Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon Is Four Wheeler’s 2019 SUV of the Year!

It’s official!

Four Wheeler StaffPhotographer, Writer

It’s official! Four Wheeler, the world’s leading 4x4 authority since 1962, has selected the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon as the winner of its 46th annual SUV of the Year award.

Four Wheeler’s SUV of the Year award event is an invitation-only competition that is only open to all-new or significantly revised SUVs for the upcoming model year. For 2019, the field of vehicles included five entries: Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Elite, Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Land Rover Range Rover HSE P400e, Land Rover Range Rover Sport HSE P400e, and Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro.

“The Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon has off-road dexterity that is truly exceptional, and its dirt-dominating DNA is brilliantly infused with the latest technology and passenger comfort bits to create an incomparable 4x4,” says Four Wheeler Editor Ken Brubaker. “The Wrangler Rubicon earned this impressive win by exhibiting extraordinary abilities both on- and off-road.”

The road to winning Four Wheeler’s prestigious 2019 SUV of the Year award was actually more of a rutted, rocky, snow-clogged two-track. Since Four Wheeler is the leading 4x4 authority, the majority of testing was done off-road in a variety of challenging terrains. Four Wheeler combined this extreme testing with track and on-road testing. The weeklong test covered approximately 1,000 miles.

The competition began in the Los Angeles area with ramp travel index (RTI) testing to gauge each vehicle’s suspension articulation. Following RTI testing, the SUVs were driven to the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, for track testing. Sophisticated electronic equipment was used to record each vehicle’s 0-60 and quarter-mile acceleration times, as well as 60-0 braking distance. Following track testing, the vehicles were driven to the Southern California desert on paved roads. As was standard throughout the test, experienced judges rotated between vehicles on a regular basis, which provided equal testing time. Judges included staff from various truck brands within the MOTORTREND GROUP, including Four Wheeler, 4-Wheel & Off-Road, and Jp Magazine. The multi-hour drive to the desert allowed judges to gather important information on each vehicle’s on-road manners in stop-and-go and open-highway driving. It also provided fuel efficiency data for this type of driving.

The next three days were spent primarily off-road. Each vehicle was driven by each judge in a variety of off-road conditions, including sand, rocky trails, loose-surface trails, and snow. The test also included a loose-dirt hillclimb and water crossings. This testing provided the judges with a wealth of information, including each vehicle’s off-road visibility from the driver seat, four-wheel-drive system selection and performance, tire performance and durability, engine power and cooling, transmission function and cooling, suspension tuning and performance, traction control system function, and much more. Night driving was also integrated into the competition to gauge each vehicle’s lighting equipment.

The final day of testing included a long highway test section returning to the Los Angeles area, during which additional important highway data was gathered, including fuel economy, interior comfort, and on-road handling.

In the dirt, SUV of the Year judges appreciated the Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon’s impressive approach and departure angles (43.8 and 37 degrees, respectively); rugged 17-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 tires; Tru-Lok front and rear axles; front disconnecting stabilizer bar; performance suspension; and transmission, transfer case, and fuel tank skidplates. The Rubicon’s Rock-Trac transfer case low-range ratio of 4:1 and the axle ratio of 4.10:1 combined with the eight-speed automatic transmission’s First gear ratio of 4.71:1 to create a crawl ratio of 77.2:1. This impressive crawl ratio made slow-speed crawling in difficult terrain a controlled, easy, no-drama experience.

Inside, judges gave high marks to the optional leather-trimmed bucket seats, which added a luxurious feel and were easy to clean after a day in the dirt with the Sunrider soft top retracted. The optional Electronic Infotainment System Group included an 8.4-inch color display, GPS navigation, and an Alpine nine-speaker audio system with SiriusXM satellite radio. Judges also like the optional Trail Rail Management System, which is an adjustable rail-based tie-down utility system that mounts on the cargo floor and swing gate.

The new-for-2019 2.0L turbocharged I-4 eTorque engine impressed judges with its outstanding performance. The engine proved to be capable whether accelerating onto an interstate, crawling a rock-strewn trail, or carving sand dunes. During track testing the Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon traversed the quarter-mile in a respectable 16.5 seconds and accelerated 0-60 mph in 8.1 seconds. The standard heavy-duty brakes stopped the Rubicon from 60-0 mph in 139.7 feet.

Prior to SUV of the Year testing, each judge was issued an official judging book, which included areas for the judges to grade vehicle criteria and log comments. With testing completed, the vehicle criteria data provided by the judges was combined with performance and other data to create a score for each vehicle. The scoring was weighted, prioritizing off-road performance. The five weighted categories included 30 percent Trail Performance, 20 percent Empirical (RTI, acceleration, braking, price, and so on), 20 percent On Pavement (handling, ride quality, steering feel, and so on), 15 percent Interior (instrumentation, ingress and egress, seat comfort, storage, and so on), and 10 percent Exterior (appearance, stance, body protection, and so on). When the calculations were complete, the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon had accrued enough points to give it a decisive win and the title of 2019 SUV of the Year.

Look for complete coverage of the 2019 SUV of the Year competition soon here at fourwheeler.com!

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