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2019 JEEP WRANGLER JL RUBICON FIRST DRIVE

VEHICLES

TOP Storage space is at a premium, but would be perfect for a couple // BOTTOM Yep, there’s a diesel engine in there producing 450Nm of the good stuff

The 2019 JL Wrangler Rubicon launch was recently held in beautiful Tasmania over two days, however we were kept in the dark as to what track we’d be driving. Normally a test loop designed to work in the vehicle’s favour is set up, and journos are whisked back to the hotel to be fed oysters and wine. Not this time. The drive was on the iconic Climies Track, to be honest one of the toughest tracks I’ve driven in a stock vehicle and definitely the most demanding terrain driven on a press launch. We’ll get into the nuts and bolts of the new 2019 JL Wrangler Rubicon, but the big question is will the JL Rubicon drive one of Tassie’s most technical touring tracks and make it back in time for those oysters and wine?

Can Jeep’s most capable Wrangler conquer Tasmania’s Climies Track?

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WORDS BY EVAN SPENCE

ON-ROAD
Let’s get the boring but important stuff out of the way first, you need to get to the tracks, right!? While the Wrangler has never been designed to excel at on-road duties, the 2019 JL certainly drives better on-road than any other Wrangler. I put that down to the eight-speed ZF auto, which Jeep claims has helped reduced fuel consumption by 13 percent while being well-matched to both the 2.2-litre turbo-diesel (available in Rubicon models only) and 3.6-litre V6 Pentastar (retained from the JK Wrangler). Power is about right for these vehicles, with the 2.2-litre turbo-diesel producing a claimed 197hp and 450Nm, while the 3.6-litre pumps out 280hp and 353Nm. For me, I’d take the petrol motor personally. It’s cheaper to buy, cheaper to service and sounds great when you give it a boot – it’s fun, and that’s what you want in a Jeep … right?

Wind noise was nowhere near as apparent as it is on the old JK; it’s now tolerable. If you are a lanky person such as myself, or have big feet, you will struggle as the large transmission tunnel leaves very little room for your left foot. There is no footrest either, a reminder that you are in a vehicle that was originally designed to be driven on the other side of the road. Seats are comfortable, and the interior is a nice place to be in general with all switches clearly visible. Oh, you get used to the window switch being located on the dash (so you can take the doors off) after a few goes too.

A fair amount of steering input is required, as in you are constantly making small corrections to keep the Jeep straight. Naturally, this is slightly fatiguing, however not unexpected considering the flexy multi-link coil spring suspension and solid axles front-and-rear. Speaking of suspension, it’s nice and soft but doesn’t roll through corners as much as I’d expect, and it is well-suited to on and off-road driving. A tick there to Jeep’s suspension engineers.

The verdict? It’s an off-roader first and foremost, but it’s certainly not a pig to drive on-road, even with the BFG muddies. I’d happily do a big trip in one, basically. And thanks to an 80-litre tank, it can travel a decent range between filling up. We didn’t measure fuel economy on this test (we will be) but the claimed figure is 10.3L/100km for the petrol and 9.4L/100km in the diesel Rubicon.

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ABOVE Stock articulation with the front sway bar disconnected is impressive // LEFT While there are recovery points, they do not appear to be rated

OFF-ROAD CAPABILITY
Jeep described the 2019 JL Wrangler as the world’s most capable SUV – a bold statement indeed, one that had me chuckling inside thinking about how capable the new Land Rover Discovery is, or how good the traction control in the Prado is, for example. The JL Rubicon is a totally different animal though, and I think Jeep might have actually nailed it. The suspension travel is outstanding when the front sway bar is disconnected. Traction control is quick to respond and well-sorted to off-road duties. If traction control is not enough, the Rubicon model has front-and-rear diff locks, which get power to all four BFG mud terrain tyres mounted on 17-inch rims.


This really is a capable 4X4 … long-travel suspension, mud terrain tyres, diff locks front-and-rear, and lovely deep gearing for rock crawling. The Rubicon in fact has 4.1 ratio transfer case gearing in what Jeep dub the Rock-Trac HD Full Time 4WD system. That is an impressive amount of reduction in a factory transfer case – no aftermarket crawler gears required here. It’s actually a part-time 4WD system, with the ability to run in 4H Auto mode, similar to Mitsubishi’s Super Select system.

The only problem with the 2019 JL Wrangler, is the same problem all modern 4WDs have … clearance. It’s a long vehicle, and as such we scraped through in a few places. Luckily it has a solid set of rock sliders bolted under the sills; they saved our bacon a few times. The main areas of concern are the lower trailing arms, which are mounted underneath the chassis rails (as per the Jimny). Another piece of low-hanging fruit is the steering damper, which sits out front and rather exposed to rock damage. Other than that, the JL Rubicon is seriously capable. We are looking forward to getting a long-term test vehicle to put through our local test track to really see how far we can push them.

Thanks to the 4.1 transfer case ratio in the Rubicon, rock crawling was child’s play

At the end of the day, all Jeeps survived Climies Track, with only some minor rear bumper damage to one vehicle. We did manage to get the lead Jeep bogged on the last mud hole, but this was from a lack of momentum more than anything. A bit of shovel work and some recovery tracks laid out, and we were back on the way. Jeep 1 – Tasmania 0. Oh, if you haven’t driven Climies Track in Tasmania, do yourself a favour. But make sure you are in a capable 4WD, as it’s tough and remote.

STEPS TO SUIT

Mitsubishi Triton | Ford Ranger | Mazda BT-50 | Nissan Navara | Holden Colorado | Isuzu D-Max | Toyota Hilux | Toyota Landcruiser 200 Series | Toyota Prado 150 Series

*current model dual cabs

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Yes it was cold … no we don’t regret taking the roof off

WHAT’S SO SPECIAL ABOUT THE JL?
While the JL looks similar to the previous JK Wrangler, Jeep tells us only 5 percent of the parts used in the JK have been retained. They also tell us they have covered 6.3-million kilometres in testing including: the USA, Brazil, Italy, India, China and Australia (in Alice Springs). The JL is similar to the 2019 Suzuki Jimny in many ways; it stays true to the heritage of the brand, while providing an evolution on the platform. The bugs have been ironed out so to speak, but it still very much feels like a Wrangler.

Jeep has incorporated an additional 76 safety features, yet somehow shaved over 90kg off the weight compared to the previous JK. Using more aluminium and magnesium in panels achieved this – as weight is the enemy, this is a great point to note. These components are things like alloy doors, hinges, hood and fenders. A magnesium swing-gate, alloy engine mounts and steering gear. Some clever engineering indeed! New safety features include (but are not limited to) front-and-rear park assist, blind-spot monitoring, keyless entry, dual-zone climate, LED lighting, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Uconnect 8.4-inch nav screen, and a zipperless soft top. The last point isn’t a safety feature, I just thought it was cool.

Jeep has offered a five-year warranty and five-year capped price servicing on the 2019 JL Wrangler. Petrol models will cost $299 per service for the first five years, with diesels costing $499 per service for the first five years. A lifetime roadside-assist service is included as well, but only if you service through Jeep.

RIGHT The interior delivers a perfect mix between function and form

BELOW See that little Jeep? That’s an Easter egg … how many can you find?  

BELOW The Wrangler felt just as much at home on the beach as it did on Climies Track

CAN YOU LEGALLY RUN 35-INCH TYRES?
The Rubicon comes standard on 32-inch tyres in Australia, not 33-inch tyres as per what we were expecting to see. While it sounds like a minor point, this means it will not be roadworthy to run a 35-inch tyre without seeking engineering approval. Which is a real shame – a two-inch lift and 35s would complement an already very capable vehicle, and address it’s main off-road Achilles heel being ground clearance around vital components such as the steering damper and lower trailing arms.

PRICING ANNOUNCED
I’m going to come out and say it: I personally think the 2019 JL Wrangler is a tad expensive. But I also said the same about the Suzuki Jimny, so I guess I’m just tight. Prices start at $48,000 for the base SWB Petrol Sport S and head north to $68, 950 for the four-door Rubicon diesel. Stay tuned for a full review in Unsealed 4X4, as we see just how far you can push a stock-standard 2019 JL Wrangler Rubicon and find out if we can actually get close to Jeep’s claimed fuel consumption figures. However, we must say our first taste on Climies Track has impressed us greatly … this is a proper 4WD.

10 INTERESTING JL WRANGLER FACTS

1. No SWB Rubicon models will be sold in Australia.

2. Diesel is only available in the Rubicon spec.

3. There is no manual transmission option.

4. Jeep has again hidden Easter eggs all around the vehicle, little logos, etc. How many? The official answer I received was “lots”.

5. There are drain plugs in the floor – you can still hose the interior out.

6. 75 percent of people will buy the four-door.

7. This is the seventh-generation Wrangler essentially, with the MB Jeep being released in 1941.

8. You can fit up to four mobile phones in the front cup holders – neat!  

9. The JL Wrangler has a better approach angle than a 2019 Suzuki Jimny: 44 degrees vs 37 degrees.

10. There are over 100 Mopar (or no car) factory accessories available for the JL Wrangler.

ABOVE Jeep has raised the air intake as high as they could. We’d still fit a snorkel for peace of mind

2019 JEEP WRANGLER JL RUBICON FIRST DRIVE

VEHICLES

SCROLL DOWN

WORDS BY EVAN SPENCE

Can Jeep’s most capable Wrangler conquer Tasmania’s Climies Track?

The 2019 JL Wrangler Rubicon launch was recently held in beautiful Tasmania over two days, however we were kept in the dark as to what track we’d be driving. Normally a test loop designed to work in the vehicle’s favour is set up, and journos are whisked back to the hotel to be fed oysters and wine. Not this time. The drive was on the iconic Climies Track, to be honest one of the toughest tracks I’ve driven in a stock vehicle and definitely the most demanding terrain driven on a press launch. We’ll get into the nuts and bolts of the new 2019 JL Wrangler Rubicon, but the big question is will the JL Rubicon drive one of Tassie’s most technical touring tracks and make it back in time for those oysters and wine?

ON-ROAD
Let’s get the boring but important stuff out of the way first, you need to get to the tracks, right!? While the Wrangler has never been designed to excel at on-road duties, the 2019 JL certainly drives better on-road than any other Wrangler. I put that down to the eight-speed ZF auto, which Jeep claims has helped reduced fuel consumption by 13 percent while being well-matched to both the 2.2-litre turbo-diesel (available in Rubicon models only) and 3.6-litre V6 Pentastar (retained from the JK Wrangler). Power is about right for these vehicles, with the 2.2-litre turbo-diesel producing a claimed 197hp and 450Nm, while the 3.6-litre pumps out 280hp and 353Nm. For me, I’d take the petrol motor personally. It’s cheaper to buy, cheaper to service and sounds great when you give it a boot – it’s fun, and that’s what you want in a Jeep … right?

Wind noise was nowhere near as apparent as it is on the old JK; it’s now tolerable. If you are a lanky person such as myself, or have big feet, you will struggle as the large transmission tunnel leaves very little room for your left foot. There is no footrest either, a reminder that you are in a vehicle that was originally designed to be driven on the other side of the road. Seats are comfortable, and the interior is a nice place to be in general with all switches clearly visible. Oh, you get used to the window switch being located on the dash (so you can take the doors off) after a few goes too.

TOP Storage space is at a premium, but would be perfect for a couple // BOTTOM Yep, there’s a diesel engine in there producing 450Nm of the good stuff

A fair amount of steering input is required, as in you are constantly making small corrections to keep the Jeep straight. Naturally, this is slightly fatiguing, however not unexpected considering the flexy multi-link coil spring suspension and solid axles front-and-rear. Speaking of suspension, it’s nice and soft but doesn’t roll through corners as much as I’d expect, and it is well-suited to on and off-road driving. A tick there to Jeep’s suspension engineers.

The verdict? It’s an off-roader first and foremost, but it’s certainly not a pig to drive on-road, even with the BFG muddies. I’d happily do a big trip in one, basically. And thanks to an 80-litre tank, it can travel a decent range between filling up. We didn’t measure fuel economy on this test (we will be) but the claimed figure is 10.3L/100km for the petrol and 9.4L/100km in the diesel Rubicon.

SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Thanks to the 4.1 transfer case ratio in the Rubicon, rock crawling was child’s play

OFF-ROAD CAPABILITY
Jeep described the 2019 JL Wrangler as the world’s most capable SUV – a bold statement indeed, one that had me chuckling inside thinking about how capable the new Land Rover Discovery is, or how good the traction control in the Prado is, for example. The JL Rubicon is a totally different animal though, and I think Jeep might have actually nailed it. The suspension travel is outstanding when the front sway bar is disconnected. Traction control is quick to respond and well-sorted to off-road duties. If traction control is not enough, the Rubicon model has front-and-rear diff locks, which get power to all four BFG mud terrain tyres mounted on 17-inch rims.


ABOVE Stock articulation with the front sway bar disconnected is impressive // LEFT While there are recovery points, they do not appear to be rated

This really is a capable 4X4 … long-travel suspension, mud terrain tyres, diff locks front-and-rear, and lovely deep gearing for rock crawling. The Rubicon in fact has 4.1 ratio transfer case gearing in what Jeep dub the Rock-Trac HD Full Time 4WD system. That is an impressive amount of reduction in a factory transfer case – no aftermarket crawler gears required here. It’s actually a part-time 4WD system, with the ability to run in 4H Auto mode, similar to Mitsubishi’s Super Select system.

The only problem with the 2019 JL Wrangler, is the same problem all modern 4WDs have … clearance. It’s a long vehicle, and as such we scraped through in a few places. Luckily it has a solid set of rock sliders bolted under the sills; they saved our bacon a few times. The main areas of concern are the lower trailing arms, which are mounted underneath the chassis rails (as per the Jimny). Another piece of low-hanging fruit is the steering damper, which sits out front and rather exposed to rock damage. Other than that, the JL Rubicon is seriously capable. We are looking forward to getting a long-term test vehicle to put through our local test track to really see how far we can push them.

At the end of the day, all Jeeps survived Climies Track, with only some minor rear bumper damage to one vehicle. We did manage to get the lead Jeep bogged on the last mud hole, but this was from a lack of momentum more than anything. A bit of shovel work and some recovery tracks laid out, and we were back on the way. Jeep 1 – Tasmania 0. Oh, if you haven’t driven Climies Track in Tasmania, do yourself a favour. But make sure you are in a capable 4WD, as it’s tough and remote.

STEPS TO SUIT

Mitsubishi Triton | Ford Ranger | Mazda BT-50 | Nissan Navara | Holden Colorado | Isuzu D-Max | Toyota Hilux | Toyota Landcruiser 200 Series | Toyota Prado 150 Series

*current model dual cabs

SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT

ADVERTISEMENT

BELOW The Wrangler felt just as much at home on the beach as it did on Climies Track

WHAT’S SO SPECIAL ABOUT THE JL?
While the JL looks similar to the previous JK Wrangler, Jeep tells us only 5 percent of the parts used in the JK have been retained. They also tell us they have covered 6.3-million kilometres in testing including: the USA, Brazil, Italy, India, China and Australia (in Alice Springs). The JL is similar to the 2019 Suzuki Jimny in many ways; it stays true to the heritage of the brand, while providing an evolution on the platform. The bugs have been ironed out so to speak, but it still very much feels like a Wrangler.

BELOW See that little Jeep? That’s an Easter egg … how many can you find?  

Jeep has incorporated an additional 76 safety features, yet somehow shaved over 90kg off the weight compared to the previous JK. Using more aluminium and magnesium in panels achieved this – as weight is the enemy, this is a great point to note. These components are things like alloy doors, hinges, hood and fenders. A magnesium swing-gate, alloy engine mounts and steering gear. Some clever engineering indeed! New safety features include (but are not limited to) front-and-rear park assist, blind-spot monitoring, keyless entry, dual-zone climate, LED lighting, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Uconnect 8.4-inch nav screen, and a zipperless soft top. The last point isn’t a safety feature, I just thought it was cool.

Jeep has offered a five-year warranty and five-year capped price servicing on the 2019 JL Wrangler. Petrol models will cost $299 per service for the first five years, with diesels costing $499 per service for the first five years. A lifetime roadside-assist service is included as well, but only if you service through Jeep.

Yes it was cold … no we don’t regret taking the roof off

RIGHT The interior delivers a perfect mix between function and form

CAN YOU LEGALLY RUN 35-INCH TYRES?
The Rubicon comes standard on 32-inch tyres in Australia, not 33-inch tyres as per what we were expecting to see. While it sounds like a minor point, this means it will not be roadworthy to run a 35-inch tyre without seeking engineering approval. Which is a real shame – a two-inch lift and 35s would complement an already very capable vehicle, and address it’s main off-road Achilles heel being ground clearance around vital components such as the steering damper and lower trailing arms.

SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT

ADVERTISEMENT

10 INTERESTING JL WRANGLER FACTS

1. No SWB Rubicon models will be sold in Australia.

2. Diesel is only available in the Rubicon spec.

3. There is no manual transmission option.

4. Jeep has again hidden Easter eggs all around the vehicle, little logos, etc. How many? The official answer I received was “lots”.

5. There are drain plugs in the floor – you can still hose the interior out.

6. 75 percent of people will buy the four-door.

7. This is the seventh-generation Wrangler essentially, with the MB Jeep being released in 1941.

8. You can fit up to four mobile phones in the front cup holders – neat!  

9. The JL Wrangler has a better approach angle than a 2019 Suzuki Jimny: 44 degrees vs 37 degrees.

10. There are over 100 Mopar (or no car) factory accessories available for the JL Wrangler.

ABOVE Jeep has raised the air intake as high as they could. We’d still fit a snorkel for peace of mind

PRICING ANNOUNCED
I’m going to come out and say it: I personally think the 2019 JL Wrangler is a tad expensive. But I also said the same about the Suzuki Jimny, so I guess I’m just tight. Prices start at $48,000 for the base SWB Petrol Sport S and head north to $68, 950 for the four-door Rubicon diesel. Stay tuned for a full review in Unsealed 4X4, as we see just how far you can push a stock-standard 2019 JL Wrangler Rubicon and find out if we can actually get close to Jeep’s claimed fuel consumption figures. However, we must say our first taste on Climies Track has impressed us greatly … this is a proper 4WD.