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    Jeep Wrangler Rubicon: 2021 CarWale Off-Road Day

    Authors Image

    Sagar Bhanushali

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    Jeep Wrangler Right Front Three Quarter
    Jeep Wrangler Right Front Three Quarter
    Jeep Wrangler Right Front Three Quarter
    Jeep Wrangler Right Front Three Quarter
    Jeep Wrangler Right Front Three Quarter
    Jeep Wrangler Right Front Three Quarter
    Jeep Wrangler Right Front Three Quarter
    Jeep Wrangler Right Side View

    Specification

    Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

    Tyre Size and Brand: 255/75 R17 BF Goodrich

    Ground Clearance: 217mm

    Off-road gear: Full-time transfer case with low range, locking front and rear differential, heavy-duty shocks, knobby tyres

    Price: Rs 71.81 lakh, OTR, Mumbai

    Introduction

    The Jeep Wrangler bearing the Rubicon moniker is the undisputed king of lifestyle off-roaders in the US; it’s the Rambo of beach and trail escapades that are so common in that part of the world. The Wrangler is an iconic brand and has a legion of committed fans, and for good reasons. It's a high-riding brute with a lot of character and off-road ability. So, when Jeep decided to assemble the Wrangler in India, i.e., outside its home country for the very first time, the interest among the enthusiasts brewed. That said, you still have to pay quite a bit (over Rs 70 lakh, including insurance and registration) for this hard-core Rubicon version.

    Right Rear Three Quarter

    The Wrangler is adored for its lineage and the road presence that it offers, but we sought to find its true off-road potential. Clearly, it would have been a blasphemy to not have it for this year’s CarWale Off-Road Day. So, there you have it. Hoarding a good chunk of space next to a bunch of 4x4s with various degrees of off-road potential, the Wrangler Rubicon pompously maintains its heady mix of indestructible stature and old-school charm.

    How did it do at the 2021 CarWale Off-Road Day?

    Dashboard

    Let’s get past all the basics first. The Wrangler Rubicon gets a not-so-substantial 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine. But, because it’s turbocharged, you get 268bhp of power and 400Nm of torque; strong numbers which allowed the Jeep to put up a strong show across this year’s venue. More on that later… Now this being the Rubicon edition, the list of off-road hardware fitted as standard is almost as long as the number of features inside the slab-sided cabin. You get heavy-duty Dana 44 solid axles with a sophisticated transfer case and locking front and rear differential, heavy-duty shocks, a full-time transfer case with low-range gear, and 255/75 R17 knobby tyres. Speaking of low range, this version comes with a deeper 4:1 ‘crawl’ ratio as compared to 2.72:1 on the Wrangler Unlimited. Additionally, the Rubicon allows you to electronically disconnect its sway bar for more suspension travel and better axle articulation.

    Left Side View

    With the basics covered, let’s get on with the show, shall we? Our agenda for this year’s Off-Road Day was to run all our 4x4s through the dirt trails and obstacle runs across the Pro Dirt Academy’s vast expanse and see their performance. Although we were mostly dealing with wide and open trails, the venue served up quite a terrain, mainly the ones with plenty of rocks, dirt, and some rather sideways-leaning and giggle-inducing inclines. It’s on terrains like these where the Wrangler really comes into its own, especially when equipped with big, knobby tyres that the Rubicon gets. Now, unlike wet weather conditions comprising slush and mud where you have to be cautious with your lines on a trail and maintain a steady pace, you can push it a little bit here. But then again, my subconscious kept reminding me that I am driving the most expensive car in this group and I must be more careful even if it’s got all the ground clearance and wheel articulation in the world. Speaking of which, it took me a handful of big ditches, boulders, and a kilometre or so of a dirt trail to realise that this Jeep was creeping over the terrain like a giant ant. The confidence that you get from the stock ride height, knobby tyres, and all the hard-core off-road gear that the Wrangler Rubicon has, is incredible.

    Right Front Three Quarter

    Naturally, Jeep has made the standard Wrangler an even better off-roader in its Rubicon guise but here, across our all-new playground, it was raw nature versus the car. So, how did it fare in the barrage of off-road tests we had this year? Being the heaviest and the most powerful vehicle of the lot, it was never going to be easy for the Wrangler to put down its power, accelerate, and come to a stop in the 0-40-0kmph run. Right then, traction control turned off and the throttle pinned to the floor, there was so much wheel spin despite the lack of diesel torque. The heavy kerb weight worked against the Jeep here and it took 5.8 seconds and 37m to come to a halt after hitting 40kmph, overall resulting in the third-fastest run. Now, twisting one’s way across the cones through a slalom course is great fun but things get tricky as soon as you cross the first cone where the surface is uneven and full of dirt. Given its length and huge tires, we expected the Jeep to struggle through the tight spaces between the cones. However, when it came down to the run, the Wrangler’s agility, especially around the U-turn, came as a surprise; with extremely low turning radius for a vehicle of this size.

    Front View

    Unfortunately, the rather heavy steering wasn’t the best fit for quick direction changes and it ended up giving Vikrant a quick bicep workout as he set down the time. The wide rear track also managed to step out and catch one of the cones. In the end, the Wrangler Rubicon finished the slalom with a time of 41.50 seconds. At the end of a very scientific and serious testing, we decided to have some methodical fun at the expense of my colleague Bilal’s pants.

    Front Row Seats

    The beaker test is our way of gauging the off-road ride quality of a vehicle and how flat it remains when the going gets tough. Earlier during the day, it was astonishing how the Wrangler simply ploughed through deep ruts and huge humps and gave an impression of a flat ride. The beaker test, however, threw a chink in the Rubicon’s armour and ultimately it didn’t do as well as we expected. For all its articulation, suspension travel, and a soft setup, the Wrangler struggled to flatten out the choppy terrain, mainly because of the knobby tyres and their lack of give. The hard compound naturally didn’t offer much in terms of compliance and bump absorption from the little rocks that made up the entire course. In the end, it rocked and rolled and spilt 160ml (out of 500ml), the second-highest amount of water amongst all cars.

    Vikrant’s Take

    Right Front Three Quarter

    All hail the fastest SUV around the gymkhana! And when you consider that the Wrangler was five seconds quicker than the next in line over a short course, you know it must have decimated the course itself. It had the tyres, the clearance, some electronics, and brute power to figuratively flatten almost everything in its path. The jagged rocks posed no challenge with those tyres. The hill climb came and went in a jiffy. However, it’s how the Wrangler flattened the ‘shortcut’ that blew us away. With its wheel articulation, clearance, and traction, it went through as if it were nothing more than a minor inconvenience. Brilliant!

    Conclusion

    Left Rear Three Quarter

    I will be honest here. I have always struggled to warm up to the idea of beefy 4x4s that are only occasionally fully effective. The entire concept doesn’t seem all too practical to me, however, after spending close to a week with the Wrangler Rubicon and putting it through all the obstacles and tests during this year’s Off-Road Day, I have had second thoughts and a new level of respect for the Wrangler. It’s absolutely bang-on as a lifestyle vehicle that you can flaunt, gets everyone’s attention, and to say that its street presence is imposing is an understatement. More importantly, it ravaged the trails at the Pro Dirt Academy without a flinch and even though it wasn’t the quickest in any of our off-road tests, it was truly effortless for the most part. It indeed goes without saying, in real-world off-road explorations, the Wrangler Rubicon can venture into places where your typical 4x4s dare not tread.

    Pictures by Kapil Angane and Kaustubh Gandhi

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