Photos By Robert Dysiewicz
The Die is Cast
“Advance!” With a piercing blast of a trumpet, Julius Caesar and his army crossed to the other side of the little stream called the Rubicon River. The consequence was evident, they would engage the Roman Republic in a bloody civil war. As they crossed Caesar cried out, “Let us go where the omens of the Gods and the crimes of our enemies summon us! THE DIE IS NOW CAST!”
The crossing of a small stream in the year 49 BC in Northern Italy became one of ancient history’s most pivotal events. From it sprang the Roman Empire and the genesis of modern European culture. By crossing the Rubicon, Caesar went against an ancient Roman law in which he would reveal his intentions and marked the point of no return.
I’m always fascinated with the origin of a simple word. Think about it. How could one word have so much meaning and history? Because of one moment in time and one person’s decision immortalized a river. That single moment in time changes the meaning of a word forever.
Ru·bi·con \ ˈrü-bi-ˌkän \
A limit that when passed or exceeded permits of no return and typically results in irrevocable commitment.
Here in North America, some people know the Rubicon name as a class 10 off-road trail located in the California High Sierra. Rated 10 as being the “most difficult” on a scale of 1 to 10, the “Granddaddy” of all off-road trails. To challenge these trails usually result in “irrevocable commitment.” To those who still don’t know the Rubicon name, they will soon know it.
The whole planet recognizes the Jeep name as a legendary off-road vehicle that will “go-anywhere and do-anything.” So, if the Jeep engineers are going to build the ultimate off-road rig for production, it makes perfect sense to give the model a legendary name. Enter the TJ Rubicon. Kudos to whomever it was that came up with the idea of calling this model the Rubicon. I’m sure that they were thinking of the Rubicon Trail in California that is ever so populated by Jeep owners from around the country.
Legendary Jeep Look
The Jeep is one of those ageless vehicles that could never change its appearance. It has been around so long when people hear the name Jeep everyone sees the same vehicle in their mind. Even if there was a change in the Jeep’s look, the designers wouldn’t stray far from the original. Kind of like other legendary vehicles such as the Mini Cooper, and the VW Bug.
The designers have added some features to the exterior to give the Jeep Rubicon some distinction from the other Jeep models. The most obvious of the design cues is the “RUBICON” graphic that is prominently placed on each side of the hood and the 31-inch tall tires. Goodyear Wrangler MT/R –Maximum Traction / Reinforced 31-inch tall tires feature a beefy alligator-like tread pattern that wraps around the sidewall and advanced silica compound for excellent durability and puncture resistance. The tall tires and 16-inch rim combination help give the Rubicon and extra half-inch of ground clearance giving an impressive 10.2 inches running.
You won’t find any running boards offered as an option on the Jeep Rubicon, instead, heavy gauge diamond plate sill guards are bolted on the bodyside to protect rocker panels from damage in off-road situations. This is necessary for rock climbing.
There are 10 exterior colours available; our tester was coated in the “Light Khaki Metallic.” One of my favorite features of the Jeep is the traditional round headlight nested on either side of the legendary 7-slotted front grill.
The interior complements the carefree lifestyle of the off-road enthusiast. Our tester did not come with carpet, but there is the option of getting it. The great thing about the carpet is that it can be removed if you get carried away in the mud. Just take the carpet out, remove the floor-drain plugs and hose the floor down.
The front seats are a water-resistant premium cloth, which feature improved rearward travel and a taller seat back for better comfort. The travel of the front seats has been improved, however it is still a struggle to get into the back. But once in the back, there seems to be more room than the previous models.
This is not a family vehicle because there is very little cargo space. There is Chrysler’s trademarked spring-loaded “Fold-and-Tumble” rear seat that can be folded and moved out of the way revealing 41.5 cubic feet for your stuff. But you’ll have to leave the kids at home. If you insist on any Jeep for a family vehicle, you could always install one of those safari cargo racks on the roof. Uh… for your luggage, not the kids.
The rest of the improved interior comes with features such as:
- The new four-spoke, leather-wrapped steering wheel with integrated buttons for the cruise control.
- A full center console with lock for security on the days when you leave the hardtop at home. Cup holders are within reach just behind the shift lever.
- A nice tray atop of the stacked dash mounted center console for your cell phone, wallet, or change.
- Just in front of the shift lever is the large and simple to use climate control dials.
- AM/FM CD player with seven speakers. This is an improvement and had a really good sound from the strategically placed speakers.
Underpinnings make this Jeep Worthy!
Chrysler has succeeded in making the Jeep Rubicon the most economically capable off-road rig that you could buy right off the showroom floor. Perhaps while all other manufacturers have been hard at work making their 4×4’s more road worthy and that’s ok. There really is nothing out there to compete with the Rubicon, except for maybe the Hummer, and that should serve as a testament to what the Rubicon is capable of.
What makes this Jeep worthy of the Rubicon name? Well, things that only hardcore off-road enthusiast could appreciate. Upgrades like the trademarked “Tru-Lok” locking differentials that can be driver-actuated when the transfer case is in low range with vehicle speed below 15 km/hr. A dash-mounted rocker switch allows you to lock the rear axle and toggle the front axle locker on and off for improver maneuvering. When engaged, this feature mechanically locks the axle shafts together to drive all four wheels at the same speed. When locked, the rear axle has a torque-sensing limited-slip feature to provide better traction and handling on-road.
The axles are from Dana Corporation, a global leader in the design, engineering, and manufacture of value-added products and systems for off-road vehicles among other industries. The Rubicon has been fitted with Dana 44 axles with 4.10:1 ratio gears front and rear providing the durability and strength needed for extreme off-roading. These are axels found in military vehicles, construction vehicles, and farm vehicles to name a few. What does this mean for the Rubicon? It means that it has an overkill for a driveline on the road, but virtually indestructible for off-roading. Almost a necessity for class 10 rated off-road trails. Chrysler has packaged up in the Rubicon a Jeep that has all the aftermarket hardware “right out of the box.”
Just when you thought, ‘wow’… there’s more. The transfer-case was engineered specifically for the Rubicon to meet the demanding durability requirements of an intense off-road vehicle. The “Rock-Trac” transfer-case with 4:1 low range slows the vehicle speed to give you more control and increases the amount of torque available and the wheels. This combined with the heavy-duty driveshafts, universal joints, and four-wheel disk breaks makes the Rubicon’s driveline the toughest on the market.
With all of these upgrades I would like to have a little more power squeezed out of the 4.0 litre Power Tech Inline 6 cylinder. The Jeeps inline cast-iron block and heads have traditionally been bullet proof, but I didn’t feel like the engine could ever push the driveline to its limit. At 190 horsepower and 235-pound-foot of torque, just didn’t seem like a good match to everything else that makes the Rubicon what it is. With a limited production vehicle, you would think that they would put a special engine with the over all package.
I love the Jeep culture and could envision owning a Jeep. I can stand the drone of the tires or stopping at a gas station more frequently (14mpg City/ 18mpg Hwy) to fill up. I also think it’s great that the Rubicon could hold a candle to the Hummer in an off-road shoot-out for about half the price. Price as-tested at a little over $34K with all of the ultimate aftermarket off-road add-ons and covered by factory warranty, this Jeep is worth the ching, IF you’re a hardcore off-road enthusiast… Even then it’s still probably an overkill. If you’re not an off-road enthusiast, consider spending your money on the Sport or the Sahara. The Rubicon is best at home on the Rubicon… or where the omens of the Gods and the crimes of our enemies summon us! THE DIE IS NOW CAST! Rubicon… the point of no return!