When Jeep offered to loan a 2015 Wrangler Rubicon to me, I thought it prudent to keep my prior ownership experience of a Wrangler to myself. The Wrangler is a true throwback machine and the one I briefly owned in the 90’s was little different, in heart and soul (if not bodywork), from the one I was given to harangue through the wilds of Wyoming and Western Nebraska for a few days. In truth, the only real difference between the two was that the 2015 Jeep Wrangler had a much better stereo.
The Jeep Wrangler of today would be instantly recognizable by any GI who drove a Willys in World War II. The same basic shape, grille, and removable everything is there. The doors still come off, the top is still optional, and the windshield is still kind of a bonus instead of an essential. It’s still horrible to drive on the highway at speed and still gets terrible gas mileage as well. It’s a bit bigger now, of course, and has a more powerful engine and better transmission, but the solid axles and ability to go anywhere you need to get so you can pull out your stuck friends or get to that fishing hole nobody else knows about are still what this Wrangler is all about.
When I owned one in the ’90s, I spent my life savings on my Jeep, found some half-decent tires for it, and then promptly went to Moab, Utah and rolled it over a rock and down a hill, totaling the rig. I sold it to the wrecker for the price of the Jeep’s extraction and thumbed a ride home. Now you know why I didn’t think it a good idea to talk to Jeep about my prior ownership experience before they gave me a Wrangler Rubicon Hard Rock to test drive. This time around, I fared far better.
Since it’s winter here in the tundra and plains, there are a lot of places to go for those of us who enjoy burrowing tires into dirt and snow. I chose a nearby steer pasture just over the border in Nebraska. A friend has about 1,200 acres there where he turns his bulls loose during the winter. It’s hilly country and has a lot of variance to its terrain, most of which is now blanketed in soft snow that varies from a couple of inches to a couple of feet in depth. A perfect proving ground for a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon.
Being an experienced outdoorsman and offroad driver, I brought a friend along. It’s always a good idea to have someone else to run the shovel should you get stuck. Plus, Chuck is a good measure of how well I’m doing as he emits varying levels of noise depending on the fear factor involved. I managed to elicit a couple of short scream-chirps, telling me that I was doing well that day. My only real concern was that we were in a steer pasture driving around in a bright red Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, but it turns out red doesn’t get up the ire of Angus. That’s apparently just a Mediterranean thing. Good thing since I can explain away the offroad mud and gore, but huge head-shaped dents are a bit difficult to write off when returning a press loan.
It’s important for Jeep-heads to know what kind of equipment we were working with. This was a 2015 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Hard Rock with a three-piece hard top. Wranglers come with the Torx wrench to remove the top, should you wish, and ours also had the soft top. The one Jeep enthusiasts will tell you requires a B.S. in Engineering with a minor in Art Therapy to install. Once you master its installation, of course, thieves will be along shortly to kindly remove it for you. Jeep owners are laughing out loud right now. For the rest of you.. ya, it’s a Jeep Thing.
Now, back in the day, if I remember correctly, my Jeep Wrangler had something like a two-speaker stereo with a tape deck and an old fishing rod or something for the antenna. Today, the Wrangler comes standard with an eight-speaker stereo system and some of the upper trims, such as our Rubicon Hard Rock, have a nine-speaker Alpine system. If your priorities include buying a Jeep Wrangler, then you realize how important a priority a good stereo in your vehicle is as well. Air conditioner? Optional. A top for the Wrangler? Totally optional. Doors? Meh. Friggin hellacious stereo? Hell ya, better be standard equipment, braha. Nicely done, Chrysler. Nail. Head. Hit.
Now, let’s get back to that cow pasture in Nebraska. We traversed the edge of a corn field, narrowly avoided plowing into a manure pile, and opened the gate (which means “we removed a section of fence”) and entered my friend’s steer pasture. After restoring the fence to “this will work for now” condition, we began alternately fording rivers of snow and climbing hills of snow-covered manure. For those who are getting grossed out, you should note that in freezing temperatures, manure has no smell. Don’t be a wuss.
We span (spun? spinned?) some brodies on a hilltop, stopped to take a few pictures, then found the far edge of the pasture where deep, deep snow was drifted. Mayhem ensued. Our trouble here wasn’t that the Jeep Wrangler wasn’t capable of getting through the snow. It was that the best way to accomplish that was to put the vehicle in danger of spending a goodly amount of time smashing up against a gate that would cost about $1,500 to replace after we’d mangled it with our bumper. We considered our combined incomes and responsibilities, added in the chance that we might scratch the Jeep’s paint, and took the prudent way out. We backed up and went around it by removing the fence next to the gate instead. Barbed wire costs a few cents a foot. I handed Chuck a dollar. Problem solved.
The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon had a wonderful knack for finding rocks, usually by hitting them suddenly and lurching upward as it went over, and it made no difference to the Wrangler if we were plowing snow, sand, manure, or all three at once. With more capability than even I knew what to do with, the Wrangler Rubicon sauntered along in 4-high without a flinch. The only time I shifted into 4-low was to find out how to do it, not because I needed to use it. The Wrangler can do things in two-wheel drive that many trucks in four-high will consider daredevilish. It’s amazingly astute.
After harassing the snow-covered plains, more than a few hills, and at least one tree stump, we headed back for home. We stopped to taunt the bulls, who stared at us with the indifference that only a bovine can muster, and to replace our “gate” on the way out. On the highway, we laughed at the sheer amount of mud and steer leavings that were being rooster tailed off the back of our Jeep as we drove home. Yep, Jeep Thing.