Mark Stone makes an assessment of the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon.

This is one of the most Marmite vehicles on the road; some people loathe them without ever having actually sat in one, while others would give up limbs to own one. It’s about as iconic as it gets; while the modern Jeep Wrangler shares almost nothing in common with the original 1940s General Purpose or GP (which is where the Jeep name comes from), you can still see the lineage and that’s what it’s all about. The most uncompromising of all the true 4x4s, even under Fiat’s ownership, this almost hallowed off-roader is still ready for anything the moment you drive it out the showroom – and that’s a proven fact.

Forestry Journal: Big, bold, brash and exceptional off road, everything a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon should be.Big, bold, brash and exceptional off road, everything a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon should be.

From the seven-slat grille to the latches that hold the vast bonnet in place, the front of the Wrangler looks exactly as it should. The only difference is there’s now a lock and a latch to keep inquisitive fingers at bay, while the front bumper is now wide enough to use as a vantage platform and keep marauding herds of whatever or whoever else at bay. The traditional-looking circular headlights, along with those at the rear, have now been upgraded to the latest multi-lens LED variety, meaning you don’t have to fit the once-obligatory bank of after-market spotlights, though most people will continue the habit.

A flat windscreen and flat slab sides maintain the Wrangler’s almost folded-from-flat appearance, while the old-fashioned two-piece tailgate once again proves its worth in respect of the spare wheel location and the fact you can drive about with the rear window wide open. It’s been like this for years and long may it remain so, with Fiat and Jeep resisting the urge to fiddle. And, while the soft top is now an option, all roof panels are now removable, so the Wrangler becomes a full open-topper in about five minutes’ time. All you need is somewhere to store all the pieces.

Sat on leading arms, track bars, high-pressure gas shock absorbers, hydraulic rebound stops and electronically detachable sway-bar suspension all round in the Rubicon spec, the Wrangler arrives on diamond-cut 17” alloys complete with 255/75 BF Goodrich Mud-Terrain T/A deep-tread rubber. With the kind of axle articulation normally associated with modified off-roaders, the Wrangler boasts approach, departure and ramp-over angles of 36°, 21° and 32° with a ground clearance and wading depth of 252 mm and 760 mm.

Forestry Journal: Motive power now comes from a Fiat-sourced 2.2 4-cylinder MultiJet-II diesel.Motive power now comes from a Fiat-sourced 2.2 4-cylinder MultiJet-II diesel.

The cabin, while more user-friendly, remains functionally the same, but this isn’t luxury motoring. Comfortable, fully adjustable and now heated leather seats and a thick-rimmed matching hide steering wheel make for pleasant passenger surroundings. Even the integral, all-encompassing roll bar has been shrouded, albeit by hard, textured plastic. Once inside, there’s more than ample head, leg and shoulder room for all passengers apart from the driver’s left leg. Still suffering from transmission tunnel ingress, the driver has to become inventive when it comes to stowing their lower left limb when it’s not required – and since all Wranglers are now auto transmission, that’s about 99 per cent of the time.

All mounted on the Wrangler’s hallmark slab dash, instrumentation and onboard computer readouts are clear, but smaller than in most modern vehicles. The addition of the overtly Fiat-sourced 8.4” central Uconnect screen controls the satnav, connectivity, apps and reversing cameras along with full and rather useful off-road information, plus the nine-speaker music system. All other controls are pushbutton or rocker, grouped beneath the screen and of a size that means you have to study them closely to ensure you’re deploying the right one.

With a full complement of passengers, the long-wheelbase Wrangler can accommodate 548 litres of cargo, expanding to 1,059 litres with the 60:40-split rear seats folded, and has the ability to tow a braked maximum of 2,495 kg. As regards cabin stowage, besides the central cubby and four cup-holders the small glovebox struggles with anything more than the owner’s manual, while the miniscule door nets look the part and that’s about it. But it’s a Jeep Wrangler, so you forgive it everything!

Regrettably, American iron long since ceased to power not just the Wranglers but all Jeeps. Instead, a 2.2-litre 4-cylinder MultiJet-II diesel resides beneath the bonnet. Delivering 200 hp along with 450 Nm of torque, all transmitted to the road via an 8-speed automatic transmission, it’s the Rock-Trac drive that allows the Wrangler to do the business. Controlled with a proper transfer lever, the Wrangler runs as a rear-wheel drive for most of the time. Shift the lever one place and you select 4WD High Automatic, then 4WD permanent, then 4WD Low ratio. Detaching the front and/or rear sway or anti-roll bars also allows for far greater axle articulation. All this combined with underbody protection means you’re more likely to become directionally stuck well before the Wrangler. The Jeep’s ability to climb over, wade through and traverse the most inhospitable terrains is truly impressive.

Forestry Journal: Interior retains all the Wrangler hallmarks but is now far more user-friendly.Interior retains all the Wrangler hallmarks but is now far more user-friendly.

On the open road, the Wrangler can at times wander due to the Rubicon’s all-terrain tyres, something that decreases if you opt for one of the lesser-specification models. These are delivered on more road-orientated rubber that is still remarkably capable off road. The power steering has been sensibly weighted: gone is the over-light American system, replaced by electronic-hydraulic, the just over three turns lock-to-lock providing ample feedback, a significant advantage when off road.

Visibility is not bad, the sizeable wing mirrors and proximity radars providing the driver with usable warnings. Like all auto-shift 4x4s, the Wrangler tends to hold onto the lower ratios, the sequential mode allowing the driver to shift up earlier than the Jeep might determine and again useful off road. Economy wise, back roads, tracks and fields will return mid to high twenties, while longer steady throttle runs will see just short of 34 mpg. Almost irrelevant, 0–62 mph comes up in a relaxed, if at times noisy 10.3 seconds, while the eventual top speed of 99 mph is meaningless given the Wrangler shares the same aerodynamics as your average bungalow.

Price-wise, the LWB Rubicon as tested is all yours for £49,640, the SWB £47,995 dropping to £44,995 for the entry-level SWB Sahara. But keep an eye open. Since Wranglers don’t fly out of the showrooms, most dealers will be prepared to talk a deal, meaning purchasing your Wrangler is more often than not far cheaper than leasing. The benefit of buying is that most Wranglers are bought for long-term ownership, so if the local outlet doesn’t talk sense, find another one or seek out a decent broker.

Forestry Journal: Rubicon spec includes 17” alloys and BF Goodrich Mud-Terrain tyres.Rubicon spec includes 17” alloys and BF Goodrich Mud-Terrain tyres.

As the Wrangler (especially the Rubicon) is becoming an increasingly lifestyle and ‘look at me’ 4x4, potential buyers have rather overlooked this Jeep’s core values, purpose and outright abilities. The list of cons is probably longer than the pros, but when it comes to the iconic Wrangler they become meaningless. This Jeep is what it is and long may it remain so. Over the years I’ve owned three of them, covered thousands of miles and enjoyed each and every minute I’ve spend behind the wheel.

Once you’ve tried a Jeep Wrangler you’ll either love it or hate it. If it’s the latter, then there are plenty of other 4x4s out there, including the other Jeep model. But if it’s the former, then you’ll be hooked. Nothing else looks, feels or drives off road like a Jeep Wrangler and the world’s a better place for it!


Model: Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

Price: £49,640 (as tested) 

Engine: 2.2-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel

Transmission: 8-speed automatic


Top speed: 99 mph

CO2 emissions – g/km: 206

Economy – combined mpg: 33.1 average (as tested)

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