Long-Term Test Third Report: 2019 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon
Third report: Dirt roads and freeway flying
We're well into our third quarter living with this '19 Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited powered by the 2.0L turbocharged 268hp, 295-lb-ft engine. In addition to some stunning mileage numbers, great suspension performance, and a high level of interior comfort, another compliment we will heap on the winner of our 2019 Four Wheeler SUV of the Year (SUVOTY) is a distinctly short list of gripes. And as you'll note, most of them will stem from the soft top we've chosen to live with in lieu of the optional hardtop. So let's go.
For starters, we've been hearing rumors of JL Wrangler top material separating from the bows. Ours is not suffering this issue and remains solidly attached; however, during instances of high cross- or headwinds while traveling at speed on the highway, the buffeting is enough to cause a huge racket as the top material chatters against the bow. It's most prevalent in the bow that runs from the driver-to-passenger side behind the rollbar sound rail. So, in other words, right next to the front-seat occupants' heads. It's intermittent but overpowering when it happens. Another top-related gripe is one that's plagued soft top Wrangler owners since the beginning of time, and that's the lack of quick and easy access to the rear cargo area. You've got to undo the side tabs, unzip the vertical zippers on the side of the rear window, and then pull the lower channel out of its bore to angle the whole rear-window assembly up and out of the way to load anything bulkier than a carry-on bag. And finally, we feel like the fabric is starting to loosen up a tad on ours. What was once a taut and (relatively) quiet top at freeway speeds is starting to increase in noise after almost a year of car washes, being lowered and raised, and being exposed to heat and cold cycles. Our final gripe is regarding two paint-related issues. First, we're noticing a substantial amount of wear and tear on the driver-side lower doorsill. The paint has worn away down to the primer in a couple spots. Older Jeep Wranglers incorporated a simple layer of clear adhesive tape in this high-traffic area to prevent permanent paint damage. Second, we noticed the passenger-side hood latch has been rubbing the hood and has worn a gouge down into the hood. That seems to be a factory fit-and-finish issue.
But outside of these things, the 2.0L-powered Wrangler just continues to impress us with its very consistent fuel consumption, light and airy in-town drivability, and sink-into-the-seat-and-go ability to soak up the highway miles. But what's most impressive is when you peel away from the blacktop and point the nose toward the mountain range. Let's be honest, with many of the vehicles that win our Four Wheeler of the Year competition there are usually some small trade-offs in off-road performance, be it rocker vulnerability due to breakover angles, low-profile tires, or low-hanging front or rear bumper valances. But that's exactly the opposite with the JL Wrangler Rubicon. The 33-inch BFG A/T tires give you a feeling of invincibility. The rockers are protected by steel rock rails, and the vulnerable areas of the undercarriage are fully skidplated. Additionally, the all-steel optional front and rear bumpers can (and have) take hits and rubs from off-road rocks and obstacles. The Wrangler Rubicon JL is perhaps our most deserving SUVOTY winner to date, and that's saying an awful lot. But then again, this Wrangler Rubicon delivers an awful lot.
Report: 3 of 4
Previous report: Sep '19, Jan '20
Base price: $41,545
Price as tested: $55,760
Four-wheel-drive system: Part-time, manual shift lever, two-speed
Miles to date: 17,052
Miles since last report: 6,961
Average mpg (this report): 18.18
Test best tank (mpg): 19.03 (mostly highway)
Test worst tank (mpg): 16.88 (all off-road)
This period: Steering stabilizer recall, oil change
Problem areas: None
What's Hot, What's Not
Hot: Consistently favorable fuel mileage
Not: Should've gone with the hardtop
"It's nice to have a Wrangler that'll light the tires from a stoplight if you need it. "
"Feels like it can go anywhere off-road."
Options as Tested
Leather-Trimmed Bucket Seats ($1,495), Customer Preferred Package 28R ($795), LED Lighting Group ($995), Electronic Infotainment System Group ($1,595), Jeep Active Safety Group ($895), Adaptive Cruise Control/Forward Collision Warning ($795), Steel Bumper Group ($1,295), Trail Rail Management Group ($195), Soft Top Window Storage Bag ($75), 8-Speed Automatic Transmission ($2,000), 2.0L I-4 DOHC DI Turbo eTorque Engine ($1,000), Remote Proximity Keyless Entry ($495), Body-Color Fender Flares ($495), Premium Black Sunrider Soft Top ($595), Destination Charge ($1,495)