2008 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon
2008 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon. Click image to enlarge


Review and photos by Michael Clark

Photo Gallery: 2008 Jeep Wrangler

It used to be that finding the ultimate pillar of rocky wilderness solitude meant hiking boots, itchy wool socks, and a ticker with stamina set on ‘Long-Distance Runner’. Since most of our exercise regimen today is based on Blackberry thumb rep’s, vehicles like the Toyota FJ Cruiser, Nissan XTerra, and this week’s Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon, are just the ticket for reaching your outdoorsy Nirvana, without ditching the penny loafers. Trail Rated badges, off-road tires, and lofty ground clearances do not a weak MSRP make. The Rubicon tips the scales at $33,645, including destination. Let’s see if you’ll arrive at your destination impressed.


Cabin

Controls: Let’s get wet! Well, splashed anyway. The wash-and-wear Jeep lifestyle is afoot, with neoprene-style bladders on the steering column stalks. The wheel has a manual tilt control, and an annoying eighth of an inch of telescoping function, first seen on the Patriot. In keeping with the possibility of a muckfest, the wheel is devoid of any audio controls.

2008 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon
2008 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon
2008 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon
2008 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon
2008 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon. Click image to enlarge

Cruise control is found at the four o’clock position, with the generic-style mini-stalk control. The audio system appears to be pre-wired for the UConnect Bluetooth system, which kept coming up as ‘Unavailable’.

For a vehicle intended to get dirty, keep the splashes away from the audio head unit; it’s straight corporate, with no neoprene scheme, and an open MP3 jack ready to say ‘Ah’. The HVAC controls tell a similar story; they don’t even try to fool you with a rubberized grip, though they are easy to actuate, with good tactile feel. The optional Freedom Top hardtop includes rear electric defrost, and the rear window wiper/washer. Transfer case control is found to the left of the manual shifter on this six-speed equipped Rubicon, in the traditional lever style. Exterior mirror control, as well as locks and windows, is completely manual. The mirrors stay manual, even with the optional Power Convenience Group bump of $950, which adds front Auto-Down, power locks, security system, and keyless entry.

Convenience: It’s important to remember what we’re in here. It’s not a car; it’s a lifestyle. In keeping with that mantra, there isn’t an overabundance of cubbies or creature comforts. There are thin door pockets for the front doors. The glove-box is more like a bin, with depth instead of width. The centre console box is lockable, with no hidden 12-volt powerpoints. The DC juice can be had with two inlets below the HVAC controls. The front cupholder system has a death-grip cup bladder, for the off-road enjoyment of your double-double. The bladder is removable for cleaning, or to accommodate larger cup sizes. Rear seats get a low-mount dual cupholder.

The 60/40 rear seat folds almost completely flat, with a unique spring-loaded headrest collapse feature, so you don’t have to fiddle. HVAC outlets on the dash can be sealed off for splash protection, though it is anything but waterproof. The carpets can be removed completely for cleaning/drying out, with floor plugs to drain out the water/slurry. The Freedom Top can be removed partially, without tools, allowing the sunroof effect for the front and rear passengers. The rear top portion has six bolt points, and a disconnect plug for the wiper and defrost system. A soft-top can also be used, making it a cinch for hooligans to swipe your Ray-Ban’s with a box-cutter. The rear speakers are housed in the overhead roll bar-mounted pod, showering you with music. Some form of front-mount overhead courtesy lighting is sorely needed.

2008 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon
2008 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon. Click image to enlarge

Seats: Just say “yes” to YES Essentials. This Mopar wunderfabrik repels most stains, and keeps out the funk associated with said stains. The driver’s seat possesses a height adjustment lever. Seats have good support throughout, though don’t whack your noggin’ on the headrests. They’re made of ultra-dense foam rubber, a must for off-road shenanigans. They hurt if you’re whacking your head against them, in the interest of good investigative journalism. There’s no available heat treat for the seats, which probably would respond badly to the splashes.

Fit and finish: Tolerances in the IP area are good, with no gap issues. Plastic diamond-plate appliques on the door panels need to die a slow and painful death.

Safety features: The front airbag system can receive additional cushiony softness against injuries, with the optional front seat-mounted side airbags. It’s a $400 touch. The 2008 model has not yet undergone crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The roll bar is padded throughout.


Spare/Trunk/Cargo

2008 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon
2008 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon. Click image to enlarge

There’s nothing quite like having your spare tire at eye level. Three lugs attach the wheel to the tailgate bracket. Of particular note is the absence of a locking lug nut package, most likely a dealership parts item. A stowage panel in the cargo floor hides the jacking tools. There’s a bit of a storage cubbie in the same void. Roadside assistance is offered for five years or 100,000 kilometres. With the tailgate open, the glass door flips up with ease. It should; it has no catch system, other than the tailgate to hold it in place, when it’s closed. Is it needed? Probably not. Does it feel cheap? Pretty much.


Engine

I miss the days of the inline six in YJ’s and TJ’s. Apparently, so does the Wrangler, with a considerable gap between the radiator and the front of the 3.8 litre V6 mill. The set-back position is great for front engine component access.

2008 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon
2008 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon. Click image to enlarge

Fluid points are clearly marked in yellow, with script. The oil fill point could use an elongated neck.

Clarkey Rating: I’ve been wrangling with the Wrangler rating. It’s hard to dismiss the utilitarian qualities, while at the same time wondering how hard it would be to bring some new age comfort into the Trail Rated realm. Those who want those creature comforts have plenty to choose from on Dealership Row. Those who really want a vehicle designed for messy adventure need look no further: four stars.

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