2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Is Your Best Out Of The Box 4x4 Off-Roader'
It's not easy being green, particularly if you crave anonymity. The '20 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon's Mojito! paint hue is perhaps the most extroverted color yet to have been splashed along its classic, rugged lines, and combined with bulging off-road rubber and the brand's baked-in attitude it's the automotive equivalent of setting off fireworks every time you leave your driveway.
All told, Mojito! is an appropriate match for the ultimate expression of the Wrangler's over-the-top bravado. The two-door Rubicon trim gathers all of the in-house go-anywhere gear offered by Jeep in a single package, and while it asks you to make a few sacrifices on your way to the trailhead, there's really no equivalent to what it has to offer out-of-the-box off-roaders.
Shorter The Better
I'm on record as being a big fan of the short-wheelbase Wrangler. While I understand the practicality of the four-door model, the smaller Jeep is the one you want if you intend to tackle terrain that's too tight for a larger vehicle like a pickup or longer SUV.
What's often left unsaid is that it's also one of the best urban runabouts in its class. The Wrangler's relatively modest dimensions make it a cinch to park in what can often be a challenging landscape for anything truck-like. It's also far more traffic-friendly than one would expect, offering excellent sightlines over the jam-packed road ahead without an oversized footprint to squeeze through any gaps that might appear.
Not So Smooth Ride
Navigating the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon through the asphalt jungle isn't without compromise, of course. A fair portion of the upgraded gear found underneath the vehicle, while a boon to navigate the unpredictable ups-and-downs of the great outdoors, has a more than casual impact on the daily drive.
Solid Dana 44 axles front and rear (each of which lock) introduce the twin specters of vague, wandering steering feel and a tendency to bounce the back of the truck off-line should one encounter a mid-corner bump (with the latter also a function of its reduced wheelbase). Pair this with tall sidewalls, a rough-and-tumble suspension setup, and an above-average ride height, and the Wrangler requires a steady hand and near-constant attention at highway speeds.
The upshot of that extra nannying means that when you do reach the end of the pavement, you benefit from excellent approach (44 degrees) and departure (34 degrees) angles, as well as a low-range Rock Trac crawler gear exclusive to the Rubicon. The latter allows for more controlled movement across the kind of demanding surfaces and difficult inclines (loose rocks, boulders, cliff faces), with a 4:1 ratio.
Also in the cards: full skid plate armor for key aspects of the undercarriage, a set of rock rails to help the Jeep slide across obstacles rather than snag, a remotely-detachable front swaybar, and plastic overfenders and a set of red row hooks. My test vehicle additionally came with optional steel bumpers and a removable hardtop in place of the standard fabric roof.
Anywhere You Want It
You're going to have to work hard to put yourself in a situation that the Wrangler Rubicon can't handle. Mud and standing water are easily dispatched, slippery climbs are ground into submission in the transfer case's four-wheel drive HIGH setting, and even the occasional snowdrift can't stop the Jeep from getting to its final destination.
That this can all be accomplished while driving the Wrangler with its base engine under the hood is also worth noting. I'd previously had the chance to sample the Jeep's available turbocharged four-cylinder and been impressed by the way its eTorque mild hybrid system improved responsiveness off of the line while keeping efficiency at a somewhat reasonable level.
The standard 3.6-liter V6, although down 30 lb-ft over its turbo sibling, offers a horsepower boost (285 in total) and nearly the same level of acceleration, at least as measured by the seat of my pants in real-world driving. A six-speed manual is offered with the V6, but I quite liked the eight-speed automatic outfitted to the vehicle I drove (a gearbox that is standard with the turbo four). My only real complaint had to do with its less-than-frugal stance towards fuel consumption, which makes it harder to recommend as a commuter when compared to the equally mighty (if somewhat pricier) alternative.
Watch That Window Sticker
Speaking of the Wrangler's price tag, it's easy to boost the Rubicon trim over $50,000, which means you can end up paying luxury dollars for a truck that's not exactly inhospitable, but certainly far from the premium end of the pond. Although I liked the amenities inside the Jeep—including a whack of active safety gear such as adaptive cruise control and automatic braking, and the excellent Uconnect infotainment system—there's no doubt in my mind that casual Jeep fans are better served by a more modest edition of the vehicle.
If you're looking for the most capable crawler under $75,000, the Wrangler Rubicon is a slam-dunk. On the other hand, if you think your work-and-back routine might be perturbed by the two-door's noisy nature, bumpy suspension tune, and modest passenger and cargo room, it's harder to justify the truck's window sticker.
The Rubicon is aimed specifically at those who plan to take it where lesser Jeeps fear to tread, and it makes no apologies for any indignities that might occur along the way. As one of the last SUVs on the market to offer any real character rather than simply fill a family hauler hole in an automaker's spreadsheet, who would expect anything less from Jeep's longstanding hero?
Thinking a 4-door Wrangler might be a better option for you? Check out our review of the 2019 Jeep Wrangler Sahara Sky One-Touch.