No matter how you look at it, the Wrangler is a lifestyle choice with capability.
Sold around the world under a multitude of names and different body styles, the Jeep Wrangler remains an automotive icon in the most absolute of terms. Grouped in with cult classics like the Volkswagen Beetle, the Wrangler remains one of the most recognizable shapes on our roads. It’s known not only for its design and ability to adapt into just about any lifestyle, but for the unmatched off-road capability it offers. We jumped into a 2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon, equipped with the off road goodies and a six-speed manual, to see how it fares through a week of pavement crawling.
The Wrangler was completely redesigned for 2018, and got a bunch of serious updates that make it much more livable. For one, the very mechanical yet imprecise shifter for the manual transmission has been replaced with a new assembly that’s much easier to operate and is smoother. The throws are still quite long, but the shifter is well within reach and is slicker in its travel. The clutch engages closer to the top and the new model is significantly easier to drive. Still, if you’re opting for the Rubicon, you’re likely wanting to make use of the “Trail Rated” moniker, and perhaps the excellent eight-speed automatic Wrangler (reviewed here) is for you.
Three engine choices are now available on the Wrangler, though the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 equipped here is the only naturally aspirated variant. Jeep now offers a 2.0-liter turbo-four (reviewed here) as well, but Rubicon buyers are most likely to opt for the V6. The immediate response of a non-forced induction motor leads to smooth power delivery, and the Pentastar is a proven engine. The Wrangler puts out 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, which is more than reasonable for this application. A new turbodiesel V6 is also now available as of this model year.
Off-road goodies equipped on the Rubicon include the Rock-Trac heavy-duty transfer case, Dana M210 axles, and a 4.10 rear end. Our tester arrived donning 17-inch wheels with BFGoodrich All-Terrain tires. As a result, the ride is fairly rough and tough, but that’s exactly what Wrangler buyers are after. Fuel efficiency is rated at 13.8L/100km city and 10.1L/100km highway, for a combined 12.2L/100km. We observed 13.3L/100km in nearly all city driving, running on 87-octane regular fuel. The Wrangler Unlimited also gets a larger 81-liter tank over its two-door sibling.
As far as practicality is concerned, the two-door Wrangler is a bit of a pinch if you have any need for back seats, but the introduction of the Unlimited nearly a decade ago welcomed a multitude of new buyers who previously couldn’t make a Wrangler work with their lifestyles. The Unlimited will hold 898-liters of cargo behind the rear seats, and 2,050-liters with the seats folded down. Rear passengers will find head and legroom extremely generous, and as always with a Wrangler, the roof and doors can be fully removed. A new JL feature is that while the windshield still folds down, it’s a much easier job than it ever was before.
The JL’s interior is vastly improved over its predecessor too, with much more usability than before. The latest Uconnect 4C system is housed in an 8.4-inch screen, featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. Standard USB and USB-C ports are also on board, and if the smartphone connectivity isn’t important to you, the native infotainment is some of the easiest to use in the business. All major controls such as climate and transfer case are physical buttons, knobs or levers, without having to dig into the touchscreen menus. Unlike other Fiat-Chrysler applications, it’s refreshing to see hard buttons for the heated seats and steering wheel.
Pricing for the base Wrangler starts at $33,590 in two-door form with current incentives, and the four-door Unlimited at $41,390. The four-door Rubicon starts at $49,340 and includes Tru-Lok locking differentials, performance suspension, a Rock-Trac two-speed transfer case, Rubicon badging, and an electronically disconnecting front sway bar. Our tester also included options such as LED lighting, heated steering wheel and seats, Uconnect 4C with navigation, Advanced Safety Group, and a Freedom Top hardtop. The total sticker before destination and fees came to $59,955.
The Wrangler doesn’t really have any immediate competition, though if we take price out of the occasion, the Mercedes-Benz G 550 (reviewed here) and Toyota 4Runner come to mind. These are all focused off-roaders that sacrifice on-road manners in favour of exceptional capability. If you don’t need the two extra doors, the regular two-door model is a little bit cheaper and offers just as much in terms of capability, and if a bed is required, the Gladiator (reviewed here) is just about the coolest truck money can buy right now.
No matter how you look at it, the Jeep is a lifestyle choice. It’s one of the most versatile vehicles on the road, and can adapt to just about any type of buyer. Whether you’re a university student that can afford a used example, a newbie to off-roading, or a young family looking for a cool family hauler, there’s sure to be a Wrangler for you. The 2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon is any off-roader’s dream, with immense potential and a serious aftermarket community that can pull off just about anything.