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2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara With eTorque: Pros and Cons Off-Road During Four Wheeler’s SUV of the Year

How the Jeep Wrangler Sahara stacks up off-road against the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

We tested the 2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara during our SUV of the Year and gathered valuable information about how it performed off-road alongside the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon. After reviewing the comments from our panel of expert judges, we were able to compare the two Jeeps to see which is better suited for your needs, whether they be road- or trail-oriented.

What's New For the 2020 Wrangler Sahara

The Jeep Wrangler Sahara's 3.6L engine is not new. However, backed by the 850RE eight-speed automatic transmission and boosted with the 24-volt mild-hybrid eTorque technology, the Sahara platform had plenty of "new" to offer. Our tester was also equipped with Selec-Trac full-time four-wheel drive, giving us an additional option to shift the transfer case lever one notch right of 4-Hi. That lets the Jeep decide, low traction permitting, when to send power to the front axle. The Sahara package sits on a lower suspension than the Rubicon, sports a transfer case reduction ratio of 2.72:1, rides on 18-inch wheels, and trades steel rocker protection for plastic side steps, to name some key features.

How Capable is the Sahara Wrangler?

The Jeep Wrangler Sahara pushed its way up the RTI ramp to a score of 498, higher than any attempt made by the Range Rover Sport HSE, but not enough to best the Jeep Rubicon's score of 688. This was largely due to the Sahara's lack of a disconnecting sway bar, a standard feature of the Rubicon package. For anyone curious, disconnecting the Jeep's sway bar allows the axle to articulate (flex more) during off-road travel. The Rubicon trim level allows the driver to disconnect the sway bar with the push of a button.

Sahara vs. Rubicon: Wheels and Tires

The Wrangler Sahara comes with Bridgestone Dueler 255/70R18 tires and 18-inch aluminum wheels, compared to the Rubicon's LT285/70R17C BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2s and 17-inch aluminum wheels. The Sahara's tires contributed to better on-road manners but held the Jeep back in the dirt, especially compared to the factory all-terrain tires on the Rubicon. Also, the Sahara's larger wheels mean less rubber between you and the road (or trail), leading to a harsher ride. Naturally, the all-terrain tires on the Rubicon grabbed onto mud, gravel, and snow better than the tires on the Sahara and also inspired more confidence in rocky terrain with a thicker sidewall (smaller chance of punctures).

Which Four-Wheel Drive System Is Better?

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon means you get the NV241OR Rock-Trac transfer case. This lever-shifted beauty houses 4.0:1 reduction gears for a combined crawl ratio of 70.3 when shifted into 4-Lo. Buying the Sahara affords you the MP3022 Selec-Trac transfer case, whose low-range ratio is limited to 2.72:1. What's this mean? Sahara can't go as slow as the Rubicon. What else does that mean? The Sahara can't crawl with as much precision as the Rubicon. However, Selec-Trac is a jewel when driving in unstable (read: gooey mud, snow, loose gravel) conditions. As mentioned above, shift the transfer case lever to the right of 4-Hi, and the Jeep secedes when to engage the front axle.

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Sahara Leans More Toward Fashion While Rubicon Oozes Function

Our Firecracker Red Sahara was described by the judges as "street-worthy" as they noted items like the plastic running boards, larger wheels, silver accents in the grille and bumper, and body-color fenders. The suspension sat lower than the Rubicon, which contributed to better on-road aerodynamics, while cutting into the Jeep's ground clearance off-road. With the two next to each other, the Rubicon rides on a higher suspension, has raised, non-body-color fenders, trades running boards for steel rock sliders, and rolls on smaller wheels and larger, meaner-looking tires.

Yes, You Can Go Off-Road In A Sahara

But you might not make it as far as your friend in a Rubicon. Both Jeeps are thoroughly well-equipped for off-road endeavors, but the Rubicon just offers more trail-rated features to get it further down the rough road. Selectable locking differentials in the Rubicon's axles will pull it through downright scary obstacles at the flick of a switch. In the Sahara, you trust your traction to the mild tires and a rear limited-slip differential. Protection is also bolstered in the Rubicon not only with skidplates, but with rock sliders and heavy-duty bumpers.