By James Bergeron

Photo Gallery:
2008 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

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Back in September of 2007 I reviewed my first Wrangler, the 2007 Sahara. It was the first time I had ever driven one, and looking back on the experience, I wasn’t very fond of it. Fast-forward to February 2008 and I have been handed the keys to a 2008 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. I realized that reviewing the Rubicon in suburbia was not going to cut it a second time around — I needed a better plan.

I contacted fellow automotive enthusiast Christopher Alexander, who is a member of the Ottawa-Valley Off-Roaders (OVO). Chris got me in contact with John Farley, another OVO member, who promised me he would show me what the Rubicon could do.

2008 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
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I met up with John, Chris and ironically a former neighbour, Mike Ferrone — small world. John had setup a short off-road course for our Rubicon test and all three guys were keen on convincing me of the way of the “Jeep.”

Before heading out onto the course, everyone needed to familiarize themselves with the new Wrangler. I had barely turned off the motor and hopped out and Mike was on his back underneath it admiring the skid plates, locking differentials and electronic sway bar disconnect.

John climbed into the driver’s seat and noted how much the interior had been improved aesthetically over previous generations. These guys were more excited about a new model Wrangler than I would be hopping into the seat of the new Nissan GTR!

The Rubicon comes standard with: air-conditioning; cruise control; an AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo system that actually sounds quite excellent; four-way locking differential; electronically controlled disconnecting sway-bar; six-speed manual transmission; and a 3.8-Litre V6 engine that produces 202hp and 237lb-ft of torque.

My tester included a few options: the new Detonator yellow, which is available only with the three-piece freedom top; the towing package and the power convenience package, which adds power windows, power locking doors and remote keyless entry.

2008 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
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It was obvious to me these guys knew their Jeeps and that I had come to the right place. As mentioned in my previous article, I don’t know much about these vehicles, but Mike was quick to point out differences from his older TJ. None of the guys were too keen on the power windows (which meant disconnecting a wire to remove the doors) or the fabric seats (which would get dirty and wet quickly when off-roading).

But they were quick to point out that a simple two- or four-inch lift kit would be sufficient to make this vehicle a very capable off-roader for deep bush duty. They did have some reservations at how low the fuel tank was placed, as well as the plastic cover under the front bumper protecting the engine and components — they pointed out some beefing up of these components would be beneficial for piece of mind.

2008 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
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Out on our “Rubicon” trail for the day, John talked me through each section, explaining how the four-way locking differential was beneficial in many off-road scenarios. He demonstrated this with a small hill climb that was a no-go even in four low or with only one axle locked.

In the moguls, John pointed out how by electronically disconnecting the front sway bar the vehicle would remain flatter and more stable. Everyone was impressed by the amount of suspension travel available and how the wheels “tucked” quite nicely into the wheel wells.

2008 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
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All three guys commented on how smooth the new Wrangler was in comparison to their own rigs — while all I could think was, “Could this be any rougher?”

They all seemed to agree with me that new four-door version is much more practical, yet still very capable on the trail, giving it a very high WAF (wife acceptance factor).

Many thanks to Chris, John and Mike. They taught me a good deal about the Jeep in my short time with them and provided that new perspective I was looking for. I’d still rather a sports car or a luxury car for my daily commute but I no longer feel the Jeep is the complete disaster I once did.

These three guys are Jeep fanatics: they know their Jeeps inside and out and they swear by them. They would rather drive a Jeep to work than a luxury car, or SUV, for that matter. Even if they were to never go off-road again they all swore they would never give up their Jeep for another vehicle. On top of that, Jeep guys (and girls) seem to be some of the nicest people you can meet, as they wave at you constantly out on the road.

The only complaint they had was how much fuel these vehicles sucked back (I averaged 15.2L/100km over the week) but even that was passed off as a “Jeep Thing.”

*Rating out of 5:

2008 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
Acceleration 3"
Off-Road Handling 4
Comfort 3
Interior 2half
Audio System 4
Gas Mileage 2half

*Rating based on vehicle’s classification

2008 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
MSRP as tested inc. destination & delivery: $32,245

For more information on Jeep and the Wrangler visit Jeep Canada

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