case skid plates).
Our Wrangler Rubicon four-door model came with Freedom Top modular Hardtop and Removable full doors and folding windscreen, which delivers wind-in-the-hair, open-air excitement. Underfloor storage in the cargo area secured with lockable swing-gate fold and tumble rear seat (Wrangler) or 60/40 split folding rear seat (Unlimited),7 Infinity speakers including subwoofer and 368 watt amp; AM/FM stereo with 6 disc CD/DVD changer and auxiliary jack; Dual Top Group (hard top and soft top); side steps.
Two engines are available, across the line except the Rubicon (damn shame) a sweet 2.8-litre 130kW/410Nm four-cylinder turbo diesel and a 146kW/315Nm 3.8-litre V6 – inherited from Dodge – which replaces the old 4-litre in-line six. The 3.8-litre six can be had with a four- ratio automatic or a five-speed manual, while the diesel offers a five- speed auto and six-slot manual.
In reality, most buyers should jump for the strong 2.8-litre diesel. I hear from people who have driven the diesel that it is a beauty and it offers plenty of pulling power and am more than enough grunt to make light work of off-roading. The 3.8 V6 pulls well, but is coarse and noisy at speed, capable off-road but unpleasant for motorway driving.
Then there’s the fuel consumption. If you need a frugal ride I wouldn’t expect any more than 18.2 L/100km around town, 9.4 L/100km on highway.
When it comes to day-to-day driving, it can be a bit of a brute, feels heavy and needs to be worked hard. It will get you to 100Kph in 9.5 seconds with the manual six-speed gearbox, although the first five will be adequate for most buyers.
In off-road situations, Wrangler is exceptionally capable. There’s loads of ground clearance, it tackles tough inclines and descents and it takes a lot to get one stuck. It all adds up to being one of the best 4×4 workhorses around.
Unfortunately it’s a different story on the road, where it fails to match the standards for driving set by rivals of a similar price and specification. Entry-level models are badged Sport, though this is little more than marketing – the car is at best cumbersome and wieldy around town and at worst vague and unstable at speed.
The steering takes some getting used to – it’s vague, unpredictable and big inputs are often required. It’s a similar story with the brakes – they’re spongy and offer little feedback as to how quickly you’re braking. Although there’s noticeable body roll, it’s not excessive for a car of this size and height. The ride is exceptionally poor; it’s very hard and crashes over even small lumps and bumps in the road, while on the motorway it wallows.
I can say from the outset, that there really isn’t terrain a serious off-roader would tackle that would stop the Wrangler Rubicon. It just wants to have a go at anything you point it at. Think about impossible terrain, large boulders, sand, and water or mud, does it struggle?
No. I’d never thought it possible. Astonishing really when you think that this rig is bog stock standard.
If the terrain I put this vehicle over couldn’t stop the Wrangler, I can’t imagine what will. At one point I had the side sill almost submerged in water, rear axle at full articulation, right front wheel dangling in the air and I just drove out or the situation like I was looking for parking spot at Westfield’s. Unbelievable.
I am sure the boot area is acceptable on the five-door model, though not exceptional and there’s not much room in the three-door. Fold down the seats and its much better, with a flat and useable load area; the seats also fold 60/40. The rear door splits, with the tailgate opening outwards and the rear screen opening upwards. Inside, the glove box is small and although there is a large armrest box, though there is no other significant interior storage.
All cars are convertibles, though are offered with a three-piece hard top on the Renegade as standard. It’s reasonably easy to remove, though is bulky and requires somewhere for it to be stored. There’s room for three in the back, but they’ll have to squeeze their legs in. Shoulder room isn’t impressive, either, because the rear seat is narrow. Very little room for the weekly shop and storage consists of a few cup holders
Yet to be crash tested by Euro NCAP, so it’s unproven as to how it would perform in an accident. ABS, electronic stability programme, brake assist, traction control, seat-belt pre-tensioners and Isofix child seat anchor points. Security features include an alarm and immobiliser and remote central locking.
Jeep’s rugged image should translate into strong reliability for the Wrangler. It’s built to tackle tough, demanding, terrain, so is mechanically tough. Proven by decades of development with strong engines. Interior is basic and the plastics are chunky, so there should be few problems. Over-enthusiastic off-roading will be the only worry.
Genuinely descended from the World War II Willy’s Jeep. Looks make it an appealing proposition to anyone after a small off-roader with around $30,000 to spend. It’s also very effective as an off-road tool, but if you don’t need that ability then you’ll be paying a high price for the looks and kudos, because it’s a pretty crude device.
The hard top at least ensures you can use it year round and it’s a shame the Rubicon doesn’t come in diesel. However for the first time Wrangler is available with two or four doors. The major stumbling block is the price. It starts from around $30,990 to $45,990 plus options and on road costs, which is more than enough to buy a more comfortable and better-equipped off-roader, like a Suzuki Grand Vitara, though none, will match the go-anywhere ability of the Wrangler.
The Jeep asks no questions; it only delivers answers, “Sure, I’ll do it.” The Wrangler Rubicon is the ultimate no frills off-roading device, allowing you to get where you want, when you want, but it is hard work to live with day to day. Buyers looking for on-road comfort, refinement or an up market practical interior will find a better alternative elsewhere.
Article Copyright © all rights reserved – Auto Alliance Group Pty. Ltd. 2010
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