Jeep. One word without any need for definition. Jeep basically invented what is today thought of as the Sport Utility Vehicle. What started off during World War II as a light troop and ammo carrier later turned into the benchmark standard of what “off-road capable” means.
With its latest Wrangler Rubicon Recon, Jeep aims to move that benchmark.
The Rubicon Recon Edition is based on the standard Wrangler Rubicon model, which is already plenty impressive, especially off-road. The Recon Edition looks to seriously up the off-road stakes with a collection of improvements.
The front axle gets strengthened tubes and heavy-duty end forgings. The cast front and rear differential covers are even more serious than before, and the Recon presents improved off-road rock rails that are shortened to accommodate up to 35-inch tires. The Recon part-time four-wheel-drive system has electronic-locking Dana 44 axles front and rear, with power being directed to each end via a Rock-Trac transfer case.
The “4-Low” ratio comes off as 4:1, and there’s a 4.10 front and rear axle ratio that comes standard along with Tru-Lok locking differentials. The Rubicon Recon Edition has a crawl ratio of 73.1:1 that would get you outrun by a toddler on the flats but allows you to out-climb a mountain goat on the rocky stuff.
The Recon Edition stands out from other Wrangler Rubicons. It rides higher thanks to a half-inch lift, there’s new 17-inch Low Gloss Granite Crystal-painted aluminum wheels with 32-inch BF Goodrich KM off-road tires, optional body-color fender flares (which might violate Jeep dogma to some), and a dual-vented Power Dome hood with a black-silhouette “Rubicon” decal for a dash of style.
The iconic seven-slot grille is a Low Gloss Black affair with Low Gloss Granite Crystal inserts and headlamp rings. Low Gloss is also the watchword for the black off-road bumpers and Jeep badge with a red base. Jeep says this gives the Wrangler Rubicon Recon a “toughened exterior look.”
The steel (like it would be any other material?) front bumper features a design that allows for the easy installation of a winch, and the end caps are removable so you can scramble over obstacles without any snags or damage on the trail. Red tow hooks front and rear also provide the Recon model with more protection – the red color separates it from the rest of the Wrangler herd.
The Wrangler Rubicon Recon Edition comes in seven colors: Black, Bright White, Billet Silver, Firecracker Red, Gobi, Rhino, and Granite Crystal. I know Gobi, Rhino, and Granite Crystal sound like pals of Wolverine, Jean Gray, and Dr. Xavier, but just go with it.
A Premium Sunrider soft top is standard and a body-colored hard top is also offered.
On the inside, things are a little less Spartan than days past. The Wrangler Rubicon Recon has a standard eight-speaker audio system and black leather heated seats with “Rubicon” embroidery. The steering wheel is leather-wrapped with red accent stitching, making things a little more classy. The front door armrest is black vinyl-wrapped and the console lid has black stitching.
Red accent netting on the front and rear door pockets, center console, and seatbelts differentiate the Rubicon Recon from the rest of the Wrangler roster (he alliterated repeatedly).
There’s a dashboard plaque with info concerning the front and rear axles, front sway bar, transfer case, and tires. On the dash there’s a gauge cluster unique to the Recon that contains an Electronic Vehicle Information Center (EVIC) with added read-outs for oil pressure, transmission and coolant temperatures, digital speed, and individual tire pressure. You can see where that tire pressure gizmo could come in real handy out on the trail.
Passenger grab handles (a necessity) feature Midnight Star Black accents that are also found throughout the cabin, on the vent rings, steering wheel spokes, and door pulls. All-weather slush mats with red accent “Jeep” logos are both a nice styling touch and practical addition. The axle locker and sway-bar disconnect switches are also red-accented. Finally, Jeep’s Connectivity Group, Power Convenience Group, Satellite Radio, remote starter, and auto temperature controls are standard.
Cost? That will run you anywhere from $39,145 MSRP for the two-door model up to $42,945 MSRP for the Wrangler Unlimited model. The new 2017 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Recon Edition arrives in showrooms later this month.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He means well, even if he has a bias towards lighter, agile cars rather than big engine muscle cars or family sedans.