Should I Upgrade to a Rubicon from Different Trim Package?
Short answer… If you plan on really taking it off road and putting bigger tires on it, a Rubicon is a wise choice.
Unless you already know exactly why you are considering a Rubicon, you probably don’t need one. However, it may still be the right choice for you.
If you are new to the Jeep world, you may not know just how capable a stock Wrangler Sport is. Every Wrangler is Trail Rated, but what does that even mean? It seems like that badge is on every vehicle Jeep makes. Every new Wrangler is four wheel drive, what makes it Trail Rated. To be considered Trail Rated, a Jeep has to past tests in Water Fording, Maneuverability, Articulation and Ground Clearance.
What Makes a Rubicon, a Rubicon?
Here are the main upgrades/features of a Wrangler JL Rubicon…
- Rubicon Wide Track Dana 44 Axles Front and Rear
- 4.10 Axle Gear Ratio’s
- Electronic Lockers Front and Rear
- Rubicon Rock-Trac 4:1 Transfer Case
- Electronic Front Sway Bar Disconnect
- Rubicon Power-Dome Hood
- Rubicon High-Clearance Fender Flares
- Rubicon Wheels and 33″ Tires
If you compare a Rubicon to a Sport S, you also get a few more upgrades. These include a bigger alternator, extra tow hooks, Rubicon specific interior trim, etc., but these are not really big enough to sway your choice of trim packages. Is it worth $5,000+? It still depends on what you are going to be doing with your new Wrangler JL.
The Axles, Lockers and Transfer Case are the Reasons to Buy a Rubicon
New Generation Dana 44 Axles, M210 front M220 Rear
Since the Wrangler Rubicon made its debut in 2003, their axles have been sought after by many non-Rubicon Jeep owners looking to upgrade. The main reason, they are strong and have gotten stronger with every generation. The new JL Rubicon axles are no exception. To get technical, the FAD is one weak point, but we can discuss that in another post. People pay over $5,000 for Rubicon “Take-Off” axles. New Dana 44’s can run $10,000 a set, axles which would be considered a worthwhile upgrade can easily run over $15,000 a set.
E-Lockers, Real 4-Wheel Drive at the Flip of a Switch
Wait, aren’t all Wranglers 4 Wheel Drive? Yes, but that just means that all 4 wheels can get power, not that they always get power, or even that they get power when they “should” get it. Without going into a full explanation on how axles work, I’ll just give the the effects, not the cause. In a standard (not locked or limited slip) axle, once a wheel loses traction and starts spinning, the power is sent to that wheel. Obviously, if it is spinning and the other isn’t, it would be better to direct more power to the other (non-spinning) wheel, because it has traction. A limited-slip differentials (LSD) are one solution and they work well, but they do not provide full lock. The only way to have a fully locked axle on a street driven Wrangler is with a selectable locker. These can be electronic, air or cable driven. If you wanted to add lockers to your Jeep Wrangler, selectable lockers would run $1,000 to $1,500+ per axle.
Would it be Cheaper to Start with a Sport or Sahara?
That Depends… How far are you taking this build?
If you already know that “Tons” and an Atlas Transfer Case are in your future, a Rubicon may not be the most economical place to start. If you don’t know what those are, just forget I mentioned them, I’ll cover those in another post.
Here are a couple things to consider…
Rubicon “Take-Offs” are valuable
The internet is full of fellow Jeepers looking to buy/sell/swap parts. There are Sport owners looking for the extra clearance Rubicon Fenders provide. There are TJ/LJ Owners looking for JL Rubicon Take-Off Wheels & Tires for their rig. The Rubicon Take-Off axles alone can be sold for the $5,000 difference in price. On the other hand, there is no market for non-Rubicon Take-Off Axles or other non-Rubicon parts.