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Andrew Maclean is crossed on the trail that named the car.
As we stare down the road at the arrival of driverless cars under the street lights of today’s overturned, babysitting state of modern society, thankfully there are still places where enthusiasts can enjoy driving.
For fans of fast machines, the winding, swinging black peak that makes up the Nurburgring Nordschleife in Germany is driving in Mecca, where superheroes take a lap time of less than eight minutes around the most demanding 22 km long asphalt on the planet. and supercars.
For those who treat time in a different dimension, it is a completely different – but equally demanding – challenge to cross the same distance on the Rubicon Trail in less than eight hours.
Rubicon Trail is the Nurburgring of Terrain Trails; a stone-strewn, rough torture test for the toughest four-wheel drive – and four-wheel drive.
Just as the ‘Ring is a general road-turn test track for the likes of Porsche, Lamborghini and Aston Martin, the Rubicon Jeeps are the unofficial test track; where the US brand validates the extreme features of its four-wheel drive to ensure they get their “Trail Rated” brand.
Located in the Sierra Nevada mountain range near Lake Tahoe in California, we’ve come to tackle the all-new sixth-generation Jeep Wrangler that will arrive at Australian showrooms early next year and promise even greater off-road features than before while offering better dynamics on the road, the latest in connectivity and safety, more efficient drivelines and more interior space.
Not surprisingly, we will drive the range-surpassed Rubicon model tailored specifically for four-wheel drive with a unique gearbox that has an ultra-low creep ratio, powerful locking differentials at both ends, Kevlar-reinforced all-terrain tires and a front swivel electron bar for better wheel joint.
Jeep Australia has not yet confirmed full details, including price and exact specifications, for local models, but, as before, the Wrangler will be offered in both two-door and four-door body models over at least three trim qualities, with an expected entry point of around $ 40,000 and peaks in the middle of the $ 50k region for the full-of-fruit, four-door Rubicon.
There will also be a variety of powertrains depending on the variant, with either a revised version of the 3.6-liter naturally aspirated V6 or a new generation turbodiesel four-cylinder, six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission, and various four-wheel drive systems – a permanent four-wheel drive transmission in city-focused models, a conventional two-speed gearbox in standard versions and Jeeps Rock-Trac system in Rubicon.
Our journey begins at the Northstar ski resort with a 40 km long drive down the mountain on a winding stretch of smooth black peak and then along the beautiful west shoreline of Lake Tahoe to Tahoma, where the track head for Rubicon begins.
Along the way, the Wrangler lives up to Jeep’s alleged dynamic improvements. With electric power steering that is well-weighted and consistent throughout the relationship, the softly sprung, high-speed Wrangler feels more positive and safe than before. Okay, so its step frame base, stiff front and rear axles, and balloon-shaped 33-inch BF Goodrich tires mean it’s far from a Nurburgring racer because it leans heavily when cornering and does not have the same level of grip as, say, a Porsche. but it no longer wanders aimlessly across the road and requires constant steering adjustments as if you were driving in an old-fashioned movie, as its predecessor did.
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The eight-speed car mounted on our test vehicle is smooth and intuitive and works well with the 209kW / 353Nm atmo V6, with its wide range of gears for both spritely getaways and relaxed cruising.
There are acceptable levels of road and wind noise also, partly due to improved aerodynamics thanks to a front grille and windscreen that are rear-facing a bit more than before and cleaner body panels.
The cabin presents itself well with a huge color click over the retro-inspired dashboard that houses an 8.4-inch color touch screen with satellite navigation, digital radio, Bluetooth, smartphone mirroring and a variety of four-wheel drive-specific meters.
The four-door boxy body generates some blind spots over the axle and the spare tire mounted on the tailgate limits part of the view to the rear, but the high-setting driving position provides a commanding view of the road in front.
When we arrive at the trailhead, the new Wrangler has already proven to be much more alive within the confines of the urban jungle – which unfortunately is where most people will live in Australia.
But it is not its natural habitat.
Any soft roader could get to the beginning of the Rubicon, but only for the first 500 meters or so. After that, it gets nasty. Really nasty.
With the low-level four-wheel drive activated and the front sway bar disengaged, we crawl over the first rocky part of what appears to be a snail’s pace. Given that our track guides go faster and provide millimeter directions across the rocks, that too can be generous.
But the Wrangler is not confused by a little hard work, and requires minimal acceleration to crawl over the terrain. In this environment, the V6 is perfectly suited for slow-speed operation, using its linear throttle to gently reveal its low-speed traction, while the brakes have a good feel and are easy to modulate when driving on the idle torque converter. .
The terrain is relentless, with only small breaks between the rough. But Wrangler’s fantastically elastic suspension makes it all easy, often with front and rear axles at completely different angles and sometimes with a wheel hanging high in the air.
To put it in context, it takes us half a day to cover about eight kilometers and reach Observation Point – a granite cliff that provides a stunning view of the valley carved by the Rubicon River below.
At an altitude higher than Mount Kosciusko, the air is clean and crisp and we can see our overnight campsite at Rubicon Springs on the valley floor below.
It’s only three kilometers down the track, but then one of the jeep guide guides says that it will take as long to get there “as we are just about to get into the really difficult things.”
When we know that, we remove the panels in the hard roof above the driver and passenger and store them in a practical backpack with a zipper that can easily be stored in the luggage compartment of the four doors. This is just one of three different roof options for the Wrangler – two-door comes with a soft top that has windows that can be removed faster than before, while four-door can be obtained with an optional Power Roof that has an electric fabric part that pulls in almost the entire length of the cabin .
We also screw up the songs, with the heavy licks from Led Zeppelin, Metallica and Queens of the Stone Age penetrating the calm and echoing from the rocky cliff behind us. Everything is rock out here!
Anyway, the descent from Observation Hill to the valley floor is via a section called Cadillac Hill, so the name because the wreck of an old 1930s Caddy is still next to the road. It depends – and I can not imagine how – but Rubicon used to be a well-maintained road that crossed the Nevada mountain range and headed for San Francisco in the early 20th century. Our campground at Rubicon Springs also used to have a real hotel.
When the U.S. network of four-lane highways expanded after World War II, Rubicon was left unattended and, in subsequent years, the area’s harsh weather conditions (it is covered meters deep in snow in winter and baked by the sun in summer) have created what it is today.
It takes a couple of hours to bounce, dent and crawl down Cadillac Hill, the Wrangler crashes every now and then and crashes on the chassis’ bash plates or the side-mounted rock rails when it falls off the side of sharp-edged rocks. And once again, it continues to take the biggest blows like a heavyweight boxer, never jerking or falling to the canvas … just pounding.
We cross the Rubicon River, just to giggle, to test Wrangler’s 760 mm water ability. Then turn around and do it again, as Camp Rubicon is a couple of hundred meters upstream.
Again, time and distance are not relative on Rubicon as it takes another hour or so to cover the last 800 m, climbing over another gnarled granite slab.
Covered in dust, lightly baked by the sun, our ears ringing from our heavy metal antics and mentally exhausted by the concentration required, we eventually reach Rubicon Springs, met by a leather-skinned oldtimer playing. Rolling Matilda on a grand piano (san) and, once we’re out of the car, an icy ale – or two.
Relax around the campfire later in the night, calmed by the cowboy Caleb clumping on the Rolling Stones. Honky Tonk woman at half speed on his acoustic guitar, it finally gives me time to reflect on how painful the Rubicon Trail actually is, and yet how easily the Wrangler crossed one of the toughest four-wheel drive tracks on the planet.
I can not think of another production car, directly from the show floor, that could have taken us here without tripping. I guess that’s why it bears the Rubicon brand on the hood, because it’s literally built for this amazing stretch of road. If you can actually call it that.
Calmness of that knowledge and the shimmering starry sky above me, I realize that the only way out of here is to turn around and redo everything tomorrow.
Yep, thank God there are still places on the planet where driving is a fun activity – no matter how slow you go – rather than a chore.
|2019 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Price and Specifications|
|Award:||From $ 40,000 (estimated 2018)|
|For sale:||February 2019|
|Engine:||3.6-liter V6 petrol|
|Force:||209 kW at 6400 rpm|
|Torque:||353 Nm at 4800 rpm|
|Transfer:||Eight-speed automatic, 4WD|
|Fuel use:||11.7L / 100 km|