Jeep Wrangler Rubicon: CarWale Off-Road Day 2021

Let’s get past all the basics first. The Wrangler Rubicon gets a not-so-substantial 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. But since it’s turbocharged, you get 268 horsepower and 400 Nm of torque; strong numbers that allowed the Jeep to put on a strong show across this year’s venue. More on that later… Now that it’s the Rubicon edition, the list of off-road hardware fitted as standard is almost as long as the number of features inside the disc-sided cabin. You get heavy-duty Dana 44 solid axles with a sophisticated transmission and locking front and rear differentials, heavy-duty shocks, a full-time low-gear transmission, and 255/75 R17 chubby tires. Speaking of low range, this version comes with a deeper 4:1 “crawl” ratio compared to the 2.72:1 on the Wrangler Unlimited. Plus, the Rubicon lets you electronically disconnect its sway bar for more suspension and better axle articulation.

Left side view

With the basics covered, let’s get on with the show, shall we? Our agenda for this year’s off-road day was to drive all of our 4x4s through the dirt trails and obstacle courses across the vast expanse of the Pro Dirt Academy and see how they perform. Although we mostly dealt with wide and open trails, the venue served up a whole range of terrain, mainly those with lots of rocks, dirt and some pretty sideways and giggle-inducing inclines. It’s on terrain like these where the Wrangler really comes into its own, especially when equipped with big, knobby tires like the Rubicon gets. Now, unlike wet weather conditions with slush and mud where you have to be careful with your lines on a trail and keep a steady pace, you can push it a bit here. But again, my subconscious kept reminding me that I’m driving the most expensive car in this group and I need to be more careful even though it has all the ground clearance and wheelbase in the world. Speaking of which, it took me a handful of large ditches, boulders, and a mile or so of dirt road to realize that this Jeep crawled over the terrain like a giant ant. The confidence you get from the stock height, knobby tires and all the hard terrain equipment that the Wrangler Rubicon has is incredible.

Right front three quarters

Of course, Jeep has made the standard Wrangler an even better off-roader in its Rubicon rail but here, across our brand new playground, it was raw nature versus the car. So, how did the barrage of off-road tests we had this year go? Being the heaviest and most powerful vehicle in the range, it was never going to be easy for the Wrangler to put down its power, accelerate and stop in the 0-40-0 km/h run. Just then the traction control was turned off and the throttle stuck to the floor, there was so much wheelspin despite the lack of diesel torque. The heavy curb weight worked against the Jeep here and it took 5.8 seconds and 37m to stop after hitting 40km/h, resulting in the third fastest run overall. Now it’s great fun twisting over the cones through a slalom course, but it gets tricky as soon as you cross the first cone where the surface is rough and full of dirt. Given its length and huge tires, we expected the Jeep to struggle through the tight spaces between the cones. But when it came to the race, the Wrangler’s agility, especially around the U-turn, came as a surprise; with extremely low turning radius for a vehicle of this size.

Front view

Unfortunately, the rather heavy steering wasn’t the best fit for quick changes of direction and Vikrant ended up getting a quick biceps workout when setting the time. The wide rear track also managed to step out and catch one of the cones. In the end, the Wrangler Rubicon finished the slalom with a time of 41.50 seconds. At the end of some very scientific and serious testing, we decided to have some methodical fun at the expense of my colleague Bilal’s pants.

Front seats

The cup test is our way of measuring the off-road quality of a vehicle and how flat it stays when the going gets tough. Earlier in the day, it was amazing how the Wrangler simply plowed through deep ruts and huge humps, giving the impression of a flat ride. However, the cup test threw a chink in the Rubicon’s armor and in the end it didn’t go as well as we expected. For all its articulation, suspension and a soft set-up, the Wrangler struggled to smooth out bumpy terrain, mainly due to the lumpy tires and their lack of give. Of course, the hard compound didn’t offer much in the way of compliance and shock absorption from the small rocks that made up the entire track. In the end it rocked and rolled and spilled 160ml (out of 500ml), the second highest amount of water among any car.

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