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Range Rover Sport vs. Wrangler Rubicon vs. Wrangler Sahara: What the Judges Picked During SUV of the Year

After a week of on- and off-road torture testing the panel of judges tell us which SUV they want in their garage.

The Jeep Wrangler Sahara, Range Rover Sport, and Jeep Wrangler Rubicon all faced off during SUV of the Year, and each impressed the expert judges on- and off-road. At the end of the test, we asked each judge which SUV they'd bring home if given the chance, and these were their responses:

 

Stuart Bourdon, Jp Magazine Technical Editor
The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon powered by the all-new 3.0L EcoDiesel V-6 was by far my favorite vehicle of the SUVs we tested. Its outstanding off-road performance, well-mannered highway behavior, and all-new 3.0L EcoDiesel V-6 delivering 442 lb-ft of torque to an eight-speed automatic transmission made it the most dynamic overall performer of the SUVs tested and the one I would love to have in my garage.

 

John Cappa, Four Wheeler Contributor
I really wanted to hate the expensive 3.0L EcoDiesel engine in the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon, but I can't. The optional diesel engine backed up with the eight-speed automatic transmission makes it the best Wrangler ever offered, so that's why I'd choose it over the other SUV of the Year competitors.

Christian Hazel, 4-Wheel & Off-Road Editor
This is such a no-brainer. I'll take the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon all week long and twice on Sunday. Take the JL Rubicon platform which I already absolutely love, and improve it with massive torque, longer distance between fuel stops, and tractor-like crawling capability, and what's to think about. It's the do-everything Swiss Army knife of the SUV world.

Jason Gonderman, Truck Trend Editor
I want the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon to occupy a space in my driveway. I absolutely loved the low-end torque, both on the street and the trail. In Rubicon trim, it went everywhere without complaint. I can overlook the price premium thanks to the 30-plus mpg that I observed on a long highway slog and the 22-mpg average it produced during the test. The Range Rover was amazing, and the gasoline V-6 Wrangler did not disappoint, but overall the EcoDiesel Wrangler is the complete package.

Jered Korfhage, Four Wheeler Feature Editor
Since dumping the clutch and fishtailing off the dealer lot in a diesel-powered Rubicon still remains a fantasy (c'mon, Jeep engineers!), I'm taking home the Range Rover Sport HSE P360. There's enough aftermarket support to make the Rover capable for the majority of my needs. Give me some mud-terrain tires and a rack for the gear I can't wedge in the trunk, and I'll gladly park it next to the Jeep I already own.

 

John Lehenbauer, Diesel Power Technical Editor
I wanna load down the diesel-powered Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon with greasy camp food, tents, and my family; road trip it to a trailhead and 'wheel for a long weekend. I like the power delivery, fuel range, and the plain old ability to handle rough trails out of the box. Heck, it doesn't even feel like there's a diesel in there!

Trent McGee, Four Wheeler Contributor
There's really no question which SUV I would park in my driveway: the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon. I'm really excited about all of the diesel options coming to market for midsize vehicles, and the 3.0L doesn't disappoint. For me the real winner is the eight-speed transmission, which keeps the diesel right in its optimum powerband at all times and makes the Jeep drive more like a gas engine, with only a hint of turbo lag off the line. The only thing that would be better is more towing capacity to fully use the diesel torque on tap.

Verne Simons, 4-Wheel & Off-Road Technical Editor
Dagnabbit, a decade ago I yelled from the rooftops that if Jeep built a Wrangler with a diesel engine I'd push to the front of the line to buy one. Now if that doesn't tell you which SUV I'd take home at the end of Four Wheeler's SUV of the Year, I don't know what else does. The EcoDiesel in this bright-yellow Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon is an awesome addition to what is already an incredible vehicle, and I would be happy to take it home with me. Having said that, the price of this particular SUV is way outside of the orbit I would feel comfortable paying for a vehicle (ours came optioned at $68,000, and that didn't even buy you heated seats). Since I'm such a cheap bastard, I'll now say that if Jeep makes a stripped-down, bare-bones Sport version with manual everything for way less, I might buy one. I'm also a little bit sad the diesel doesn't come with a manual transmission, and even more sad that the Diesel is only an option in the four-door Wrangler (I'm one of few who see the value in a two-door JL). Either way, the EcoDiesel Wrangler Rubicon is a hands-down winner for me.

Brian Sumner, Four Wheeler Contributor
At any given moment, I want to be able to zip off the pavement and go exploring down an interesting-looking dirt road. To me, the competition really came down to the two Jeep Wranglers. I thought the diesel and eTorque engines were evenly matched in power and acceleration from the driver seat, so it really came down to the Sahara package versus the Rubicon. Two lockers, lower gearing, better tires, and steel armor wins me over every time so I would choose the diesel-powered Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon to take home. Now, can we just do something about that red dash?

Rick P w , Jp Editor
I would choose the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon to bring home. Out of the three vehicles we tested, it has the best ride, performance, reliability, range, fuel economy, style, comfort, capability, and price. The lack of a seat heater is its only drawback, and I can fix that by moving to Arizona. The Range Rover was an uncomfortable technological nightmare that requires premium fuel and a clean pair of jeans to sit in it. Nothing is ergonomically correct, and it's plain old ugly in my eyes. The Sahara was a good second, but it lacks the off-road capability of the Rubicon, and I wouldn't trade the eTorque engine for the Rubicon's lockers, 4.0:1 transfer case, and larger tires.

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