Jeep Wrangler Rubicon review: price, specifications, drive impressions

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The new Jeep Wrangler had its wings clipped and the old-fashioned V6 engine made way for a more fuel-efficient four-cylinder.

The change has turned this all-wheel drive icon into a better car.

For 2024, all Wranglers will be equipped with a 2.0-liter turbo engine with 200 kW/400 Nm. Although it has less power than the outgoing V6, it offers more torque, better acceleration and lower fuel consumption.

It brings this American legend – a direct descendant of the World War II Jeep – into our more enlightened age. A number of technical, safety and interior improvements also contribute to this.

Its iconic seven-slot grille is now wider and darker, and you can even choose pink from a new color palette.

But don’t storm the Capitol just yet, because the Wrangler’s core principles have not been questioned.

I’m driving the hardcore Rubicon, staring at the sky through the windshield as we effortlessly crawl up what seems like a nearly vertical muddy hill. He’s almost comically competent.

These top-of-the-line Rubicons – the hairy-chested Wranglers – account for half of all sales. They come with four doors ($90,450) or two doors ($83,950). The latter look cooler with a shorter wheelbase but offer significantly less space in the rear seats and trunk.

Muscular looks aside, Rubicons are the Wranglers that real, serious off-roaders need to choose. They feature on-demand 4WD, locking front and rear differentials, an electronically switchable front anti-roll bar, 255mm of ground clearance, 32-inch off-road tires and a fully floating rear axle.

If all this sounds foreign to you, Wranglers also come in more street-ready versions. A Sport S costs $75,950 ($5,500 cheaper than the old Night Eagle) and an Overland costs $84,950 ($2,000 less than before).

These “smaller” Wranglers cannot keep up with their big brother Rubicon in terms of off-road capability and are less useful overall – as a road car, the Wrangler is a matter of taste.

First of all, it’s huge. You sit incredibly high and the square hood dominates the view.

The Rubicon’s off-road tires are noisy and their knobby nature means they don’t handle corners well, especially in wet ones.

Because it’s a body-on-frame all-wheel drive, direction changes need to be smooth and not sudden. During our road test, the stability control was working at full speed.

Nevertheless, the ride has a competent charm.

The body roll is not too bad, the ride is comfortable, the brakes respond reliably and the slimmer engine – 20 kg lighter than the V6 – improves cornering.

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

The 2.0-liter engine is less gruff than the old V6, and putting the shift lever in manual control eliminates much of the otherwise sluggish response.

We tackled a slippery, muddy off-road course with dramatic inclines, and this is where the Wrangler Rubicon makes the most sense.

Its hill descent control can be precisely adjusted in 0.5 km/h increments, a front camera provides excellent forward visibility even when you’re pointed skyward, and the vehicle was unperturbed by any of the rough challenges we faced.

But Jeep charges nearly $100,000 to drive one of these hardcore four-doors. The value for money has improved, as the Wrangler now has power-heated Nappa leather seats, a snazzy 12.3-inch touchscreen, wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, lockable cabin compartments and a softer, more premium-looking dashboard finish.

One difference is the easily removable roof panel, which can be removed in two minutes and placed in the trunk.

For the ultimate open-air adventure, there is an electric fabric top for $6,450 that opens and closes quickly so that rear seat passengers can also sunbathe.

Criticisms include the roomy rear seats that don’t recline, elements like the driver’s footwell and some controls that feel very left-hand drive specific, and the Wrangler’s internal rollover protection skeleton that compromises cargo space, although the 900-litre boot is a real looker.

The towing capacity of 2,495 kg (and 1,497 kg for the two-door) is not class-leading, the warranty is 5 years/100,000 km and there are still question marks over safety.

Side curtain airbags are an excellent addition, but the three-star ANCAP safety rating remains.

A Wrangler will always be a vehicle of compromises.

It will never be the easiest SUV to live with, but its powerful looks, unstoppable off-road capability and long tradition have always made up for it.

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

PRICE: From around 98,000 US dollars

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

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

ENGINE: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine, 200 kW and 400 Nm

THIRST: 9.9 l/100km

SPARE PART: Full size

BAGGAGE: 900 litres

VERDICT

Three and a half stars

Four-cylinder turbo makes it a better, more economical driving experience, while the off-

Roadworthiness remains intact.

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