Equal parts blog and review of a borrowed Wrangler for a work trip. Sometimes work gets... interesting. Sometimes I’m sent out to the far-flung reaches of Kansas and Oklahoma with a DJI Mavic Pro, a cell phone, and a company card and told to get footage of some crusty oil wells. The logistics of these 15 second clips of footage is absolutely astounding sometimes, and in this instance I found myself with no truck. 4WD is a requirement, as lease roads vary between “regular dirt road” to “mud pit” to “literally just a forest” and ground clearance and the ability to get un-stuck are paramount. So my boss borrowed this Wrangler from his buddy.
The Wrangler is a box. The average person would be hard-pressed to discern the difference between a 1988, 1998, 2008, and 2018 Wrangler, but the old addage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” certainly seems to apply.
Sitting in the Wrangler everything seemed fairly well laid out, however the pedalbox seemed like it wanted me to drive with my left foot and was shoved over to the left and exceedingly narrow-feeling for some reason. The steering wheel is leather-wrapped and very chunky, which was kind of nice. The turn signal stalk is the worst thing I’ve ever used and feels like it is going to snap off at any moment, requiring an obscene amount of force to overcome the gross-feeling detent and actually lock it into the “turn” positions. At first I actually thought it was just broken and had no more detents.
After driving home from picking up the truck I noticed that the backlight for the HVAC was flickering. I then glanced to the dashboard and saw that there were only 38k miles on this truck. Oh boy.
I had low expectations for the Rubicon on the highway from the beginning. Knobby tires and 75mph never seem to be a great combination and the Wrangler delivered. Misery. It delivered misery. Keeping the damn thing pointed down the road required CONSTANT vigilance. See a cow and look over? The Wrangler happily drifts over towards the shoulder. This is not an issue I have had in any other car. Buick, Miata, hell even my motorcycles. Probably a side effect of the amount of steering input is necessary to keep the truck tracking straight on the road crown; on 2-lane highways I was applying significant amount of left rudder to counteract the tilt of the road.
One place the Wrangler impressed me was NVH both on and off road. Sure, anything much under 35mph was accompanied by the expected uggaduggaduggaduggadugga of knobby tires on the pavement, but above that the truck rode extraordinarily smooth and wind noise was far below the level I expected.
This truck has a 3.6l V6 that puts out some amount of power with an automatic transmission featuring at least several gears. The V6 feels far more potent than I expected and easily moves this rolling middle finger to aerodynamics down the road without feeling strained. Passing power is adequate.
The Rubicon is equipped with underbody armor, rock sliders, electronic sway bar disconnects, front and rear electronic lockers, and off-road tires. The e-lockers and disconnects are typically finnicky as hell and remembering the proper order of putting various gearboxes into neutral and driving the truck back and forth to make them disengage is an exercise in “oh god did I break it somehow”.
Pro tip: don’t assume that grassy slightly overgrown lease road isn’t actually a washed out 4 foot pit.
Things I did not expect to do on this trip: hardcore offroading. Unfortunately I kinda... fell into it? Eyyy.
So yeah that’s pretty well good and stuck. And already loaded up the sway bar disconnects were unable to disengage and give me an extra bit of articulation to get all the wheels on the ground and back out of this situation.
The Jeep Wrangler features a 50:50 weight distribution. I needed to change that.
Yeah, that works.
Jake for scale.
Hm. Ended up bouncing it the hell out of there. It was a fun time. Nothing got broken.
The uconnect system is clunky and generally awful, I work in IT and still can’t tell you how the hell to connect a phone via Bluetooth. Putting a destination into the GPS is backwards as hell but the voice actress straight up sounds like a Jessica Alba trying to seduce you by telling you to turn left in 1.5 miles you naughty boy.
It’s a Jeep thing; you wouldn’t understand.