What Did We Get?
We owned a long-term 2007 Wrangler Unlimited Sahara and we owned a 2012 Wrangler Sport. The introduction of the new JL body style was the only encouragement we needed to purchase a 2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited. It promised new technology in the cabin, more refinement, lightweight aluminum doors, prewired upfitter switches in the dash, and a stronger tailgate to support the spare tire.
Our Firecracker Red Wrangler had a 3.6-liter V6, the optional eight-speed automatic and all of the Rubicon pieces: Dana M210 and 220 axles, locking differentials, anti-roll bar disconnect, and a 4.10 axle gearing and more. We added the soft- and hardtop roof option and larger 8.4-inch Uconnect display. It cost $52,699. And we learned a lot over the past two years and 50,000 miles behind the wheel.
What Did We Learn?
Our most important takeaway from two years with a Wrangler Rubicon was that it was a heck of a lot of fun. The Jeep inspired us to go take an adventure. What more can you ask of a car than to make you want to get out and drive it more?
Still, it wasn't a perfect relationship. Despite Jeep's efforts for this model year, general comfort complaints arose. Some on staff struggled accepting the inherent noise, sloppy steering and rough ride. Our choice of Rubicon trim only enhanced these qualities, of course. For these reasons the hardtop was slightly preferred over the canvas drop-top option. A certain fire road blew out three of the four shock absorbers, which were replaced under warranty, and marked our only real mechanical surprise.
The majority of us could see past the comfort concerns of those mentioned. And we need only look at the odometer for supporting evidence. Off-road or on, it didn't matter. We just kept on driving. Read on for fuel economy and maintenance info as well as our detailed experience and impressions.
"As we started heading east and up the mountains from the Pacific Coast, weather alerts let us know to expect freezing temperatures and snow at our destination in Lake Tahoe. We had chains (which are very pricey for the 33-inch-diameter tires, by the way), but we never needed them thanks to the Rubicon's standard BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2s' M+S mud and snow rating. Once in 4-Hi, driving on the mixed conditions of slush and fresh snow proved no problem for the KO2s, and all the noise and ill-handling complaints on the highway were long forgotten." — Calvin Kim
"It's funny, the Wrangler's old straight-six used to be in keeping with its rough and tumble image. But the new(ish) V6 and eight-speed auto are clearly more modern and refined than the rest of the package. The powertrain is really quite good, giving the Wrangler a wide ratio spread and no shortage of oomph. Just the thing for when you're crawling over a technical trail or on a freeway cruise." — Jason Kavanagh
"We had strong head- and crosswinds during a big portion of our trip, and it took effort to keep the Wrangler headed straight due to its antiquated steering — a necessary evil that enables the solid front axle and gives it off-road excellence. These conditions revealed a lot of slop around center. After time, I got used to steering it like a boat: Let it squirm and meander without applying too much correction. Thankfully this tendency subsided as the wind died down, although I still believe [this Wrangler] has a worse sense of straight-ahead than my own JK Wrangler. The effect all but disappeared on winding mountain roads, where the steering seemed responsive, predictable and fairly confidence-inspiring despite a lack of feel." — Dan Edmunds
"The difference in fuel economy when driving off-road isn't a big consideration unless you're on a multiday trip. It instead gets blended with street driving, which is what most Jeep off-roaders do anyway — they drive to the trailhead." — Calvin Kim
"Unlike most of our drivers, I found the Wrangler surprisingly comfortable and, for the most part, the noise wasn't an issue. The seats are so plush I really didn't mind or even notice the shaking that most non-Jeep lovers complain about. Even with the soft top, the noise wasn't a problem for me. I enjoy music while driving and the sound system was enough to drown out exterior noise, except the sound of motorcycles and large big rigs. It was a bit unsettling when they would zoom by and sound like they were in the car with me." — Laurel Carden
"At freeway speeds, the Wrangler is obnoxious. The wind noise is extreme, and extremely fatiguing on long trips. Add in the ropey and imprecise steering and it's clear that the Wrangler's creators value off-road cred over everyday pleasantness." — Jason Kavanagh
"Putting a bike in the back of the Wrangler with the top down is a bit complicated. You have to put the seats down (easy), relift the top a bit, slide the bike through the gap, then put the top back down. If I were transporting a bike more often, I'd probably get a tow-hitch mount to carry it around, but there's definitely enough space in the back of the Wrangler for a number of two-wheeled man-powered transports." — Travis Langness
"Another point for new buyers to be aware of: Hardtop Wranglers have a two-part rear cargo door; the glass part flips up like a traditional hatch, while the lower part swings out from the passenger side with the spare tire. But when you convert to the soft top, you lose the upper glass part. In its place, you get a flexible panel that slides in and out and is affixed with a lug on top and friction fit tabs on the sides and at the edges. For cargo loading, you have to essentially disassemble the rear upper panel to get taller gear in the back. Thankfully for our trip, all the luggage fit by sliding it underneath the panel." — Calvin Kim
"I spent some time driving our Rubicon around with the hardtop before we switched to the soft top, and the difference isn't massive. The hardtop isn't as quiet as you'd think, and the newly redesigned JL soft top isn't as noisy as any JK owner might expect. Is the JL soft top louder than the JL hardtop? Sure, a little. But it's miles quieter than my own JK's soft top.
"We spent a lot of time in crosswinds at 80 mph, and in those conditions the JL Wrangler was quieter than my JK Wrangler at 60 mph in still air. The main difference, I think, is the greater number of lateral support bows in the roof. The new JL's soft top has five of them. It's a much more rigid structure up top, and this benefit also helps to stabilize the upper edges of the removable rear windows." — Dan Edmunds
"The Wrangler used to be about as refined as a plywood workbench, but not anymore. Our test Jeep's interior is impressive — OK, yes, for a Wrangler. Still, it's nice! Some examples: The steering wheel telescopes, the doors have soft-touch padding, the dashboard sports a red-painted accent piece and red stitching, and rear passengers have air vents and USB ports. Even the gear shifter feels solid and fluid as you move it through the gates." — Brent Romans
Audio and Technology
"Even in the dark, the Wrangler's backup camera/display screen is excellent with its high resolution, impressive amount of detail and wide angle on the lens. This feature is such a big addition for the Wrangler, and I'm happy our long-termer's got it." — Travis Langness
"For some reason, we thought it was a good idea to head to our campsite outside of Joshua Tree National Park on a Friday at midnight. Way out there in the desert there's no cellphone signal. Our camping companions who had picked this site had only given us coordinates for the camp, knowing we wouldn't be able to rely on Waze for guidance. We tried downloading the map of the coordinates and directions beforehand. But off-road, in the middle of nowhere, we made one wrong turn and instantly those directions were useless.
"We were lost in this desert wasteland with no way to contact our friends or look up an online map. I admit I felt a bit panicky. I watch a lot of horror movies and this is how they usually start. But thankfully, the Wrangler's navigation lets you enter coordinates for your destination, because of course it does. Even off-road it gave us turn-by-turn instructions to find our camp." — Caroline Pardilla
"Before the trip, I changed the Wrangler's oil in my driveway. The oil life monitor had dropped to 0%, so I bought a 5-gallon jug of 0W-20 synthetic oil and an actual Mopar oil filter from a local AutoZone. The job took 30 minutes, certainly less time than I would've spent waiting at a dealer. And now I know absolutely that it's got the right kind of oil specified in the owner's manual. I'm never quite sure if oil change technicians always do that, especially since 0W-20 synthetic oils are not universally specified, and repair shops generally get their oil from bulk overhead reel dispensers.
"Besides, this ridiculously easy job might've only taken me 20 minutes if I hadn't stopped to take so many pictures of the process. The Jeep stands tall enough that no jack or jack stands are required, and nothing is easier to change than the Pentastar V6's top-mount cartridge oil filter." — Dan Edmunds
"The Wrangler's convertible top is ridiculously easy to use. No instructions, no YouTube research, and I was able to get the whole thing down in about two minutes. Putting it back together is pretty easy, too. I don't like the look of the soft top, but the improved functionality is excellent." — Travis Langness
"I can't tell you how easy [installing these Mopar LED lights were]. It was barely a 30-minute job. The mechanical installation was straightforward, and the electrical aspect consisted of just a single simple splice. Wiring is never supposed to be this easy, and there is no need to buy and install any aftermarket switches or relays. You absolutely need this option." — Dan Edmunds
Maintenance & Repairs
The Wrangler called for routine service at roughly 10,000-mile intervals. Thanks to the Jeep Wave Program that came with our car, the first four oil changes and tire rotations were free. So we spent a total of $134 on these maintenance basics. Our interactions with a handful of dealerships were uneventful, which we'll consider a compliment.
It cost us a few extra dollars to keep the Rubicon roadworthy. At 42,000 miles, we bought four new tires for $1,214. Two weeks later that innocent chip in the windshield, fueled by subfreezing exterior temperatures, grew into a 2-foot crack. Insurance doesn't cover replacement glass under our policy, so that was another $698 out of pocket. Two tire patches ($40) and the soft-top installation tool kit we lost brought our maintenance total to $2,086.
We had two recalls on the Jeep during our test. Recall 18V332000 addressed a failure with the cruise control system. Recall 18V524000 was a reflash to remedy a fault voltage regulator.
One other unexpected item also arose. Three of our four shocks started leaking following an off-road excursion. FCA paid for their replacement under warranty. Curiously, the fourth shock didn't leak. So it was not replaced. The issue only happened that once.
Fuel Economy and Resale Value
Observed Fuel Economy:
The EPA estimated 20 mpg combined (18 city/23 highway) for the Wrangler. We anticipated a little less, considering the gearing of our Rubicon and our traffic-dense locale. After almost 50,000 miles we averaged 17.5 mpg. Our best tank was 24.6 mpg. Our longest recorded range between fills was an impressive 448 miles.
Resale and Depreciation:
Two years ago we purchased our Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited for $52,699. Today the Edmunds car appraisal tool values it at $34,178 based on a private-party sale. That reflects depreciation of 35%. Our last two Wranglers averaged 25% depreciation — however, neither had this many miles on them.
The Rubicon is arguably the most capable 4x4 available. The Jeep Wave program paid the tab for our first four routine service appointments.
This is a purpose-built SUV, especially in Rubicon form. The cabin is noisy. The steering is floaty. The ride is wandering. There were a few warranty fixes required during our test.
There is something about the Wrangler. You almost forgive its on-road deficiencies when you experience its off-road capability. It just makes you want to take an adventure. And then another. You can't ask for more than that.
|Total Body Repair Costs:||$1,370 (paid by at-fault party)|
|Total Routine Maintenance Costs:||$134 (over 25 months)|
|Additional Maintenance Costs:||$1,952 for new windshield, new tires, tire patches|
|Warranty Repairs:||Cruise control recall, voltage regulator recall, three shock absorbers|
|Scheduled Dealer Visits:||5|
|Unscheduled Dealer Visits:||3 for each recall and the shock absorbers|
|Days Out of Service:||None|
|Breakdowns Stranding Driver:||None|
|Best Fuel Economy:||24.6 mpg|
|Worst Fuel Economy:||11.8 mpg|
|Average Fuel Economy:||17.5 mpg|
|Best Range:||448.7 miles|
|True Market Value at Service End:||$34,178 (private-party sale)|
|Depreciation:||$18,521 (35% of paid price or original MSRP)|
|Final Odometer Reading:||47,811 miles|
Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.