2017 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon : Review
For a week, we took a bright lime green 2017 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon and bounced through the Wyoming tundra. Few things are as extremely capable as is a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon and that’s why we love it.
There are a few vehicles that can be named that are immediately iconic. To the general public, saying “Jeep” automatically brings up images of the Wrangler and is immediately synonymous with “extreme off-road capability.” In its own way, “Jeep” has become a verb, pronoun, and more. Nowhere is the “it can go anywhere” idea more embodied than in the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon.
The Wrangler itself comes in several flavors, from the lower-cost and more day-to-day Sport model to the most capable, extreme Rubicon. Not much has changed with the Wrangler for several years, but with rumors thick about the iconic Jeep coming up for an overhaul as a new-generation for the Wrangler, we were glad we got a week in the current generation to remind us why we love it so.
On the outside, nothing matches a Jeep Wrangler. The 2017 Wrangler has the expected Wrangler styling, from round headlamps to a very aggressive off-pavement stance. The Rubicon model, named after the famous trail, sits a bit higher, has a more aggressive hood with extra intake scoops, and has a bigger, thicker bumper armored against rock bumps and a ready-made winch receiver.
LED headlamps are available for the Wrangler this year. Otherwise, it’s the same rough-and-tumble square box it’s always been, with open fenders, beefy tires, and a seriously no-nonsense approach angle.
The Wrangler has always been available in a myriad of color choices, many of which are as extreme as is the Jeep itself. The bright lime green of our test model may be our favorite so far, though the bright orange and strong red that are also available may be close contenders there.
Outside of that, the only differentiation in Jeep Wrangler models is between the Rubicon and the others. The standard Sport and Sahara trims have some good qualities, but the beefier tires, heavier shocks, higher stance, and more aggressive bumpers of the Rubicon are hard to miss. We prefer the original two-door “coupe”-style Wrangler Rubicon, but the Rubicon Unlimited model adds an extra set of doors at the expense of some capability (due to a longer wheelbase) for those who want better second row seating.
Inside the 2017 Jeep Wrangler lives a seriously throwback existence of spartanism mixed with a few modern conveniences designed to accommodate today’s Jeep buyer. Chief among those is the standard stereo system, which is an 8-speaker with a CD player and audio input jack. Scoff if you’d like, but stereos are the top priority for upgrade in previous-generation Jeep Wrangler models and Jeep took notice this time around.
Otherwise, though, the interior of the Wrangler is pretty devoid of creature comforts. The Sport model has almost nothing inside, except for that stereo, but the Rubicon comes standard with air conditioning. A 115-volt power outlet and satellite radio are also standard in the Rubicon.
As with all Wrangler models, though, the doors can be readily removed, the windscreen can drop down to lock onto the hood, and the top can be taken off. Most of this takes some effort, but the tools to do it are included with the Wrangler. This makes for potential fun times, though we did not get to do much with this given the cold weather.
To compensate for the weather, though, our test model did have the optional removable front roof panels for the hardtop, which can be easily popped out and stowed in the back to make for a semi-convertible experience. We highly recommend these. They’re easy to remove and can stow in the back seat, cargo area, or a garage.
For seating, the 2017 Wrangler Rubicon has well-done front seats with good bolstering and plenty of adjustment. The steering wheel adjusts well and there is a lot of head, leg, and shoulder room for front passengers. The rear seat is basically a bolted down bench, suitable for kids and some passengers, unless the larger Unlimited model is opted for. The Unlimited is a four-door Wrangler with a more contemporary and comfortable rear row of seating.
Cargo in the Wrangler is limited to a relatively small space which is accessed by a swing-out tailgate that swings towards the right side (curb side) of the Wrangler. The rear glass then lifts up to give full access to the cargo space or (for the more flexible) rear seat.
All told, the Wrangler is not really a family vehicle, but it can do most of the daily chores of a standard SUV when required.
The 2017 Jeep Wrangler hasn’t seen any updates to its powertrain over last year. That powertrain is very capable, however, and fits the Wrangler well; especially with the extra goodies given to the Rubicon model.
A 3.6-liter V6 starts things off, producing 285 horsepower and 260 foot pounds of torque. Four-wheel drive is standard in all Wranglers, with both high- and low-range gearing. The Rubicon upgrades the transmission to a lower ratio and adds another crawl gear. Bigger tires and a Dana 44 front axle are also added. The rear axle is upgraded to a more aggressive 4.10 ratio for improved torque delivery. An electronically-controlled, disconnecting sway bar and front and rear differential locks are also added to the Rubicon.
This all translates into a very capable off-road machine. The manual transmission is a six-speed with hill-start assist and the optional automatic is a five-speed with hill-start and descent control. Towing with either of these transmissions is set at 2,000 pounds, when equipped.
What’s surprising about the 2017 Wrangler is its quickness. Its off-road capability is legendary, as is its terrible manners on the highway. Its jump from a stop to sixty miles per hour is not exactly race-car fast, but at about 7 seconds, it’s pretty quick for a non-performance SUV. That becomes noticeable when getting going from a light or running from pavement to dirt and beginning a rally.
With that, though, nobody expects good fuel economy from a Wrangler. If your drive in one meets the EPA estimates of 18 mpg combined, you should count yourself lucky. We averaged closer to 14 mpg during our week. Which was, admittedly, heavy on the off-pavement component.
With all of this said, the 2017 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is one of the funnest vehicles you can own. It’s more than trail capable and can stump jump and rock crawl better than most. The Wrangler Rubicon is the benchmark most others use to measure their capability, and deserves to be.
The 2017 Wrangler is not the most highway-friendly or most comfortable SUV you can buy, but it’s definitely the most true-to-task you can find. If glomping around the wilderness and randomly throwing off mud clods on the highway are your thing, the Wrangler definitely fits your lifestyle.