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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.


Coil spring spacer


minor swaybar rubbing

TeraFlex 2.5" Budget Boost Lift Kit

Shock extender

Packing Gear

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.  The 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

Our 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).

The 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.
  

Rain Driving

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 too.

The Leak

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 Mileage

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 modifications and 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.

 

The Interior

A lot of cool styling went into the design of the JK.  The center dash console gave easy access to the climate and sound system controls. 

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

  Price range   Trim lines
4-door SUV 2WD   $20,230 - $24,605   Unlimited X, Unlimited Sahara
2-door SUV 4WD   $18,485 - $26,595   X, Sahara, Rubicon
4-door SUV 4WD   $22,230 - $28,840   Unlimited X, Unlimited Sahara, Unlimited Rubicon

 Specifications

Drive wheels  
Rear or part-time 4WD  
Seating  
2 front, 3 rear  
Engines available  
3.8-liter V6  (205 hp)  
Transmissions available  
6-speed manual
4-speed automatic
 
Fuel  
Fuel type Regular
EPA city/highway, mpg 16/19
Fuel refill capacity, gal 21.5
Dimensions and weight  
Length, in. 173
Width, in. 74
Wheelbase, in. 116
Curb weight, lb. 4,550
Percent weight, front/rear 50/50
Typical towing ability, lb. 3,500

 

What 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 top
      
  • Power and Torque – New 3.8-liter V-6 engine with 205 horsepower and 240 lb.-ft. of torque
      
  • Safety – Electronic Stability Program (ESP), electronic roll mitigation, dual-stage air bags, seat-mounted side air bags and Occupant Classification System (OCS)
      
  • Convenience – Available power windows and door locks, full-screen navigation system, 368-watt Alpine® stereo with MP3 capability, SIRIUS Satellite Radio

 

 

 
 
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Vehicle
Type
1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s
5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
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1976-1986
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1987-1996
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Mid SUV       VJ
Jeepster
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Pickup                                     Gladiator Honcho
SJ
Comanche
MJ
                                 
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Truck                       Forward Control
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