Exclusive First Look
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