Jeep Wrangler Rubicon review: price, specifications, drive impressions

The wings of the new Jeep Wrangler were cut, its old V6 engine made way for a more economical four-cylinder.

The change made this four-wheel drive icon a better car.

For 2024, all Wranglers will be equipped with a 200kW/400Nm 2.0-litre turbo engine. It may lack power compared to the outgoing V6, but it has more torque, better acceleration and improved economy.

It drags this American legend—a direct descendant of the World War II Jeep—into our more enlightened age. A range of technical, safety and internal improvements also help.

Its heritage-listed seven-slot grille is now wider and darker, while you can even choose pink from the new color palette.

But don’t attack the Capitol just yet, as Wrangler’s core principles have not been violated.

I’m driving a hardcore Rubicon, staring at the sky through its windshield as we effortlessly crawl up a seemingly near-vertical mud hill. He is comically competent.

These top-of-the-line Rubicons—hairy Wranglers—account for half of all sales. They come with four doors ($90,450) or two ($83,950). The latter looks cooler with a shorter wheelbase, but has seriously limited rear seat and trunk space.

Muscular looks aside, Rubicons are the Wranglers of choice for authentic, serious off-roaders. All-wheel-drive system on demand, locking front and rear differentials, front sway bar with electronic disconnect, 255mm of ground clearance, 32-inch off-road tires and full-floating rear axle are available.

If you’re unfamiliar with all of that, Wranglers are also available in more off-road specific trims. The Sport S is $75,950 ($5,500 less than the old Night Eagle) and the Overland is $84,950 ($2,000 less than before).

These “smaller” Wranglers can’t match big brother Rubicon for go-anywhere adventures, and they generally make less sense—as a road car, the Wrangler is an acquired taste.

It’s huge to begin with. You sit incredibly high and the square bonnet dominates your view.

The Rubicon’s all-terrain tires are noisy and their chunky nature means they don’t enjoy cornering, especially in the wet.

It’s body-on-frame four-wheel drive, so direction changes need to be smooth and not abrupt, and on our road test drive the stability control was working overtime.

Still, driving is a competent charm.

Body roll isn’t horrendous, the ride is comfortable, the brakes feel confident and the leaner engine – 20kg lighter than the V6 – improves cornering responsiveness.

The four-cylinder is crazy. It reaches 100 km/h in a surprisingly quick 7.4 seconds, while the 8-speed automatic transmission shifts gears smoothly.

The 2.0-litre engine is less rough than the old V6 and if you shift the stick to manual you can eradicate much of the otherwise lazy response.

We tackled a slippery off-road course on clay with dramatic climbs, and that’s where the Wrangler Rubicon makes the most sense.

Its hill-friendly controls can be precisely controlled in 0.5km/h intervals, the front-facing camera provides a great forward view even when you’re pointed at the sky, and it’s proven unfazed by any rugged challenge, with which we have dealt with.

But Jeep is asking almost $100,000 to drive one of these hardcore four-doors. The value proposition has improved, with the Wrangler now featuring electrically heated Nappa leather seats, a smooth 12.3-inch touchscreen, wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, locking cabin drawers and a softer dashboard finish for a more premium look.

The main difference is the roof liner, which is easy to remove and can be cut off and installed in the boot in two minutes.

For the ultimate outdoor adventure, it costs $6,450 to buy a canvas roof that can be quickly opened and closed to let the rear passengers get some sun, too.

Detractors include roomy rear seats that can’t be reclined, elements like the driver’s legroom and some controls that feel very left-hand drive, and the Wrangler’s interior rollover protection, which affects cargo space, though the 900 liter trunk is huge.

Towing capacity isn’t class-leading at 2495kg (and 1497kg for the two-door), the warranty is sub-par at five years/100,000km and safety is still questionable.

Side curtain airbags are a great addition, but the three-star ANCAP safety rating is retained.

The Wrangler will always be a compromise vehicle.

It’s never going to be the easiest SUV to live with, but strong looks, unstoppable off-road ability and heritage sometimes trumps all.

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

PRICE: From about $98,000 drive away

WARRANTY/SERVICE: Five years/100,000 km, $1,995 for five years/60,000 km

SECURITY: Six airbags, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, rear camera, front and rear sensors, rear seat alert

ENGINE: 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo gasoline, 200kW and 400Nm

THIRST: 9.9 l/100 km

RESERVE: Full size

LUGGAGE: 900 liters

VERDICT

Three and a half stars

The four-cylinder turbo enables better and more economical driving, while

roadworthiness was maintained.

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