A device for conveying a person or object into the past or the future.
As a kid, like many other boys I was drawn to the Jeep CJ. There was a guy down the street with a denim edition and it was just beyond cool. I mean, the roof & doors came off and it had a roll bar and big tires. If that wasn’t cool, what was?
That is what the Jeep brand was all about, was cool. The Jeep lifestyle was carefree and fun and so were the people who drove them. Over the years, the marketing folks at Jeep have been very careful to always have the core CJ/YJ/TJ that kept the brand true to the concept, even if some of the companion models weren’t quite so freedom inspiring. On the technical side, they always made sure that these core vehicles were off road worthy right from the showroom floor.
As we mature though, sometimes fancy free doesn’t jive with the needs of a growing family. Here in The Garage, we had thoughts of a YJ Sahara back in the mid Nineties, but the thought of hoisting a baby into that tiny (non-existent really) back seat kept us sane. Still, we and more than a few other families like us don’t feel like getting old any time soon. Fortunately, the folks at jeep have heard and answered that call of the great outdoors. When the new Wrangler was introduced, they widened and stretched it just enough to offer a real back seat that seats 3, while still keeping it compact enough to be worthy of it’s lineage. Just as important, by moving the seat forward, the cargo area grew beyond the size of a vintage Coleman cooler.
A number of people commented that they wouldn’t like the bumpy ride of a Jeep. The reality is that suspension design has come a long way over the years and the Jeep engineers have come up with a suspension that offers on road handling that is comparable to many other less off road worthy suv’s. The ride is still rugged enough that one is aware they are riding in a Jeep, but the hobby horse effect that came with the short wheelbase of the old trucks is gone thanks to the longer Unlimited platform. The people who would complain about the ride, just don’t get the Jeep thing.
We don’t usually get too deep into the technical side of things when we review vehicles here in The Garage, but in the case of the Rubicon, the techie details are the heart of the vehicle. When building the Rubicon, designers went to the hard core off roaders to find out what they were using on their trail rigs. The resulting machine that boasts all the things a YJ owner would have had on his wish list. Dana 44 heavy duty front and rear axles are connected to the 3.8L V-6 by a Rock-trac part time transfer case. Owners can choose a 4 speed automatic or 6 speed manual transmission. Our tester came with the sweet shifting 6 speed that actually managed to help get half decent gas mileage in light of the 4.10 gears in those Dana pumpkins. Of course fuel mileage is relevant. During our time with the Wrangler Unlimited, we managed to eek out 14.6 L/100 Km (16 mpg) which is actually better than the 2008 F-150 we had recently. Thanks to those four tens, one typically rows through the gears pretty quickly and anything above 50-60 kmh finds the tranny in 5th or 6th with the engine ticking over at a nice easy pace. Those who recall the rough old 4.1 or 4.0 YJ days will be happy to know that this V6 is almost silent during anything other than the hardest launch.
Previous experience and our photo shoot have shown that the Rubicon is more than competent off the beaten path. With a nearly silent V-6, with massive torque, it is equally happy tooting around town and even in stop and go traffic. The gas mileage isn’t as horrible as one might expect for a hard core off roader and the ride feels tough yet isn’t bone jarring. In our next segment, we’ll see how the interior lives up to the real needs of a real family. Can a trail ready pack horse handle a family of 5?