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2003 Jeep Rubicon

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Jon Thompson | Writer
Posted February 1, 2002

'03 Wrangler Rubicon Revealed

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  • The '03 Jeep Rubicon.

  • Looks like your basic Jeep Wrangler, but it isn’t.

  • The new Rubicon model comes with Dana 44 axles, air lockers, 31-inch tires, and diamond-plate rock rails.

  • Inside the Dana 44s, Jeep has specified front and rear locking differentials built by Tochigi Fuji Sanjyo.

  • Instead of the usual NVG231 transfer case with its 2.72:1 low-range, the Rubicon will be equipped with a NVG241OR transfer case with 4.0:1 low-range ratio.

  • Just in front of the shift lever is the switch that controls the lockers. Ideally placed--with your hand on the shifter, you can easily poke it to lock up, or toggle back and forth for locked or unlocked.

We learned some time ago that Jeep engineers were working on a significantly upgraded version of the much-loved Wrangler TJ. What we didn’t learn was the answer to the question everybody was most curious about: When would it go on sale?

Now we know. The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, as it’s called, will be available as an ’03 model, available this summer. This is great news, and here’s why: While other manufacturers are hard at work making their four-wheel-drive vehicles more pavement oriented, Jeep has been hard at work making the TJ even more capable than it already is—and it’s already plenty capable.

To make it worthy of the Rubicon name, the Wrangler has been given a series of hard-core upgrades. These begin with front and rear Dana 44 axles in place of the Dana 30/35 front/rear axles used in other versions of the Wrangler, except when the optional Dana 44 rear is specified. Inside these Dana 44s, Jeep has specified front and rear locking differentials built by Tochigi Fuji Sanjyo. These lockers are actuated by air pressure, and a dash-mounted switch locks the rear axle and toggles the front axle locker on and off.

Instead of the usual NVG231 transfer case with its 2.72:1 low-range, the Rubicon will be equipped with a NVG241OR transfer case with 4.0:1 low-range ratio. Differential ratio works out to 4.10:1 What this means is that with the manual transmission and its 4.02:1 First-gear ratio, the Wrangler Rubicon now has a crawl ratio of 65.92, easily the lowest of any new vehicle currently on the market. Putting all that crawlability to the ground will be a set of 31-inch Goodyear MT/R tires. Previously, the largest tire available on a Wrangler was a 30-inch Goodyear Wrangler GS/A.

Four-wheel disc brakes also are part of the Rubicon package, replacing the front disc/rear drum system used on other models in the line. Finally, to minimize body damage on difficult trails, a pair of diamond plate rocker-panel guards complete the package.

We’ll present a complete road test on a Wrangler Rubicon in our December issue, on sale 10/22.

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