WATCH: Can You Rally a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon JL?
Don’t Try This at Home (or Do, But Don't Blame Us)
Despite a shared affinity for off-pavement vehicular shenanigans, the off-roading crowd doesn't really overlap with the rally-racing crowd. You just don't find Jeep Wrangler Rubicon owners perched in the woods watching Citro ns, Fords, Hyundais, kodas, and Toyotas slide sideways through turns and bound down undulating mountain roads. Likewise, you don't find off-road enthusiasts tackling rally course "stages" in their off-road rigs, setting up for turns, listening to co-drivers shout pace notes, and doing whatever it is rally racers do with the e-brake and pedals. While many owners might like to imagine their off-road trucks have exceptional aerodynamic maneuverability and rally-race-like nimbleness, when put to the test, doing so would be a recipe for rolling a rig many, many times. Basically, since big, wobbly trucks and Jeeps aren't designed for rallycross (on purpose, at least), off-roaders have no reason to be into rallying.
Or do they?
Enter the "Will it Rally" series from the Team O'Neil Rally School. The rally school teased a new series where it would put some modern vehicles to the test to see how well they held up. Naturally, we had to check out if any trucks were included in the series, and to our enjoyment, there were several: a Toyota Hilux, a Ford Explorer, and a Toyota Tacoma. We had to check out the Chevy Astro van, too; what else are you supposed to do with an Astro?
And then we found it—a 2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon JL had been included in the series. Rallycrossing a Rubicon? Okay, we were hooked. Since Jeeps are definitely not engineered for rallycross and sports-car-like handling, we settled in with some popcorn and watched the whole 15-minute video to find the answer to a question we never asked: Will a six-speed manual 2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon JL rally?
The video took us behind the wheel with host Wyatt Knox to see how the JL handled the challenge. With traction control, active stability control, and ABS all disabled, the analog, unelectrified Jeep's dash was lit up like a Christmas tree, ready to hit the fresh powder on a 1.25-mile course located on the Dalton, New Hampshire-based rally school's campus.
With four-wheel drive (high) engaged, Wyatt kept the Rubicon in second and third gear most of the time. With a whole lot of guts and a little bit of left-foot braking here and there, he swung the Jeep around corners, commenting on the JL's tendency to crab walk and noting the inconsistency of the grip. "Once you getting it sliding in the snow, it just keeps going. But if you can link it together, it's kind of poetry in motion, really," he laughed.
Approaching the finish line he exclaimed, "I'm really glad I only have to do this once. And I don't have a speedo; I have no idea how fast I'm going, but I'm not going any faster than this because I won't be able to stop after."
Can a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon JL rally? Conclusion: Absolutely. "It's not fast, but it's right on the limit of what's possible." While it recorded the slowest winter time of 2:53.68—placing behind the Ford Explorer (2:43.47), Toyota Hilux (2:44.47), and Chevy Astro (2:45.44)—Wyatt believed different tires and independent front suspension (rather than the solid front axle) would have helped.
The takeaway? You can't have it all. "The winch, the bumper, and the skid plates—and you see the overland guys with tons of stuff on the roof—your high-speed performance just gets lower and lower and lower as your low-speed and overland [off-road] capabilities might increase. So, finding that perfect balance for you is just the name of the game."