2019 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon performs well in city and the sticks

The 2019 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon features rugged technology.

The 2019 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon features rugged technology.

FCA US Media/ Contributed photo

During World War II, American soldiers and Marines drove Jeeps because they were reliable and capable of traversing all kinds of terrain, whether steep, rocky, muddy or pocked with shell craters. The Wrangler line upholds that tradition, though with concessions to modern sensibilities.

While we didn’t drive our 2019 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon test car up one of Connecticut’s old logging roads, a frequent terrain of choice for off-roaders, there was little doubt it could handle any woodland trail we’d dare place under this $51,645 Jeep’s massive off-road tires. Rugged yet technologically advanced, it’s clearly the right rig for the deep woods, yet livable in civilized precincts.

Powered by a 3.6-liter, 285-horsepower V-6 engine, the Wrangler Rubicon is equipped with Tru-Lok front and rear axles, which enable the driver to lock the differentials by flipping a switch on the dashboard; 4.10 axle gear ratio; wide front and rear axles; front disconnecting stabilizer bar; performance suspension; rock rails; skid plates protecting the fuel tank, transfer case and transmission; and heavy-duty brakes. Even the most tame Jeep, the $29,540 Wrangler Sport, is a strong performer in rough terrain. With its advanced suspension, gearing and underbody features, the Rubicon brings off-road capability to the next level.

Yet our off-road warrior was civilized on pavement. Optional features, which added $12,000 to the sticker price, included leather-trimmed bucket seats; heated front seats and steering wheel; remote start; 8.4-inch display; premium audio with satellite radio; navigation system; blind-spot monitor; rear cross-traffic alert; adaptive cruise control; 8-speed automatic transmission; and three-piece removable hardtop. Even without options, the Rubicon has satellite radio, remote keyless entry, air conditioning, power windows and locks, leather-wrapped adjustable steering wheel, push-button starter and backup camera.

Jeeps aren’t cheap, especially when compared with conventional SUVs and crossovers. The price includes the Jeep’s off-road capabilities, as well as the brand, style and image. But Jeeps also hold their value. J.D. Power rates the Rubicon’s resale value “Great,” with 88 of 100 points.

2019 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4X4

Price: $51,645

Engine: 3.6-liter V-6, 285 horsepower, 260 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: 8-speed shiftable automatic

Drive: 4X4

Suspension: leading link front, trailing arm rear

Ground clearance: 9.7 in.

Curb weight: 4,160 lb.

Wheels: 17x7.5-in.

Tires: LT285/70R17C BSW off-road

Seating capacity: 4

Luggage capacity: 31.7 cu. ft.

Maximum cargo capacity: 72.4 cu. ft.

Towing capacity: 2,000 lb.

Fuel capacity: 17.5 gal.

Fuel economy: 18 mpg city, 23 highway

Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline

Wranglers have been selling exceptionally well in recent years, reaching a record 240,032 units sold last year. The Wrangler was Jeep’s top-selling model in 2018, just ahead of the Cherokee, a crossover wagon.

Our Jeep rode fairly comfortably and accelerated briskly. Fuel economy was disappointing; we did no better than 19.5 mpg in mostly highway driving, well short of the Jeep’s 23-mpg rating. Road and wind noise were noticeable but not oppressive.

Road feel via the heavy-duty suspension and off-road tires was minimal, and the Wrangler had a tendency to wander a bit on straightaways. The Ram Rebel pickup truck we tested recently also had off-road tires, yet it seemed more self-assured than the Rubicon on the highway.

There really aren’t any competing models. Only Range Rover and Mercedes-Benz build true off-road models, and the least expensive of them costs at least double the price of a comparable Wrangler.

Steven Macoy (semacoy@gmail.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel.