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Car reviews - Jeep - Wrangler - Rubicon


We like
Iconic styling, proper off-road capability, removable doors, chunky off-road tyres, electrically retractable vinyl sunroof, high ground clearance, strong headlights, decent performance, rock sliders, luxury equipment, metal bumpers
Room for improvement
Price has risen alarmingly, Blinky Bill touch screen, jiggly ride, A/T tyres a bit suss’ on sealed roads, V6 engine has a drinking problem, smallish access apertures, maximum tow capacity only 2500kg

Military look of trail-rated Jeep matches capabilities, but asks $91K for the privilege

8 Aug 2023



WE HAVE heard all the negative stories, but during the review time frame of a week, driving Jeep’s Wrangler four door Rubicon model is a real buzz, particularly in the bright red test model with body colour roof and guards setting off everything else in black and dark grey.


It costs a pretty penny at $90,450 plus on-road costs, but only has the Land Rover Defender P400S at $97,970 +ORC as a direct, petrol-powered six cylinder off road competitor.


There’s always the new Ineos Grenadier petrol at $20k more (if you can get one) for essentially the same thing.


The Wrangler is a body on ladder frame vehicle and has a military/utilitarian look setting it apart coupled with the capabilities to go pretty much anywhere you want. Better yet, there’s no stinky diesel fuel to despoil your apparel or smoke to get up your nose in the great outdoors.


The Rubicon four-door tops out Jeep’s Wrangler line-up and we can’t think of what else you need in such a vehicle that even has heated, leather clad front seats and steering wheel.


Not much has changed style wise for yonks and we remember owning a shortie version of this vehicle perhaps 15 years ago. It too was the petrol V6 and it couldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding. But that’s all changed even though the 3.6-litre Pentastar engine is the same series … with tweaks.


The Jeepsters did something to it to make it work harder and deliver the kind of performance you need on- and off-road. Mating an eight-speed auto to the mill probably explains a lot of the improvement…


The Wrangler Rubicon scores big in the standard features department with luxury goodies such as leather upholstery, Uconnect infotainment system, an auxiliary media hub bank, nine-speaker Alpine sound with subwoofer and keyless entry. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto along with native sat-nav are included (from the base model up).


Desirable off-road kit is generous in the Rubicon with the superior Rock-Trac active on demand 4x4 system and ultra slow crawl mode, Tru-Lok locking differentials front and rear on Dana heavy duty axles, smaller but tougher 17-inch alloys with all terrain 32-inch lug tyres, heavy duty pipe rock sliders and “off-road” mode.


Of great interest to many off-road drivers would be the removable doors and electric roll back soft roof to create almost an off-road buggy drive feel. Also handy in the rough is an electronically disconnecting front sway bar to provide more wheel articulation, a full-size spare wheel and supple coil spring suspension all round. It has real steel bumpers too, handy for pushing through the scrub.


In deference to hard driving, the Rubicon is fitted with large bonnet vents for additional engine cooling, and some under vehicle protection is provided. There’s 252mm of ground clearance and a touch less than a metre wading capability.


Driving range is around the 700km mark given the claimed average combined fuel consumption of 10.3 litres per 100km and the Rubicon’s 81-litre tank.


Driving impressions


The old petrol V6 Jeep Wrangler shorty we had a decade ago was an absolute piece of poo and useless at just about everything. It coloured our opinion of the model as a whole.


But the new Rubicon four door tested is another kettle of fish as it’s way, way better in all driving environments and hugely capable off road. Naturally we can’t make a judgement over an extended ownership but on close inspection and drive feel we think it would stand up to the rigours of everyday hard use pretty well.


The body/chassis had no rattles or creaks and even the vinyl parts were quiet on bad roads. Steering is not what you’d call sporty and the turning circle big but minimal backlash is evident in the bush or when punting hard on the tar.


It has big 330mm front and 342mm rear brakes that do a good job of consistently stopping the 1942kg Rubicon.


The all-coil suspension delivers a somewhat jiggly ride and the Rubicon feels like the tail is wagging as it negotiates rough roads causing deflection from bump to bump. But you get used to it.


The Wrangler’s ladder chassis differs from other pressed metal framed Jeeps (apart from Gladiator) and feels like the truck that it is in terms of strength. A while back we experienced the Wrangler in action on the actual Rubicon trail in Nevada and it’s pretty much unburstable even with the chassis flexing left to right over huge boulders.


Here in Oz, the same applies as we took the test vehicle into some tough country in the nearby mountains and then down onto the sand. It never missed a beat crawling over fallen trees and wash aways and then doubled down to skim over soft wet sand on the low tide line then off into the soft sand hills… with the doors and roof off for maximum fun.


After the weekend it was back into mundane driving mode at which the Rubicon is pretty good with the added benefit of being minimally exposed to being doored in a carpark thanks to the rock sliders.


It has plenty of acceleration and cruises OK apart from the accompanying thrum of those lug tyres that would drive you insane on a long road trip.


Jeep data says the Wrangler Rubicon can clock a 7.5 second 0-100km/h sprint, a figure we would concur with, but the claimed fuel consumption is a touch optimistic.


It will allegedly tow 2500kg which seems low for a vehicle this size and weight with the power available. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to test it out.


Access into the cabin is compromised by the high door sills and low roofline but you can bend a bit and use the grab handles to help the situation and once in the seat it’s “all good”.


You look at a near vertical windscreen which is a rarity these days and a flat faced vertical dash in a satin finish that really suits the utilitarian character of the vehicle. That last point holds a lot of appeal in these days of the feline-faced, extruded plastic techno mobility pod as cars because the Rubicon is the antithesis of that…. it’s the ridgey didge, tobacco chewin’, whiskey swillin’, stump pullin’, mud pluggin’ fourbie. And don’t argue.


It bit us on the bum though… On the way back to the warehouse when the infotainment screen went out to lunch, then came back on, then went off again… Oh well, nearly nailed it.

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