JK-Forum Review: Taking the 2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Off-road

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2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

Whoever says the JL Wrangler isn’t rugged enough for off-roading clearly needs to drive the latest Rubicon.

We’re on the scene at the Droptops & Dirt event in sunny Malibu, California, and we see a gorgeous, bright red 2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon pull up right beside us. One quick look at it and you can clearly see a fine layer of dirt on the paint. Someone actually off-roaded a stock JL and it came back alive. I’m standing in awe right now.

On a more serious note, we’ve actually been hearing a lot about the new Rubicon’s rock climbing and dirt slinging prowess, so naturally, we need to put this to the test.

A little context: this annual spring event is hosted by Motor Press Guild at Calamigos Ranch, and it is a full day of test driving the latest and greatest from Jeep, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Dodge, Fiat, Chevy, and more. Attendees either roam the canyon roads in the convertibles, or they the claim the SUVs for the ranch’s trails located out back. Fellow JK-Forum Editor Nolan Browning and I waste no time wrangling the new Wrangler.

2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

Tale of Two Rubies

There are actually two Rubicons here, and one of them had its doors removed. Surprisingly, the FCA representative told us that the stripped down version is for road use only while the “fully dressed” one is for the trails. It seems counter-intuitive but they probably want to keep the vehicles as clean as possible on the inside. As you can see above, this Rubi has “Heritage Tan” leather colored seats, so they more than likely don’t want to take any chances.

Slightly disappointing, but it’s no big deal. We really want to test the new 2018 JL Wrangler’s off-roading performance, so we’re hopping in the other one.

2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

Art of Subtlety

Exterior changes for the 2018 Wrangler Rubicon are small, but far from minor. One quick look at the fascia and you immediately notice the “Jeep” logo is missing. The iconic seven-slot grille remains but the fenders are narrower and the turn signal lights are affixed to the front instead of on the side.

The 2018’s bumpers are smaller and ride higher. The hood latches are different, bump stops are larger and the hood vents, as well as the hood itself, are slightly redesigned. The best part of it all is that it now sports LED headlights with daytime running halo rings.

2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

Looking on the side, we can see a side vent but as far we can tell, it is non-functional since it doesn’t have any airflow. Jeep says that these vents inhibit hood flutter, which was an annoying problem for JK Wranglers in the past.

The Jeep logo looks so much better on the side instead of being emblazoned on the front and looking tacky. No offense to anyone who enjoys that type of thing, but it personally always looks garish and unnecessary to me.

2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

As for the rear, it has LED headlights just like the anterior lights. If you look closely, you can see the backup camera jutting from the center post of the spare tire. As odd as it looks, we can’t knock Jeep for this—there is literally nowhere else to put it.

2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

Modernized Interior

When it comes to the cabin, the design changes are much more drastic. The 2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon has a lovely Multiview Driver Information Digital Cluster Display where you can customize your all of your personal settings and graphical displays. This particular Jeep has a lovely blaze red dashboard, and handsome red stitching on the leather-wrapped steering wheel and seats.

The seven-inch UCONNECT system you see in the middle handles all of your media and navigation, and gives you a rich, immersive experience. It has pinch-to-zoom functionality like a smartphone, and displays real-time transfer case status and off-road statistics. Best of all, it supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

The gear shifters are also highly-stylized compared to last year’s model. The picture above is from the open-air Rubicon and as you can see, the shift knob is radically different. It’s looks ruggedized, but has a semi-artistic feel to it with the red accent. It looks and feels really nice in the hand.

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Derin Richardson is a seasoned editor who's worked in print and digital media for more than a decade. He's an avid fan of American muscle, and loves his "Electric Blue" 1966 Pontiac LeMans.

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