Jeep Wrangler JK Rubicon
An In-Depth Review of the JK,
On-road and Offroad
This past spring we had a unique
opportunity. Our friend Mike from the Jeep site
Jeepfan.com recently took delivery of a 2007 Jeep JK Wrangler
Rubicon. He promptly lifted it and put a set of Toyo Open Country
M/T tires on it and began taking it offroad. Our yearly spring
migration up into the PA mountains would be our opportunity to take an
in-depth look at this new breed of Jeep both on road and offroad, inside
as well as outside. We would have a several hundred mile drive to
get to our 4 wheeling destination. Once there we'll have miles of mountain trails
to explore putting the new JK Wrangler through some real world offroad
conditions and get a good look at it's performance over previous Jeep
models, both from a drivers perspective as well as from a passengers
perspective. The following pages are our impressions, good and
bad, of the new JK
from an offroaders point of view.
Most new car reviewers will base their
opinions on comparisons to other new cars. Since the JK Wrangler's
introduction onto the market, we've read plenty of reviews many of which
were considerably negative in the areas of performance and on-road
handling. Frankly we don't think these reviews are comparing
apples to apples. Sure there will be a good segment of the JK
buyers out there who want the car-like ride and are not interested in
ever showing the Jeep dirt and rocks. For those individuals this
review is not going to be very helpful. For the rest of us who
enjoy the offroad experience and think mud and a few scratched, dents
and dings are something to be proud of, well, you'll probably understand
where we are coming from. As offroad enthusiasts, we recognize the
JK as a compromise between on-road and offroad with a lean towards
offroad. With any compromise, there is a trade off however we were
kind of puzzled and sometimes disappointed in some reviews we read
knowing that the reviewer had missed the point of the JK. Well, we
hope to make that point and point out some of the pros and cons of what
we think, from an offroaders perspective.
First Impression of the JK Rubicon
Alright, well, it might not have been my "first"
impression but it was my first opportunity to spend any time with a JK
other than a quick ride to the Wawa down the street. Basically up to this point I had not had the
opportunity to examine the Jeep JK in any detail. My "First impression"
of Mike's JK began early on a
rainy, damp spring morning after a good one hour drive to Mike's
place. We loaded up our weekend gear into the JK Rubicon Unlimited.
Minimal stuff really when you compare it to what we pack in our CJ's on
these weekend wheeling trips. This time I was going to ride
shotgun as a passenger all weekend with Mike in his new JK Rubicon.
So from my perspective, aside form having a lot of fun, I wanted to look
at a passengers experience in the Jeep JK Wrangler while Mike would be
detailing his perspective as a driver and owner of the JK..
Looking at Mike's JK the first thing that struck me was the
stance. Mike had done minimal upgrades to the JK with
impressive results. He recently
installed a minimal lift, the
TeraFlex 2.5" Budget Boost Lift Kit which made way for 295/70R17
Toyo Open Country M/T Tires. 295/70R17 converts to a 33.3X11.6X17 tire, which
actually measured close to the Toyo 's claimed size at slightly more than 33 1/4". The Toyo Open Country M/T Tires
replaced the stock 32" BF Goodrich Mud Terrain tires, which by
comparison were crap though they did sell quickly though so we guess
some people like them. Well, the combination of the easily
installed and inexpensive 2.5" Teraflex lift and the Toyo 33" equivalent
Mud Terrain tires made the JK look impressive and very offroad capable.
The combination of the lift and the Toyo tires did produce a little
rubbing on the swaybar but only at full turn and nothing dramatic.
Below are a few pictures of the lift.
We packed our gear into the Jeep with
ease thanks to plenty of cargo space. We
chose to leave the rear seats in (or up in this case) and pack and
secure gear on the back seats, on the rear floor in front of the rear
seats and in the back.
four-door body style and extended length gives the Wrangler a very usable
rear seat which can be folded flat for carrying extra cargo or longer
items. Room behind the rear seats was a lot more than I had expected.
A few things that Jeep can improve upon would be a way to latch the rear
door open while on an incline. Also with the factory softop the
rear soft window can not be easily opened meaning you have to access the
gear through the rear door or over the rear 60/40 seats. In our
situation it wasn't a big deal but these things would be nice.
There a few things for the aftermarket to jump on.
Highway Ride - A Drivers Perspective
destination was well over 200 miles from home, this would give an
excellent feel of what the JK was like to ride in for several hours. We
left around 7:30 am on a rainy springtime morning. It was damp and a
bit chilly, with an adjustment of the JK's heat and some defrosters we
hit the highway. The cruise control was set at 65 mph and the Sirius
satellite radio was pumping out some classic rock. Even with the
lift and larger tires the JK rides very
comfortably (at this point the Jeep still suffers from it's steering
pull - haven't had time to have it looked at).
Toyo Open Country M/T tires are quiet
compared to most mud terrain type tires, comparable in noise to an all
terrain. One thing to keep in mind regarding the ride, this vehicle is
still a Jeep and by design can only ride so good to an extent. With
solid front and rear axles the Jeep still has ride characteristics of
it's predecessors but if more refined and smooth thanks to a long
wheelbase and softer coil spring rates.
We drove for about an hour
in a steady rain without incident. As far as handling, the Jeep drove
very confidently in the rain, the defrosters and the wipers work well
The only complaint is a leak
that Jeep has yet to address properly. The leak occurs when the
Jeep is sitting still in the rain. When you're driving, it doesn't
leak. So it seems to be a standing water channeling problem.
A visit to a "leak specialist" at the Jeep dealer but their
acknowledgement of the problem was not enough and the leak continues and
rain still drips in on the driver side door handle. The problem
seems to be coming from a seal above the windshield. The "leak
specialist" suggested that it was due to the retractable top actually
being used. Not sure what they expect that explanation to mean.
But Mike has been looking at the seal and he thinks he has an
understanding of what the problem is. It seems it could be
solved with a little silicone sealant under the seal. We'll return
to that leak at a later time. Meanwhile Jeep has to get a grip on
fixing this before they get a bad rap. We're not sure on the
numbers of how many Jeeps JKs have experienced this leak but we know
this particular JK is not the only one.
Driver, Passenger Comfort
The driver and passenger
space is cozy but roomy, we drove for about 1.5 hours without stopping
and we both were still feeling fine. The seats are very comfortable and
adjustable. With the cruise on there wasn't much more to do than steer
and have endless conversation about Jeeps. The controls for the lights,
hvac, windows, etc. are pretty convenient with exception of the off-road
controls for the sway bar and lockers. The buttons are positioned at
the bottom of the center console, not really a bad location but does
take some getting used to.
Performance and Fuel
The Jeep has been averaging
17-19 mpg. The majority of this Jeep's driving is highway, even with
the addition of the taller Toyo tires there wasn't any significant
reduction in fuel mileage. This trip the Jeep's mileage was closer to
20 due to the extended highway time. It is well known that the Jeep's
3.8L V6 is not a power house by any means but was capable of maintaining
speed even on some of the longer hills. A power chip, open air intake
system, and cat back exhaust would probably add some much needed horse
power. Visit the
reviews section to check out some
available performance systems for the JK.
Highway Ride - A Passengers Perspective
Riding as a passenger offers a different,
yet equally important perspective on comfort. Passengers within
the JK will find plenty of room. As a passenger I was very
impressed with the leg room up front, which was comparable to my full
size pickup truck's leg room. A tall passenger or driver will not be disappointed at the leg and head room within the JK.
We made a couple of stops during our long drive in between which we
drove at highway speeds for several hours listening to the Sirius
Satellite Radio and talked. As a passenger I found the seat to be
comfortable and firm. The JK's longer wheelbase at 116 inches
(4-door), coil strung suspension and gas-charged shock absorbers
(std. on the Rubicon) made the live axles handle quite
comfortable for a solid axle vehicle. A few times we
crossed over some grated blacktop in some construction and the
jolt to the suspension was absorbed quite well. Once we
reached our destination and drove back some dirt roads to get to
the cabin, it was immediately obvious that the Jeep was in it's
element as we cruised at a fast pace back these old logging
trails. I also have to note here that the whole weekend
Mike never aired down the Toyo Open Country M/T tires and for
good reason. There was no need to as the Jeep sucked up
the bumps ruts and rocks on the trails without any problem.
For years I always would air down to 12-15 PSI so the trails
back here wouldn't rattle my fillings out. Not necessary
with the JK. I really was amazed at the JK's stock
suspension. Very well balanced to handle the offroad as
well as on road. More about it's offroad ability later.
Factory Softop Noise Level
Mike had installed the factory softop
prior to this trip. The factory softop was surprisingly quiet for
a softop and during the duration of the long drive across interstate 80
at highway speeds we easily talked at a comfortable level. With
the softop we could hear more of the noise outside of the vehicle, such
as another vehicle on the road or the echo within the turnpike tunnel
but the noise level was minimal for a softop and there definitely wasn't
much, if any, wind noise or flapping from the softop.
The factory softop, called Sunrider, has a nice feature
that allows it to be easily retracted a little more than halfway.
This is great feature for the trail and around town. However driving
with the top retracted at highway speeds did create some
strange drafts within the cab of the Jeep. While this might be
great for a warm day, it wasn't best scenario for a chilly morning
drive. But none the less it is a nice feature for the softop.
Earlier Jeep models requires a lot more work to get some sun.
The Sunrider top retracts easily.
We had great weekend weather in the forecast so the retractable top will
be nice. Jeep also offers dozens of different door, top and
windshield combinations as well as a three-piece modular hardtop
and of course the Sunrider soft top.
Rear visibility in the JK Wrangler was
fair with some obstruction of the view from the head rests and the spare
tire but these are acceptable since a spare tire is essential and head
rests are necessary for safety.
A few interior features we like about the
JK is the integrated dome lights and speakers in the JK's roll cage
cross member. The hard top also attaches to this same cross
member. The speakers sounded good and with Sirus radio we had an
endless supply of good tunes.
lot of cool styling went into the design of the JK. The
center dash console gave easy access to the climate and sound
The JK has basic, easy to use
climate system controls and a design to the air vents that was
kind of neat.
Window controls are located in the center
dash console, which is a little different than what most people
expect, typically in the doors, however with the doors designed
to be removed, Jeep had to keep door mounted electronics and
connections to a minimal.
One option that we did not have to play with
would be the optional full-screen navigation system, but that
was fine. Getting lost in a Jeep can be fun!
Body styles and prices
4-door SUV 2WD
$20,230 - $24,605
Unlimited X, Unlimited Sahara
2-door SUV 4WD
$18,485 - $26,595
4-door SUV 4WD
$22,230 - $28,840
Unlimited X, Unlimited Sahara, Unlimited Rubicon
Rear or part-time
2 front, 3 rear
3.8-liter V6 (205 hp)
Curb weight, lb.
is Jeep Trail Rated ?
The Jeep Trail Rated badge on the
2007 Jeep Wrangler verifies that the vehicle has been designed
to perform in a variety of challenging off-road conditions identified by
five key consumer-oriented performance categories: traction, ground
clearance, maneuverability, articulation and water fording.
Jeep Trail Rated is an industry-leading
methodology established by the Nevada Automotive Test Center (NATC) and
Jeep Engineering to objectively measure and consistently predict
off-road performance for all Jeep vehicles. Through a combination of
natural and controlled field tests, as well as computer-simulated
environments, Jeep Trail Rated provides a repeatable and consistent
measurement of off-road performance for Jeep vehicles. Only Jeep
vehicles are Trail Rated.
Jeep Wrangler JK Highlights
- Off-road Capability –
Increased ground clearance, larger wheels and tires,
enhanced Dana front and rear solid axles, available
next-generation Command-Trac® and Rock-Trac™ transfer cases,
new electric axle lockers, and electronic-disconnecting
front sway bar
- On-road Refinement – All-new
100 percent stiffer frame in bending, 2-inch longer
wheelbase, 3.5-inch wider track, lower spring rates,
advanced shock tuning, increased jounce and rebound travel
- Interior Space and Comfort –
4.6 inches more hip and 5.1 inches more shoulder room
combined with additional 2 inches in couple, 1 inch in
rear-seat leg room and 2 inches behind rear seat
- Open-air Options – Dozens of
different door, top and windshield combinations; new
three-piece modular hardtop and innovative Sunrider™ soft
- Power and Torque – New
3.8-liter V-6 engine with 205 horsepower and 240 lb.-ft. of
- Safety – Electronic Stability
Program (ESP), electronic roll mitigation, dual-stage air
bags, seat-mounted side air bags and Occupant Classification
- Convenience – Available power
windows and door locks, full-screen navigation system,
368-watt Alpine® stereo with MP3 capability, SIRIUS