The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is an icon for a reason, but you’ll have to ask yourself if you’re willing to pay a substantial premium to forgo a comfortable daily driving experience. The size of the smile on your face after a test drive will be the best answer to that question.
Everything about my Mojito Green tester is intended to sear the eye and make a lasting impression. Jeep has perfected the life-sized Tonka truck motif, while simultaneously modernizing its “rolling across the European theatre heritage” in a way that only benefits from the latest lighting tech, chunky wheel designs, and aggressively jutting bumpers. You might not make friends with salad, but the Wrangler Rubicon is your ticket to the buddy club at every stoplight, gas station, and supermarket parking lot.
This is an interesting category in which to evaluate a vehicle like the Wrangler. On one hand, the automatic-equipped Rubicon offers features such as blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and forward collision warning and automatic braking, all of which should be expected at its price point. On the other, this is a vehicle perilously perched on top of a pair of solid axles, which are themselves kept in contact with the ground below through the oversized sidewalls of its tires. Its short-wheelbase-on-stilts scenario ensures Jeep drivers won’t be able to count on the same level of stability as those driving other SUVs.
Just how practical you find a vehicle like the Wrangler Rubicon – and particularly this two-door version – will depend entirely on how you intend to use it. For a pair of passengers needing a place to stash their outdoor gear for a weekend of wheelin’, the backseat of the Jeep (either removed or in place) provides more than enough space. If you intend to haul additional passengers, or regularly transport large items in the two-door version of the Wrangler, you’ll be somewhat stifled by the tight access (as well as the miniscule amount of outright cargo space behind the bench). You can still fit a full-size adult in the back seat, but I’d suggest limiting it to a single rider who can stretch out in the middle position.
User Friendliness: 8/10
There’s nothing difficult about interacting with the Wrangler. All of your important knobs, buttons, and toggles are big and easy to grab, even while wearing gloves, and the plastics feel robust enough to survive repeated abuse. The Uconnect infotainment system is among the best in the business, with logical menus, attractive graphics, and a good-sized touchscreen in the top-tier Rubicon model (a seven-inch unit is standard, while an 8.4-inch is optional).
If you want to go “full Jeep,” then things get a little more complicated. Although tools are provided from the factory, removing the doors, folding the windshield, and taking off the factory hardtop are all projects for two pairs of hands and a bit of patience.
If you’re buying the Rubicon, it’s for one of two reasons: you either want to go off-road, or you want to look like you want to go off-road. Either way, this most rugged edition of the Wrangler has you covered with gear like third-generation Dana axles front and rear, special low-range gearing for its four-wheel drive system (the better for crawling from boulder to boulder), a sway bar that can be electronically disconnected up front for improved wheel articulation, and locking differentials front and back. There are no other vehicles at its price point that deliver the same level of off-road capability right out of the box.
The 2020 Jeep Wrangler I drove featured a 3.6L V6, which generates 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. Although a six-speed manual transmission is available, I found the eight-speed automatic to be more than up to the task at hand, and never found myself wishing for a third pedal.
I will say that the optional turbocharged four-cylinder engine that’s also available with the Rubicon feels somewhat more responsive, what with its extra 30 lb-ft of torque. Realistically, either engine is going to get the job done.
Bounce. Shimmy. Wander. Thump. These are all sensations associated with piloting or riding in the Jeep Wrangler, and they’re intensified by the hardcore aspects of the Rubicon model’s suspension and tire setup. You can add the oncoming rush of wind to the equation, too, which is attenuated by the hard top but still present when travelling at higher speeds.
The Wrangler’s cabin isn’t peaceful, nor is it particularly smooth, but neither of those things should be a surprise for Rubicon buyers. Added niceties such as heated seats and a heated steering wheel help to make up for it, though they’re a combined $895 option.
Driving Feel: 7/10
Driving the two-door Wrangler is all about compromise. While its short wheelbase is great for getting around the city (and finding parking) or turning a tight corner on an otherwise inaccessible off-road trail, it becomes somewhat of a liability on the highway. The Jeep’s less-than-stable solid-axle steering is amplified by its small footprint, which makes for busy times behind the wheel and the occasional self-relocating rear should you happen to hit a bump or expansion joint hard enough.
It never feels out of control, simply out of step with the current SUV state of the art. The Wrangler isn’t unsafe as long as you remain fully engaged while driving (with the alternative being the risk of a sudden corner or stretch of rough road quickly getting out of hand). Those seeking a more casual Jeep experience might want to investigate the longer-wheelbase four-door model, or simply a less aggressive trim level of the two-door.
Fuel Economy: 5/10
Even with its mild hybrid system in place (dubbed eTorque), the fuel efficiency figures of the Wrangler Rubicon V6 are fairly bleak: 12.8 L/100 km in city driving and 10.4 L/100 km on the highway, when equipped with the automatic. In the real world, you’ll do substantially worse, so if thrift is your thing you may want to pay more for the somewhat more frugal four-cylinder option.
The Rubicon is startlingly expensive when fully kitted out. Starting at $46,940 before freight and fees, my tester stickered for a whopping $60,595 after all its options had been tallied up. That’s luxury car money for a decidedly non-premium driving experience, which means you’ve got to be committed to the pose or legitimately planning on using all of that off-road acumen for this to make sense.
The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is a ton of fun – a surprisingly liveable throwback in an era where personality-free SUVs dominate the landscape. If it wasn’t so expensive it would be easier to recommend, but as it stands, you’ll only want the top-tier Jeep if your enjoyment of its off-road capability is sufficient to balance out its liabilities on the road and on the balance sheet.
|Peak Horsepower||285 hp @ 6,400 rpm|
|Peak Torque||260 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||12.8/10.4/11.8 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||365 / 897 L seats down|
|Model Tested||2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon|
|Price as Tested||$60,595|
$11,660 – 3.6L V6 w/eTorque and eight-speed automatic transmission, $2,495; Cold Weather group, $895; Safety group, $845; LED Lighting group, $895; Uconnect 4C Nav & Sound group, $1,395; Steel Bumper group, $1,295; Advanced Safety group, $1,450; Modular Hardtop, $1,195; Leather upholstery, $1,195