Jeep Wrangler owners are an interesting group. Even the slightest change made in the name of creature comfort is likely to set off the die-hards. Luckily, the changes Jeep bestowed upon the 2013 Wrangler Rubicon 10th Anniversary Edition are functional and aimed right at the guys who would take a brand new Wrangler off-road before the first monthly payment is due.
The Wrangler Rubicon has always been the most capable model in Jeep's portfolio, so it makes sense the 10th Anniversary Edition would be the most capable Rubicon ever built. Added off-road ability comes from an extra half inch of ride height; aggressive 265/70R17 BF Goodrich KM2 tires; honest-to-God steel front and rear bumpers with removable end caps, which increase approach and departure angles; Mopar rock rails that protect the rocker panels from damage on the trail; and a dual-intake power dome hood that offers better cooling. There's now an integrated winch mount in the front bumper, too. Jeep brought us out to the Rubicon Trail to verify the usefulness of these changes. Although the Rubicon is one of the most difficult trails in the world, Jeep has been conquering it with showroom-stock vehicles for a decade now. There's no simple way to quantify how the functional changes enhanced our trail time, but there were a lot fewer instances of steel dragging over rocks when the '13s tackled an obstacle than there were with a 2012 Rubicon.
Although most of the changes for the 10th Anniversary Edition are functional, there are a handful of design changes to help identify these special Rubicons at a glance: 17-inch black satin aluminum wheels feature a polished lip to set them off from the variety of aftermarket black wheels; red tow hooks are a bit easier to find when you're in the mud; exterior paint colors include Billet Silver, White, and Anvil, which is a 10th Anniversary Edition exclusive color. Inside, the 10th Anniversary Edition offers red leather seats, a leather wrapped steering wheel and center console, a unique gauge cluster, Mopar slush mats, some special switchgear, and a smattering of badges.
Since off-roaders spend most of their time closer to idle than wide-open-throttle, there was no need to change the Pentastar V-6. The 3.6-liter unit produces a stout 285 hp at 6400 rpm and 260 lb-ft at 4800 rpm, which was more than sufficient for the obstacles we encountered on the Rubicon Trail. More important than outright power is low gearing, and the manual transmission-equipped Rubicon comes from the factory with an impressive 73.1:1 crawl ratio thanks to its 4:1 low range and 4.10:1 axle ratio. We spent most of our time on the trail in automatic-equipped Rubicons and were pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to crawl up large rocks by locking the transmission in first gear and engaging the front and rear lockers. Purists will still want the manual, but there's no longer a functional requirement for a third pedal in the Wrangler.
On The Road
Perhaps the most amazing thing about the Rubicon is how well suited it is to pavement pounding now. It's quite easy to modify a base Wrangler with aftermarket parts to improve off-road abilities, but doing so always compromises the on-road behavior. After we completed the Rubicon Trail, we simply shifted back to two-wheel drive, flipped switches to disengage the lockers and re-engage the front anti-roll bar, and aired up the tires. Although the two-door Wrangler has come a long way since 1987, it's still a unique experience to drive a vehicle with such a short wheelbase and high center of gravity. The ride back to our hotel was surprisingly quiet with the optional hardtop, though the KM2 tires are more vocal on the highway than less-aggressive rubber would be.
For the ultimate on- and off-road machine, the four-door Wrangler Rubicon 10th Anniversary Edition is tough to beat. The added wheelbase didn't make the Rubicon Trail any more intimidating, but it makes an expressway jaunt far easier for the driver. Now that Jeep is building hardcore vehicles for its traditional Wrangler fans and also building easier to live with, but no less capable, models that expand the brand's appeal, it's easy to see why Wrangler sales regularly surpass 100,000 units per year. As long as Jeep keeps producing Rubicon models, the purists won't have a real reason to complain.
2013 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 10th Anniversary Edition
Base price: $35,000 (estimated)
Engine: DOHC 3.6-liter V-6
Power: 285 hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque: 260 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, 5-speed Automatic (optional)
L x W x H: 152.8 x 73.7 x 71.4 in
Wheelbase: 95.4 in
Track F/R: 61.9/61.9 in
Cargo volume (rear seats up/down): 12.8/55.0 cu ft
Curb Weight: 4450 lb manual, 4465 lb automatic
EPA Mileage: 17 city/21 highway mpg