Serious Off-Roaders Don’t Waste Money on the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is the most capable trim of the legendary 4×4 SUV. Yet certain serious off-roaders, intent on modifying their Jeeps, don’t bother with the Rubicon trim. This is because there’s no reason to splurge on a Jeep with factory off-road-ready running gear if you plan on replacing most of it with aftermarket parts anyway.

The 2022 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

Red Jeep Wrangler Rubicon fording a mud pit in an off-road trail.
Jeep Wrangler Rubicon | Jeff James via Unsplash

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Jeep engineered its Wrangler Rubicon with one purpose in mind: a factory-built 4×4 capable of navigating California’s punishing Rubicon Trail. The result is a cool and capable flagship trim. The 2022 Wrangler Rubicon comes with 33-inch tires and electronic locking differentials in both its Dana 44 axles.

But the Rubicon is as expensive as it is capable. The two-door 2022 Rubicon has an MSRP of $41,795. The four-door Rubicon Unlimited fetches more than $45k. Obviously optioning it with 35-inch tires or a 4.88 rear axle gear ratio will drive its price even higher.

At the moment, the new Wrangler Rubicon 392 is making headlines. This Rubicon Unlimited with an automatic transmission comes with Dodge’s 6.4-liter (392 cubic inch) HEMI V8 installed from the factory. This 470 horsepower engine is the same you’ll find in the Grand Wagoneer, heavy-duty Ram trucks, and the Charger and Challenger “Scat Pack” muscle cars.

The premium powerplant adds big numbers to the Wrangler Rubicon’s horsepower, and its price. The Wrangler Rubicon 392 starts at $74,995. That’s $10k more than a brand-new Challenger Hellcat.

Some serious off-roaders don’t bother with the Wrangler Rubicon

Gray Jeep Wrangler Rubicon navigating a boulder in a 4x4 off-roading trail.
Jeep Wrangler Rubicon | Cody Lannon via Unsplash

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There is one group of people with no interest in splurging on factory-fitted electronic locking differentials. Those are the folks who already plan on upgrading their Jeep’s axles. In addition, many off-roaders swapping larger axles will install an air compressor and air lockers, rather than light-duty electronic lockers.

Why would you need larger axles than Dana 44s? If you want more rubber than the 35-inch tires available on the Wrangler, most aftermarket Jeep builders would suggest you upgrade the axles too. Also, if you plan on doing a lot of punishing off-road crawling up or down steep grades in a low gear for maximum torque, you stand a chance of breaking a stock axle shaft. An axle upgrade gives some off-roaders peace of mind.

If you plan on installing a lift kit and replacing the axles of your new Wrangler with heavy-duty units, you are probably looking for the cheapest Wrangler you can find because you’ll upgrade it yourself. But some lifted Jeep Wrangler builders insist on one surprising feature: power door locks.

The gnarly Jeep Wrangler “Kraken” rides on 54-inch tires

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Camp Crocker is the owner of COP4x4 in Phoenix Arizona. He prides himself on building some of the most extreme Jeeps around: his personal vehicle is a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited on 54-inch tires, capable of stable driving at highway speeds.

Because Crocker replaces his Jeeps’ axles and engine, he doesn’t worry about high, 100,000+ mile donors. He told ThrottleExtreme that he looks for well-used, low-dollar Wrangler Unlimited SUVs with one luxury: the power window and door lock package.

You can buy a bare-bones Jeep Wrangler Unlimted with crank-up windows and manual door locks. But Crocker knows that once he’s lifted the Jeep 14 inches to install 54-inch tires, he won’t want to scramble back aboard because he forgot to lock all four doors or put up all four windows.

Crocker is a fan of the “crawler” low-speed gears in a Wrangler Rubicon. But instead of buying a Rubicon donor Jeep, he buys a cheaper Jeep, then finds a Rubicon in a junkyard and buys its transfer case for his project.

Are you curious about Crocker’s builds? See his Jeep Wrangler “Kraken” crush a Toyota Camry in the video below:

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