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2003 Jeep Rubicon Wrangler - Drivelines

Posted in Project Vehicles on February 1, 2002
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Contributors: Courtesy of JeepWendy FrazierCourtesy Of Currie Enterprises
Photographers: Courtesy of JeepCourtesy Of Currie Enterprises

Factory Hard-CoreThe New '03 Jeep Rubicon WranglerHow would you build the perfect hard-core Jeep Wrangler? Would you select Dana 44 front and rear axles with 4.10 gears, lockers, and disc brakes? Would you slide a 4.0:1 low-range transfer case in it with a fixed-yoke rear output? Maybe some diamond-plate rocker protection? How about some 31-inch Goodyear MT/R tires on special aluminum rims? OK, we'd probably select 33-inchers or bigger, but what if you could buy this rig with a factory warranty, and finance it through the dealership?

Yes, that's right. The new Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is the hottest factory-production 4x4 ever built, and sometime this summer you can buy one right off the showroom floor. This offering should blow any other stock vehicle off the trail. With this combo and a standard tranny, a highly respectable 66.26 crawl ratio is attained-right out of the box! Add a mild lift and bigger tires and you've got nearly the perfect hard-core Wrangler.

Everyone has wished that auto makers would listen to the average guy and build a killer 4x4 on the assembly line rather than leaving it up to us to piece together a trail rig. It's what many Jeepers have dreamed of and what a few industry types suspected was just around the corner. Now it's here.

Introduced at the 2002 North American Auto Show in January, the full production model is supposed to hit the dealers around July. Of course we intend to snag one earlier to give this new superhero a spin in the rocks and tell you the whole story. Luckily we got the scoop on this one first.

In fact, if you've been collecting 4WOR, you can check out "Instant Hero" (Oct. '96) and "Instant Superhero" (Dec. '96), both of which are about our famous buildup of one of the first TJs around, long before they took the market by storm. We found that by upgrading the factory offering with a few well-thought-out aftermarket accessories, the TJ Wrangler could become nearly unstoppable. Eventually we had to return Elvis (as our Wrangler was affectionately known) to Chrysler, where the engineers couldn't wait to get their hands on it. Elvis was driven to death, then torn apart and analyzed.

We're happy to say that 4WOR helped build a better Wrangler in 1996 and helped spearhead this new Wrangler Rubicon. Jeep engineers knew all along how great these upgrades were but needed Elvis to convince the powers-that-be that a factory offering was not only feasible but would give them a chance to do it better. Better? You bet. With a factory warranty, factory engineering, and factory financing in a super-hero package, the new Jeep Rubicon kicks ass. How can we say that without having driven it? Maybe we have. At any rate, we've seen it, touched it, and drooled over it, and we know what the components are. Heck, we helped to develop them!-Rick Pw

'03 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Specs*Dana 44 axles Unit-bearing 30-spline front, flanged axle 30-spline rear, 1330 series U-joint yokes*4.10 gearing Standard rotation*Pneumatically locking differential front and rear Tochigi Fuji Sanjyo pneumatic operates at 6 psi for quiet operation; dash-mounted switch operates rear and front lockers*Four-wheel disc brakes Matched system for self cleaning and less fade*NVG241OR transfer case Gen II case with 4:1 low-range and fixed flange output, 1330 series U-joint yokes*Goodyear MT/R 31-inch tires Premium performance off-road tire mounted on 16-inch aluminum five-spoke rim with special dished center*Diamond-plate rocker guards Functional rocker protection from heavy gauge steel*4.0L I-6 Engine 190 hp and 235 lb-ft of torque*Transmission Manual (NVG-3550) or automatic

Free, Gratis, ComplimentaryJeep Historical Display Opens at Walter P. Chrysler MuseumDear 4-Wheel & Off-Road Reader,We at Jeep extend an offer to all 4x4 club members for free entrance to the Jeep Historical exhibit at the Walter P. Chrysler Museum on any Saturday or Sunday in February 2002. Those who visit the exhibit will have their name entered in a raffle for prizes, including free entrance to a 2002 Camp Jeep event, a Comanche Classic Jeep bike, a Jeep TV/flashlight/radio/ lantern, Jeep sunglasses, or a Jeep Commando 16 Mountain Board.

The Walter P. Chrysler Museum and "The Mighty Jeep: A Legend Turns 60" exhibit in Auburn Hills, Michigan, is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. If you're not a member of a 4x4 club you are still welcome to set your sights on the wonders of the 4x4 world for a general admission price of $6. The exhibit runs until the end of February. For detailed insights on the exhibit please visit or call 888/456-1924 for more information.

Jeep FYI: The exhibit comprises 26 historical Jeep vehicles starting with the Willys MA, MB, and the CJ2A. Other Jeep novelties include Jeep toys and display boards with Jeep advertisements, cartoons, and famous Jeep owners. The toys and novelties have origins from around the world, with a stainless steel cigarette box and lighter in the shape of a Jeep vehicle from Germany and a Dinky die-cast toy Commando Jeep from England. Such books as the 1944 children's story The Little Jeep by Peggy Griffin Ayers and Jerry the Jeep by Edith Thacher Hurd are also on display. The progression of Jeep slogans from the '40s "The Sun Never Sets on the Mighty Jeep" to the current "Jeep. There's Only One" will hang from the ceiling.

Campfire TalkThe Ascender, American Isuzu's newest SUV, will go on sale this fall, replacing the Trooper. The new Isuzu flagship will share a platform with the Chevy Trailblazer and GMC Envoy.

Ford plans an extensive restyling and engineering for the '03 Expedition and new sheetmetal for the '03 F-150.

Delphi Automotive Systems is the maker of the four-wheel steering system Quadrasteer that automakers such as General Motors will use on pickups and SUVs like the '02 Sierra Denali pickup.

Rah! Rah! Rah! The Duramax diesel cheerleaders at GM hope to gain at least 25 percent of the diesel truck market with the turbocharged V-8, which it developed with Isuzu. The big three diesel competitors are the GM/Isuzu Duramax at 300 hp, the Ford/Navistar Power Stroke with 250 hp (auto) and 275 hp (six-speed), and the Dodge/Cummins inline-six with 245 hp with the six-speed.

Sources say that parts sharing is what it's all about for DC and Mercedes. Models like the Jeep Grand Cherokee may be outfitted with the Mercedes vehicle stability control system.

Dodge Heavy-Duty AxlesWe can keep a secret as good as the next guy, but we just have to share this tidbit. Now that the new Dodge Ram 1500 11/42-ton 4x4 is coming out with IFS and the Dana lost the axle contract with Dodge for the truck line, we were afraid that the 31/44- and 1-ton Rams would be similarly afflicted. After the news that American Axle Manufacturing (which makes most of the GM axles) snagged the contract for the new Rams, we weren't sure what was up. The good news is that a '03 Ram 1-ton was spotted wearing massive AAM live axles front and rear, similar in size and design to the Dana 60 front and 70 rear. While these are all-new designs, the reputation of AAM and the size of these axles instill confidence that the Dodge Ram big boys won't be strutting the sissy IFS stuff under the chassis as the 1500 does. Thank goodness for real trucks and solid front axles!

Tools and Clothes of the TradeAs much as we tend to do things ourselves, we always appreciate the help others give us when we're on the trail. This year our friends at Woolrich stepped up to the plate to keep us toasty warm on our 4x4 of the Year event with logo'ed shirts and jackets. This way you'll recognize us on the trail when we come to a snow event near you, and hopefully you'll invite us to stay awhile around your campfire. You can't get these items with our logo on it, but the same quality apparel is available at

Also, our buddies at Schrade stocked us up with this nifty Tough Tool should we be in a pinch in the outback. It's a good thing we had it along on 4x4 of the Year. We busted a jack handle and needed this beauty to crank the vehicle up to change a flat. Pick up your own emergency Tough Tool at

Cyber Off-RoadingWagoner Machine ShopThe potential powder keg of built-up custom axles, heavy-duty steering, and incredibly built rigs is displayed at What started as a machine shop back in the early '50s has found a large plot of killer off-road products that they practically handmake for each specific application. The online site is dedicated to its products and features a catalog, shop info, events, wheelin' pictures, and the boys' favorite off-road links. So what are you waiting for? Surf on by.

Petersen's 4-Wheel & Off-RoadDo you think you deserve the truth? You can't handle the truth. That's why we've put our hearts and souls into our cyber off-road site. will certainly delight and surprise you with its wealth of automotive news, tech stories, event coverage, and feature vehicles. You can also post notes on bulletin boards and find parts. You'll see all sorts of 4x4 mayhem like real live rollovers, people breaking/fixing their rigs, and digital video coverage of our famed 4x4 of the Year competition.

A Day in the Life...4x4 of the Year CompetitionStuff You Shouldn't Know1. The biggest bet of the week?(a) Whether or not Editor Rick Pw would taste the lime we put in his drink.(b) Whether or not Verne Simons of Jp magazine could stomach a ladle of ranch dressing in one gulp.(c) Whether or not David Kennedy could convert the Avalanche from an SUV to an SUT in one minute.

2. Total number of speeding tickets?(a) One-the Hubinator takes one for the team.(b) Five-the Hubinator takes five for the team.(c) None-thanks to radar detectors, CBs, and Quinnell's quick eye.

3. Total encounters of the Johnny Law kind?(a) 2(b) 4(c) 15

4. Total encounters of the Corona kind?(a) 20(b) 45(c) Uh...what was the question again?

5. Total number of bent/broken axles?(a) 1(b) 2(c) 3

6. Vehicle that changed color during the test?(a) Suzuki(b) Suzuki(c) Suzuki

On the Road With... The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of MercedesDo Re G500 Fa So La Ti DoYodeling and Mercedes go hand in hand in Graz, Austria, where the limited-production '02 G500 is handcrafted. The new U.S. versioned G500 (called the Gelaendewagen in Europe) was introduced last fall as a rugged yet luxurious, technologically advanced piece of off- and on-road machinery. The V-8-powered G-class' roots run deep into military motoring. The new G500 chassis uses a solid-axle suspension similar to its ancestors. The front and rear solid-axle suspension use a four-link design and track bar with coil springs and four-wheel disc brakes.

An all-aluminum 5.0L engine, the same that you'll find in the S-Class and SL Roadster, pumps out 292 hp, and that's not all. The V-8 uses a twin-spark plus three-valve-per-cylinder (two intake and one exhaust) design, which allows the dual-path intake to boost torque at low speeds for a quicker throttle response. Attached to the V-8 is a five-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission with driver-adaptive shift logic, and Touchshift selectable manual control. If climbing steep grades is a concern, the G can handle grades up to 36 degrees and is stable on lateral slopes of up to 24 degrees.

Move over, Julie Andrews. The G500 is the only U.S. vehicle with three mechanically locking differentials (switches on the dash). Mechanically locking differentials reduce wheelspin in extremely low traction situations and can be engaged anytime the G is off road.

To join Janet Jackson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and other G-wagen owners, all you need is dough re mi-$73,165 to be exact. More information is available at or by phoning 800/FOR-MERCEDES.

Calendar of EventsWant us to come to your event? Send info and an invitation, including who's putting it together and a contact phone number, to or mail to 4-Wheel & Off-Road-Calendar, 6420 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048. Keep in mind that we work four months ahead of the issue date, so give us adequate notice. Tell us where and when it will be, what kind of event it is (trail ride, mud run, show, or anything else about wheeling), and a name/number of a person who can give us more info.

Feb. 4-6 MDA Off-Road for Hope, Ocotillo Wells, CA. Information: 619/492-9792

Feb. 11-13 Best in the Desert Race, Laughlin, NV. Information: 702/457-5775Feb. 14-16 UROC, St. George, UT. Information: 435/864-3199,

Feb. 16-18 CA4WDC 41st Annual Convention, Woodland, CA. Information: 800/494-3866

Feb. 18-20 Sea of Cortez Jeep Jamboree, San Felipe, Mexico. Information: 530/333-4777

Feb. 23-27 SW4WDA Chili Challenge, Las Cruces, NM. Information: 505/524-8569

Political & Environmental Beat*The Transportation Recall Enhancement Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act passed by the U.S. Congress last year requires that automakers install a tire pressure monitoring system that warns drivers when their tires are underinflated. In addition to the annoying computer flash warning and beeping, tire pressure monitoring systems place smaller aftermarket tire and wheel businesses at risk because of the additional compliance issues. The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) is working to ensure that the rule have the least economic impact as possible and that servicing information is shared with the independent repair industry. The rule could take effect as early as October 2003.

*A National Research Council (NRC) study recommends that smog tests be aimed at vehicles that are the worst polluting and then verify the repairs to ensure that the vehicle is in compliance with state emissions laws. The report found that older, malfunctioning vehicles make up 10 percent of the nation's fleet but emit approximately 50 percent of vehicular pollutants. The only problem? Fairness. The report suggested that targeting these vehicles is unfair because these vehicles are more likely to be owned by low-income people.

*Iowa's bill to set a maximum frame and body height failed to pass in this year's state legislative session. Sources say that the bill will be reintroduced next year.

*France has seen dramatic growth in 4x4 sales. In 1995 the number of registered 4x4s was 30,000; by 2000 that number had more than doubled, to 68,000. Popular models include Toyota, Lexus, Mitsubishi, and Land Rover.

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