As a Jeep owner & advocate, I really soaked-up the opportunity to drive the new, top-of-the-line JL Rubicon. And you know… being a Jeep owner… we couldn’t just pose this thing in the gravel/weeds behind a grocery store & make it appear OFF-ROAD. We felt an moral obligation to take it out & legitimately see what it would do. The problem with that is: There’s admittedly a real fine line between ‘not going far enough’… and ‘abusing a press car’. And with a Jeep, that line gets blurry. We could have taken it on a more fluffy/scenic trail, but there was absolutely no doubt the 2018 Rubicon would’ve handled that without breaking a sweat. And that’s like critiquing Michael Phelps’ doggie-paddle.
So our goal was to find the limit of a stock JL Ruby… but NOT exceed it too much. And that can be a small target. We chose Flatlands in Suches, GA, and we had a couple of the experienced guys from Rugged Ridge tag along on the trip.
Watch The Video Here. Flatlands has one notable section of trail that was really going to test this Jeep. My main concern was not getting stuck per say. It was – what’s gonna happen AFTER we got stuck lol. Basically – were we going to get into a point-of-no-return situation where the only way out, was going to likely cause damage to the fenders & bumpers… ESPECIALLY since the factory wheels/tires do not protrude from the body & protect it (like large aftermarket wheel/tire packages would). It had also been raining like crazy the weeks prior, and there was no way of knowing exactly how much rain this trail had gotten… or what the trail was gonna look like once you really got in it.
Flatlands began with some fun splashes & river crossings… stuff that looks pretty in photos. But I knew what was looming up ahead… so my apprehension wouldn’t let me fully enjoy it. And as we pulled around to the sketchy part of the trail, I thought… “Yep I’ve done screwed up.” Every time you see it, it’s like you’re seeing it for the first time. And every time… erosion has made it bigger than last time.
I went first in my own Jeep. Held my breath a little bit… but survived… & was up there looking for bail-out spots that I figured we’d surly need. When here comes Rugged Ridge, locked & loaded in the stock JL Rubicon with the stereo on… like it was being pulled up by God’s own rope. My jaw hit the ground. I mean, WALKING up this section of trail was a serious challenge. And these guys just made it look effortless in a BONE STOCK Rubicon. From that point on, we were in it! And sitting here, I still can’t freaking believe what that JL Jeep Rubicon will do. This isn’t editor-talk, or fabricated amazement. I was standing the relieved grin/laugh…. in total disbelief. And I have a Jeep! I’m used to this stuff! But the JL Rubicon honestly defies the laws of nature! It is able to climb up mud-slick ruts & rocks that are clearly larger than the tires it comes with… AND WET!
The Rubicon model comes a stronger front axle, bigger tires, electronic front sway bar disconnect, and lockers!! And for anyone unfamiliar, lockers absolutely change the game when it comes to finding traction. Even on stock tires!! The Rubicon’s lockers will make the impossible… possible. My mind is still scrambled by what I witnessed.
The 2-door Jeep Rubicon paired with the manual transmission is kind of a rare Unicorn… where EVERYTHING is exaggerated off-road. You feel it all! The shorter wheelbase of the 2-door (compared to the 4-door) makes everything feel bigger, steeper, and more intense. Combine that with a manual transmission, and it’s wildly engaging, pure, and FUN… but there is little time to chill-out on rough terrain.
If you’re looking for a 4×4 with the capability to literally change your life & your lifestyle!! …Wrangler is it. If you can pony-up the extra dough, you will NOT regret the Rubicon. But if the Ruby’s out of your budget, don’t let it slow you down… because you will NOT regret a non-ruby either. Just buy one already & get out there! Look – I see it all the time in my networks. So many people say they aren’t Jeep people… when they are & they just don’t know it yet. So many people try soooo hard to buy something else and ‘be different’. But there is comparitively nothing, out of the box, that can do what a Jeep can do. Period. And that makes the Wrangler pretty ‘different’ doesn’t it? The Toyota Tacoma, for example, is a great truck with a great culture/aftermarket. But it WOULD NOT have come out of that trail without damage (too much rear overhang). And there is no other vehicle with the heritage… and a culture behind it with such open arms.
Straight axle, drop top, minimal overhang, maximum approach angle, replaceable bumpers/fenders, and the best aftermarket in the world… that’s the Jeep Wrangler! Plus – in an automotive manufacturing environment where everything is getting more diluted & ‘crossovered’… the Jeep remains The Jeep. You’ve gotta tip your hat to that.
The interior of the new JL is much improved over the last JK model. Street manners are supposed to be better (honestly I didn’t feel it). Aerodynamically, it’s a little improved (a little). It uses a the same strong 3.6 with a few tweaks. Other engine options like the 4-cylinder turbo are rolling in now. But than that, the new Wrangler is really just a natural evolution of what already worked so well. It’s the next-step of an icon.