For years the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon has been touted as the most capable factory 4x4 ever produced. That is a strong statement, and for Jeep, a big reputation to live up to. Since its debut in 2003, the Rubicon edition Wrangler has set the benchmark for what an off-road ready SUV should be. Fitted with a multilink suspension, front and rear Dana 44 solid axles, selectable lockers, and a 4:1 transfer case ratio, the Rubicon was always much more than a simple sticker package. With the transition from the ’03-’06 Jeep Wrangler TJ Rubicon, into the ’07-to-present Wrangler JK Rubicon, the refinements both inside and underneath the sheetmetal have been substantial throughout the years.
For the 10th Anniversary Rubicon, Jeep set out to build what it feels is the most capable and well-equipped Wrangler to-date. Responding to consumer demand, Jeep has outfitted the Rubicon with a host of upgrades and accessories that would fulfill most any wheeling enthusiast build list. Front and rear steel bumpers? Check. Mud-terrain tires? Check. Heavy-duty rock rails? Check.
Most of the 10th Anniversary upgrades are off-road performance-derived like the ½-inch lift, 265/70R17 (31.7x10.7) BFG KM2 Mud-Terrains, and Mopar rock rails. Some of the more eye grabbing details were the Power Dome hood, ultra-comfy anniversary-red leather seats, and our personal favorite, heavy-duty steel bumpers. The 17-inch aluminum wheel set and custom badges will also set you apart from the pack, but more on the Anniversary bling in a moment.
To get a first look (and drive) of the 10th Anniversary Rubicon we traveled to the spot where the model sourced its name, the legendary Rubicon Trail. There we got to test an assortment of 10th Anniversary Rubicon models over a two-day trek across the scenic California trail. Hardtop models, along with the newly redesigned premium soft top models were available to drive too, but being in an enclosed cabin was the last place we wanted to be on the scenic Rubicon Trail. Luckily, Jeep provided those looking for the ultimate Rubicon experience with a few models that already had the doors and top removed. We ended up splitting our time between a doorless Unlimited model equipped with a manual, and an automatic two-door to get the feel of the new upgrades on both.
Off-road the Wrangler is in its element. One thing that we sometimes take for granted is that we are often more accustomed to driving heavily-modified 4x4s off-road. This creates a tendency for us to measure up a stock vehicle to what custom creation we’re piloting at home. For the 10th Anniversary Rubicon it’s easy to forget that you’re driving a stock vehicle off-road, and that’s a good thing. This became more apparent as we twisted our way through some of the more challenging sections of the Rubicon Trail and picked lines that would be virtually impossible in other “stock” 4x4s.
Where we waited for the Jeep to get high-centered, it easily slid past, and that worry of smashing the whiskers off of a long-toothed factory bumper was long removed. It was as though we were wheeling a modified 4x4, but yet, this was a factory-built rig. Though the slight lift and large knobbys made for an improvement in clearance and traction, the winch-ready front bumper was mostly to thank for the extreme improvement in the approach angle. Since the ends of the steel front bumper can be removed, you can create a very fitting stubby-style bumper that allows you to pick lines that would have trashed the older style bumper.
In the gearing department the 4:1 low range transfer case ratio gave us fine control over the rocks, though we would have liked a little more low-end grunt from the V-6. Over much of the moderate terrain we found that with the sway bar disengaged, we had plenty of suspension travel and footing, and rarely needed to engage the lockers. We’re still getting used to the locker button placement. We’d be fine with the sway bar button finding a new home, as we accidently triggered it multiple times when cycling the lockers on and off over the course of the day. Sure, we could have just left the locker engaged, but what fun is that?
The longer wheelbase of the Unlimited platform could definitely use a touch more lift and tire as it scraped and banged more than its two-door counterpart. While the underbelly on many of the rigs had plenty of new trail scars, none of the JKs that we were in ever got damaged or hung up for long. And though there’s no major change to the 3.6L powerplant, we did notice that the manual transmission versions felt finely tuned with the electronic throttle pedal. The computers load-sensing feature helps modulate throttle control, which can make even the most novice manual-transmission driver feel like a seasoned pro while crawling at low speeds in the rocks.
Through the windy passes near Lake Tahoe the Rubicon felt spritely and smooth. The slight lift, KM2 Mud-Terrains, and heavy-duty bumper set are virtually unnoticed by the driver. In terms of on-road flash however, there will be no mistaking your 10th Anniversary Rubicon from your neighbors basic Wrangler. The bold graphics and gracious assortment of anniversary badging removes any doubt that your Rubicon is a little more special than the others. Anniversary colors (Billet Silver, White, and 10th Anniversary exclusive Anvil) along with custom badging, may seem a little gimmicky, but at least this Wrangler has the go to match the glam.
We couldn’t help but fiddle with the assortment of steering wheel buttons and the EVIC (Electronic Vehicle Information Center) when sitting at stoplights. One feature we especially liked was the TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) readout. This feature displays the tire pressure in each wheel. This is especially helpful for when you forget your air gauge and need to air down or up.
There is no arguing that the 10th Anniversary Rubicon is downright impressive, from both a visual and performance standpoint. While we would have loved to have seen a true 35-inch tire and beadlock wheel, we understand that the bean counters and lawyers would shoot those ideas down with rapid fire. Out of the box, the 10th Anniversary Rubicon is ready to hit the trail. And unlike its tough exterior, the inside is impressive enough to wow your snobbiest of friends (ditch those friends by the way). The Pentastar V-6 remains to be a sufficient on- and off-road powerplant and the auto and manual transmissions are nicely matched. We say bolt a winch inside of the winch-ready front bumper and you are ready for plenty of fun times and trail adventures.
What’s Hot, What’s Not
Hot: Steel bumpers, Mud-Terrains, great seats, rock sliders, plus standard Rubicon equipment
Not: Needs a winch in the winch-ready front bumper, could stand to have a larger tire
Our Take: The best Wrangler model is now even better
Vehicle model: ’13 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 10th Anniversary 2DR/4DR
Price as tested: N/A
Engine: 3.6L, 60-degree, V-6
Valvetrain: DOHC, 24-valves
Mfg.’s hp @ rpm: 285 @ 6400
Mfg.’s torque (lb-ft @ rpm): 260 @ 4,800
Transmission: NSG 370 6-spd manual/ W5A580 5-spd auto
Transfer case: NV241OR Rock-Trac (4.0:1 low range ratio)
Axles (f/r): Dana 44, Tru-Lok electronic locker/ Dana 44, Tru-Lok electronic locker
Axle ratio: 3.73:1 std w/auto, 4.10:1 std w/manual
Suspension (f/r): Live axle four-link w/coil springs and monotube shocks/Live axle four-link w/coil springs and monotube shocks
Steering: Power recirculating ball w/ damper
Brakes (f/r): 11.9x1.1-inch vented rotor w/single piston floating caliper/11.9x1.1-inch vented rotor w/single piston floating caliper
Wheels: 17x7.5 painted and polished cast aluminum
Tires: LT265/70R17 BFG Mud-Terrain KM2 T/A
Wheelbase (in): 95.4 (2DR), 116 (4DR)
Curb weight (lb): TBD
Approach/departure angles (deg): TBD
Min ground clearance (in): 10.2
Fuel capacity (gal): 18.6 (2DR), 22.5 (4DR)
EPA city/hwy mileage estimates (mpg): 17/21