2018 Jeep Rubicon 4x4 new car reviews

This is no ordinary Jeep Rubicon but one fitted with a bunch of Mopar extras. It’s got monster truck tires, a jacked-up suspension and a ton of auxiliary lights. Sadly, though, it doesn’t have those angry eye headlights. (Seriously, Mopar, get with the program.)

You can find a list of the available Mopar parts in their catalog.

Our tester–hey, does that Jeep on the cover of the catalog look familiar?–had just about everything, from the Fox suspension kit and bead-lock wheels to the skeletonized doors and all the lights. Fortunately it also had the grab handles. It also sported a winch.

This one started as a fully loaded Rubicon–just shy of $50,000–plus all the Mopar accessories.

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Tom Suddard Tom Suddard
Director of Marketing & Digital Assets

I’ve driven a lot of previous-generation JK Wranglers, and every time I came away with the same impression: They’re stupid-capable off-road, and pretty miserable on the street. Two-door versions have too short of a wheelbase (and too little interior room) for my liking, while the four-door models have more room and more wheelbase to ease the worst of the Jeep driving manners–I love them.

Then this updated JL Wrangler showed up, and I just had to try it. Sure, it was the two-door model–meaning I’d probably have a white-knuckle ride–but who could ever argue it doesn’t look damn cool with all those accessories? This Jeep came wearing thousands of dollars in Mopar parts, and I was psyched to see if the factory-engineered pieces (specifically that suspension lift) were really better than the aftermarket options. They definitely added curb appeal–I had three people stop me to compliment it: “Sick Jeep man!"

Then I drove it. Let me start with a petty gripe: FCA quality. Either a Gorilla borrowed this thing last, I’m too stupid to work a seat, or Jeep just chose a faulty design, but either way the levers to tilt the front seats forward did nothing and offered no resistance when pulled. Three of us tried to work the seats, and three of us concluded they were broken. So getting into the rear seat meant crawling over the center console. I guess it’s just a Jeep thing–this did have 10,000 miles on it, after all. Other than the broken seats, the interior was nice. I liked the giant knobs, clearly meant to be operated by mud-soaked, gloved hands. I never had an issue turning up the stereo on my way to the mall. I’d complain about the noisy mud tires or the rough exhaust note or the soft top that made the A/C ineffective, but it’s a Jeep thing, and anybody buying this already knows about those parts.

What I will complain about in earnest, though, is the pavement driving experience. It’s not just bad. It’s not just Jeep bad. It’s dangerous. This thing has all the refinement and composure of a backyard-built XJ Cherokee lifted with sewer pipe. I have no idea how it hadn’t been crashed by other reviewers before it arrived at our office. Bumps are like little launchpads that randomly shoot the Jeep into other lanes, while steering input is never more than meek advice to the wheels that may be taken or ignored at random. I’m sure the stock-height JL drives just as well as any other Jeep, but this one definitely didn’t.

But hey, at least the valet complimented it as my friends army-crawled out from the back seat for our brunch reservation.

David S. Wallens David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

Call this the off-road version of a modified Civic Type R, Porsche GT3 or Corvette ZL1, and it starts to make sense. It’s an extreme vehicle for extreme use–in this case, extreme off-road stuff. Or hardparking.

And I totally respect that. I’m cool with sacrificing comfort for performance. This is coming from a guy who has dailied on race-valved shocks and R-compound tires. I appreciate a SuperTrapp.

This Jeep, though, trades all of its civility for that off-road capability. Either you’re cool with that or you’re not. There's no middle ground here. It makes a heck of a fashion statement; just be aware that there’s a cost to pay.

On pavement it’s soft, squishy and unstable. Potholes on the interstate send it bouncing to the right–and then back to the left. Common questions going through my head while driving this one: Will we stop in time should there be an emergency? What if we have to swerve quickly? It’s like walking in snowshoes which, I guess, it is.

If I lived on a boulder, yes, this would make sense. But most of us don’t. Or I don’t. I used to take our AE86 off-road and I survived, so maybe Florida is just too tame.

And then the interior feels a little cheap. If I’m making payments on a $50,000 vehicle, personally, I’d like a turn signal stalk that has just a little substance to it. And ditto the radio knobs.

The big thing here, though, is to show us that Mopar offers a ton of factory-developed hardware for their golden child. That alone, yes, is way cool, even if doesn’t tickle my personal fancy.

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Comments
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thatsnowinnebago
thatsnowinnebago UltraDork
9/5/19 4:43 p.m.

That's unfortunate to hear about the optional suspension. Jeep shouldn't need to make it sketchy to drive on pavement in order for it to be good offroad. The Old Man Emu lift on my 4runner didn't make the on-road handling worse; it just rode a little stiffer. I know I'm comparing IFS to a solid axle, but my IFS debuted in 1996. I'd expect OEMs to have made great strides in the following 23 years. 

ultraclyde
ultraclyde PowerDork
9/5/19 5:21 p.m.

I test drove a 4dr JL. It drove and rode worse than the 97 ZJ that was the reason I was at the dealer in the first place. And that was at stock height.

docwyte
docwyte UltraDork
9/6/19 8:10 a.m.

Perfect for fording the water left on the pavement from the sprinklers by the Starbucks drive thru.  I find the "off road" community hilarious.  One of my best friends has a series 80 Landcruiser that's all kitted out for off roading.  Big bumpers, suspension, big wheels, roof rack, etc, etc.  Thousands of dollars, hundreds and hundreds of lbs added to the truck.  Never takes it offroad.  He recently bought a Toyota Tundra, lifted, big wheels, etc.  Yup, never goes offroad.

Stock these things will go practically anywhere and definitely go places fine where 99% of the people will take them.  All people do with this stuff is ruin the vehicle for how they're gonna be using it most of the time.

parker
parker Reader
9/6/19 8:37 a.m.
docwyte said:

Perfect for fording the water left on the pavement from the sprinklers by the Starbucks drive thru.  I find the "off road" community hilarious.  One of my best friends has a series 80 Landcruiser that's all kitted out for off roading.  Big bumpers, suspension, big wheels, roof rack, etc, etc.  Thousands of dollars, hundreds and hundreds of lbs added to the truck.  Never takes it offroad.  He recently bought a Toyota Tundra, lifted, big wheels, etc.  Yup, never goes offroad.

Stock these things will go practically anywhere and definitely go places fine where 99% of the people will take them.  All people do with this stuff is ruin the vehicle for how they're gonna be using it most of the time.

I agree, but the same could be said for the sports car crowd.  99% will never see a track yet people put on wider wheels/tires, lower the suspension (often ruining the ride), modify the engine, etc.  Stock these vehicles are way more capable than the driver for most folks.  

nderwater
nderwater UltimaDork
9/6/19 8:59 a.m.

I get the visual appeal, but I hate the way Jeeps ride.  Any idea how the new Gladiator compares?

Fueled by Caffeine
Fueled by Caffeine MegaDork
9/6/19 9:07 a.m.

$50K?  

Financed for  84 months? 

 

nope..

 

bag of nope

 

super nope.

 

bmw88rider
bmw88rider UltraDork
9/6/19 10:20 a.m.

In reply to docwyte :

I agree. Stock with just a small recovery bag, I take our xterra all over the place. I laugh at some of the other vehicles I see. At least in the springs I see more off road used vehicles than Denver. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
9/6/19 10:31 a.m.
docwyte said:

Perfect for fording the water left on the pavement from the sprinklers by the Starbucks drive thru.  I find the "off road" community hilarious.  One of my best friends has a series 80 Landcruiser that's all kitted out for off roading.  Big bumpers, suspension, big wheels, roof rack, etc, etc.  Thousands of dollars, hundreds and hundreds of lbs added to the truck.  Never takes it offroad.  He recently bought a Toyota Tundra, lifted, big wheels, etc.  Yup, never goes offroad.

Stock these things will go practically anywhere and definitely go places fine where 99% of the people will take them.  All people do with this stuff is ruin the vehicle for how they're gonna be using it most of the time.

I used to view modified Jeeps as poseurs for the same reasons you state here.

Then I moved near Moab, and started wheeling in Moab. Now I consider anyone with a stock Jeep to be a poseur, because they obviously don't take it offroad. Sure, you can take a stock rig offroad - but then you'll want to go further. And that means bigger tires and stronger axles and taller springs and lockers and bumpers with more clearance, etc.

It's a shame GRM didn't really test this thing, but there's not much you can do in Florida that involves real rocks so it's not the right venue. It's like having someone road test the latest super-911 variant in the middle of NYC.

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
9/6/19 10:50 a.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

Yeah, I have to drive to North Carolina to find any real rocks to play with. All we have around here are a few off-road parks with concrete piles.

Vigo
Vigo MegaDork
9/6/19 12:21 p.m.

I strongly dislike the angry eyes anyway. 

irish44j
irish44j MegaDork
9/6/19 6:19 p.m.
Keith Tanner said:
docwyte said:

Perfect for fording the water left on the pavement from the sprinklers by the Starbucks drive thru.  I find the "off road" community hilarious.  One of my best friends has a series 80 Landcruiser that's all kitted out for off roading.  Big bumpers, suspension, big wheels, roof rack, etc, etc.  Thousands of dollars, hundreds and hundreds of lbs added to the truck.  Never takes it offroad.  He recently bought a Toyota Tundra, lifted, big wheels, etc.  Yup, never goes offroad.

Stock these things will go practically anywhere and definitely go places fine where 99% of the people will take them.  All people do with this stuff is ruin the vehicle for how they're gonna be using it most of the time.

 

It's a shame GRM didn't really test this thing, but there's not much you can do in Florida 

They did an actually realistic test for 99% of the Jeep crowd 

(disclaimer, I had a lifted XJ with all kinds of off-road stuff on it, and I think I took it wheeling like once, so i say that Jeep guys are mostly poseurs having mostly been one myself. but I'm ok with that. it it makes you happy, fine. Just don't ACT like you actually off-road it when you don't.)

No photo description available.

mad_machine
mad_machine MegaDork
9/6/19 7:54 p.m.

yea, around here all we have is mud and "sugar sand". If I want to go up to the mountains, the nearest ones are the very northern tip of NJ or Pennsylvania. I personally have no urge to bash my disco on rocks, but it's great fun on the muddy fire roads and sandy washes that traverse the pine barrens

TopNoodles
TopNoodles Reader
9/6/19 9:21 p.m.

Don't know why it matters if you take it off road or not. It looks cool, what's wrong with that? Posers boost sales and keep the Wrangler from suffering the same fate as the Fiat 500. I saw an article speculating that classic Jeeps aren't climbing in value like full size Broncos and Blazers because new Jeeps provide the same or better value to most people. That's great for new car buyers, and it's great for people looking to pick up a cheap Jeep on the used market. There's also the Roxor for the "real" off road  Jeep enthusiasts. It's so hardcore that driving it on the street is illegal!

A 401 CJ
A 401 CJ Dork
9/7/19 10:01 a.m.
TopNoodles said:

Don't know why it matters if you take it off road or not. It looks cool, what's wrong with that? Posers boost sales and keep the Wrangler from suffering the same fate as the Fiat 500. I saw an article speculating that classic Jeeps aren't climbing in value like full size Broncos and Blazers because new Jeeps provide the same or better value to most people. That's great for new car buyers, and it's great for people looking to pick up a cheap Jeep on the used market. There's also the Roxor for the "real" off road  Jeep enthusiasts. It's so hardcore that driving it on the street is illegal!

What’s wrong with that?  It plays to the insecurities people have about what ‘other people’ drive.  That’s what.  How dare you own a dually and not pull at least 15k lbs.  How dare you own a Hellcat and not take it to the strip every weekend.  How dare you have a fully kitted Land Rover and not have ever crossed the Darien Gap.  What’s wrong with you people?

I used to think this forum was special.  Now I’m thinking maybe I’m just “special”.  I’m not as clued in as the rest of the geniuses here.

 

Cotton
Cotton PowerDork
9/7/19 3:44 p.m.
A 401 CJ said:
TopNoodles said:

Don't know why it matters if you take it off road or not. It looks cool, what's wrong with that? Posers boost sales and keep the Wrangler from suffering the same fate as the Fiat 500. I saw an article speculating that classic Jeeps aren't climbing in value like full size Broncos and Blazers because new Jeeps provide the same or better value to most people. That's great for new car buyers, and it's great for people looking to pick up a cheap Jeep on the used market. There's also the Roxor for the "real" off road  Jeep enthusiasts. It's so hardcore that driving it on the street is illegal!

What’s wrong with that?  It plays to the insecurities people have about what ‘other people’ drive.  That’s what.  How dare you own a dually and not pull at least 15k lbs.  How dare you own a Hellcat and not take it to the strip every weekend.  How dare you have a fully kitted Land Rover and not have ever crossed the Darien Gap.  What’s wrong with you people?

I used to think this forum was special.  Now I’m thinking maybe I’m just “special”.  I’m not as clued in as the rest of the geniuses here.

 

I agree completely and it seems to be getting worse unfortunately.  GRM used to be my favorite forum,  but I spend a lot less time here than I used to due to this type of thing.  Lots of judgement being passed as usual.

mad_machine
mad_machine MegaDork
9/7/19 9:53 p.m.

Jeep peeps are notorious for eating their own. Remember when the Wrangler came out with the shudder square headlights? "Real" jeepers lost their minds

DrBoost
DrBoost MegaDork
9/8/19 1:48 a.m.

Same with coil springs

Rodan
Rodan Dork
9/8/19 8:32 a.m.

I was looking at one of these the last time I was at the dealer for an oil change on our tow dually (just don't feel like dealing with 3 gallons of oil).  It was tarted up with the whole Mopar accessory catalog, like the one above (but was 4 door), and the sticker was within about $500 of what I paid for our truck (3500 Cummins CC dually Laramie)!

Moab is to most Jeep drivers what road racing is to most sports car drivers.  It's awesome, but only a very small percentage of folks are going to do it.  Stock will go anywhere 99.5% of the owners will ever go.

Posers will always be posers, but as noted above, it keeps the secondary market alive for the enthusiasts.  I say let them dream...  along the way, a few might turn into true enthusiasts.

I like Jeeps, especially the new Gladiator, but I like our '92 Bronco better... ;)

A 401 CJ
A 401 CJ Dork
9/8/19 10:41 a.m.

I don’t understand why the payload capacity is so tragically low.  Speaking for the 4 door JK Rubi, it’s a tick over 1000 lbs.  It’s just shy of a Camry.  Add camping supplies, roof rack, kayak, winch, jerry cans, and the like, you’re probably getting close before you even get behind the wheel.  Does Jeep rate them low because they expect them to get punished on the trail?  What breaks if you overload it by say 30%?  I doubt it’s the frame.  I doubt it’s the D44 axles.  What’s the weak spot?

I get why the tow rating is so low.  As has been pointed out on this very forum, the attributes that make a vehicle excel off-road are the attributes that make it horrible as a tow rig.  And vice versa.

i just can’t see why the carrying capacity is so low.

tester
tester New Reader
9/9/19 4:35 a.m.

Ok. How many of you drive a car that is noisy, uncomfortable, and will rattle the fillings out out of your teeth because you run one dag blame autocross a year?  Never mind the number of “track” cars that never exit a garage. 70%? 80% ? Seriously, stop it. It is wonderful that purpose built vehicles still exist in this crappy crossover world. 

 

The ‘98 TJ in the yard has mud on the tires right now from a little dirt excursion last weekend . We also have a comfortable Honda, a bone jarring Mustang, and have been known to drive a crap can on the race track. We enjoy nearly all ends of the automotive spectrum.  Heck, we are considering adding a VW to the fleet so we can simultaneously be ECCO weenies and “roll coal” in one fell swoop.  ;-)

Now if if you want to complain about the cost of new vehicles, go for it. All of them are over priced. 

 

 

Dootz
Dootz Reader
9/9/19 4:44 a.m.

In reply to parker :

Except everything us enthusiasts do to our cars can actually be felt on every drive we take them on

mad_machine
mad_machine MegaDork
9/9/19 8:55 a.m.
A 401 CJ said:

I don’t understand why the payload capacity is so tragically low.  Speaking for the 4 door JK Rubi, it’s a tick over 1000 lbs.

probably has a lot to do with the fact that a fully kitted out 4 door wrangler gets pretty close to 4500 pounds stock. You also need articulation for off roading, that requires softer springs. If you beef the springs up some, I bet you can easily carry more than 1000 pounds

ShinnyGroove
ShinnyGroove Reader
9/9/19 3:21 p.m.

I am all for enthusiast vehicles, and all for aftermarket accessories that make vehicles more capable.  It really doesn't matter to me that 95% of the accessories are sold to posers, because it means those parts are actually available for the 5% who put them to good use.

All that said- I need to rant about the Jeep crowd.  I live in Atlanta, where for some reason "bro'd" Jeeps seem like about 20% of the vehicles on the road*.  In a city of near 7 million people, most of these Jeeps spend their entire life on 8 lane highways.  They come off the production line poorly suited for highway transit, and get less and less safe with most of the common mods.  They are not just dangerous to the drivers, but also to the other motorists on the highway.  Most off-putting to me are the giant steel bumpers that are designed to go over the top of everything, including other cars.  In a collision those things are giant battering rams designed to decapitate occupants of other vehicles, plain and simple. 

So in short, many of these enthusiast/poser Jeeps are a means to no particular end** and are making other people a lot less safe on the highway***.  Especially those in enthusiast sports cars like myself and many others on this forum.  It bothers me that I'm way more likely to be killed on my way to the track than on the actual track.

* I will freely admit that I associate certain socioeconomic, cultural and personality traits with the drivers of these vehicles, and that those associations color my perspectives dramatically.

** most of these Jeep owners would be shocked if they knew how off-road I have gotten in my totally stock Sienna minivan.

***Even more odious than the Jeeps are the lifted F-250 diesels with the same pointless off-road mods and aftermarket tunes that dump clouds of black exhaust smoke during the 5pm commute.

Raze
Raze UltraDork
9/9/19 3:37 p.m.

I say buy what you like and enjoy it, life's to short. 

Sincerely...an OG GRMer.

ShinnyGroove
ShinnyGroove Reader
9/9/19 3:44 p.m.

^ it's even shorter when a lifted Jeep runs over your Miata.

Shadeux
Shadeux Reader
9/9/19 4:25 p.m.

As an owner of a 2010 stock JK Wrangler, I feel like a lot of the handling issues would be mitigated by driving it for a month. When I first started driving it it really felt unsafe. After 60k miles across the country and back, I now drive it with trust. It's not GRM's cup of tea. 

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