2011 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon
2011 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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2011 Jeep Wrangler

At the end of the first ‘Terminator’ movie, Sarah Connor drives off into the Mexican desert just before Skynet initiates a nuclear war aimed at destroying humankind, leaving the newly self-aware machines in control of the planet. What vehicle is she driving? A Jeep Wrangler, of course.

Somehow, it just wouldn’t have been the same if she’d driven off in a Range Rover.

With its image eternally linked to the freedom-fighting World War Two Willys Jeep, the Jeep Wrangler has a longstanding reputation as a no-nonsense, affordable 4X4 that’s rugged and easy to fix (although not necessarily reliable). Successive generations of Jeeps – CJ, YJ, TJ and now JK – have adhered to the same basic design formula, though today’s Wrangler is much bigger than earlier models.

2011 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon
2011 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon
2011 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon. Click image to enlarge

While most compact SUVs have switched to unit body designs and hands-off all-wheel drive systems (including the Jeep Compass and Patriot), the Wrangler still has a sturdy body-on-ladder frame design with solid axles front and rear, a generous ground clearance, skid plates, and a manually-operated part-time four-wheel drive system with a Low Range. It’s the only 4X4 that’s still comes with removeable doors (with roll-up windows), fold-down windscreen, and a full roll cage. A folding soft-top is standard and a hardtop is optional (three-piece removeable hardtop on four-door Unlimited model), making the Wrangler the only convertible SUV on the market.

Admittedly, the Wrangler is a workhorse that lacks the refinement, roadholding and comfort of car-based SUVs like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Chevrolet Equinox and Ford Escape, but for certain buyers such as farmers, miners, loggers, skiers, back-country adventurers, nature lovers, and anyone who lives in an area with no pavement and/or severe winter weather – the Wrangler is a vehicle that can handle extremes when necessary. The only other vehicle on the market that comes close in this price range is the Toyota FJ Cruiser.

Even more rugged than the standard Wrangler Sport and Sahara models is the Wrangler Rubicon, like this week’s test vehicle. In both two and four-door versions, it adds a heavy duty “Rock-Trac” two-speed transfer case with a 4:1 low range axle ratio, Dana 44 heavy-duty solid front and rear axles, front and rear remote electronic locking differentials, tuned suspension, electronic disconnecting front sway bar, and beefy BF Goodrich Mud Terrain LT255/55-17-inch on/off-road tires.

Like all Wranglers, the Rubicon includes standard electronic stability control, electronic roll mitigation, hill-start assist (with manual transmission), all-speed traction control, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and Brake Assist.

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