Overland SUV of the Year: Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 10th Anniversary
Ten years of the Rubicon.
Launched to the public in late 2006 amidst times of economic unease and ever-rising fuel costs, the Jeep Wrangler JK became an instant success. It’s proof that innovation and a good concept will almost always thrive—even during times of adversity.
Simply put, the success of the latest Wrangler is a byproduct of Jeep listening to a wide range of their consumers. They listened to the family who wanted four doors and a comfortable ride just as much as they listened to the hardcore four-wheeler who wanted locking differentials and a 4:1 low range. Somehow, everyone ended up happy, meeting in the middle to enjoy a vehicle Enzo Ferrari once called “America’s only real sports car.”
When the vehicle debuted as a 2007 model, it was far from perfect, but once again, Jeep listened—even though they were selling Wranglers as fast as they could produce them. Complaints of a less than stellar interior warranted a redesign (which blends utility with a bit of an upmarket feel) for 2011. The following year saw the answer to complaints of the less than captivating, yet reliable 3.8L engine with the arrival of the new Pentastar 3.6L engine—with nearly 80 additional horsepower on tap.
By 2012 the Wrangler now had classic exterior styling, a respectable interior, and the capability of keeping up in the fast lane on the highway. It had become a formidable adversary for four-wheel and overlanding greats such as the Land Rover Defender and the Mercedes-Benz G-Class. Except the Wrangler was a product of automotive engineering in the 2000’s—not the 1970’s. It may not mimic the Defender’s erector-set construction or the over-engineering typical of Mercedes’ G-Class, but it was the first vehicle in decades to come remotely close.
Even though 2012 marked an all-time sales record for not only the Jeep brand, but the Wrangler itself, Jeep was still striving to make each model year better than the last. 2013 also marked an important date in the history of the company, the 10th anniversary of the launch of the Rubicon edition Wrangler. A vehicle which only made it into production by the good graces of some very dedicated and enthusiastic employees at Jeep. Stronger Dana 44 axles, selectable locking differentials, and 4:1 low range weren’t just for hardcore enthusiasts with mechanical know-how anymore.
For 2013, Jeep honored the success and albeit brief heritage of the model named for the iconic 4WD trail in Northern California with the 10th Anniversary Wrangler Rubicon—our 2013 Overland SUV of the Year.
Why? Because the 10th Anniversary Wrangler Rubicon is a clear statement that Jeep isn’t just committed to listening to their enthusiasts, but actually doing something with what they’re told. It’s not just a styling package—it’s the most capable Jeep they’ve produced, ever.
In addition to the usual Rubicon fare you’ve come to expect over the last ten years, Jeep has been at work taking the capability of the model even further. (We’d love to see what they’d develop if they weren’t required to work within the ever-present health and safety regulations.) An innovative bumper with an optional Warn 9.5it winch with removable end caps was designed specifically for the special edition to give the vehicle even more clearance in front of the larger, more aggressive, 265/70R17 BFGoodrich KM2 tires. A more aggressively styled vented hood has also been fitted to help your engine stay cool while you’re crawling down the trail. In addition to the exclusive satin-black machined aluminum wheels, you’ll also find a variety of small, complimentary design cues like red recovery hooks and badging specific to the 10th anniversary.
We were also impressed by the new seats for 2013, which were just as supportive on the trail as they were comfortable on the highway. When it’s all added up, it all comes together to create an enjoyable, versatile vehicle that’s right at home wherever you decide to go.
At the end of the day, the 10th Anniversary Wrangler Rubicon is just further evidence that Jeep is listening and constantly improving their products for overland travel. That’s why it’s our Overland SUV of the Year; there simply is nothing else on that market that mirrors our passion for a versatile and capable vehicle like the Jeep Wrangler does.
The Jeep Wrangler 10th Anniversary Rubicon comes with a five-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty and a three-year/36,000-mile basic limited warranty. Prices start at $35,995 for the Wrangler two-door model, and $39,495 for the Wrangler Unlimited four-door model. If you don’t require the capability of the 10th Anniversary Rubicon, prices for a Sport model Wrangler start at $22,295.
The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Through the Years:
2003: "TJ" Rubicon introduced with 4:1 low range, stronger Dana 44 axles with 4:10 gearing, and more aggressive Goodyear MTR tires among other small upgrades.
2004: Jeep introduces TJ-based Rubicon Unlimited with a 10 inch longer wheelbase and 6-speed manual transmission not offered on shorter wheelbase models.
2005: "TJ" Rubicon gains 6-speed manual transmission sourced from Mercedes.
2007: Jeep releases next-generation "JK" Wrangler in two-door and four-door configurations with second generation Dana 44 axles and once again, locking differentials and lower transfer case gearing.
2009: Rubicon continues to grow in popularity with off-road enthusiasts and Jeep adds Hill Start Assist.
2010: Jeep begins to offer the option of body colored fender flares and hard tops.
2011: A new, updated interior is added to both two, and four door models, offering consumers off-road capability and a more luxurious, yet still functional interior.
2012: A more powerful 3.6L Pentastar engine is added across the entire Wrangler range allowing the Rubicon even more power and control in technical terrain.
2013: Jeep releases a special edition Rubicon model with steel winch-ready bumpers, more ground clearance and larger BF Goodrich KM2 tires to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the model.
Images Courtesy of Jeep/Chrysler