The 2017 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Recon is now officially the most off-road capable Jeep you can buy off the shelf. It’s not a massive upgrade for the lineup, but there are a few significantly beefier parts and hey, is that red interior trim I see? Oh yeah, now you know it’s fancy.
The Wrangler occupies a unique space in the automotive marketplace. Hardcore off-roaders love its archaic-but-tough technology, everybody else likes the idea of it, and as a result, Fiat Chrysler can’t stop selling the things.
With the demise of the Wrangler’s current “JK” body about to be upon us, Jeep has been cranking out special editions since last year’s Easter Jeep Safari event. The Rubicon Recon is a full-fledged trim level you’ll apparently be able to pick up as advertised by the end of the month.
So here’s what makes the Rubicon Recon worth $39,145, according to Fiat Chrysler: The front axle gets tougher housing tubes and “heavy-duty end forgings,” which theoretically means you’ll be able to crash through and on top of rocks with better resiliency against damage.
The front rear differentials get cast covers, again for rock protection. But I mean, they also look sweet. Confession time: I put a shiny aluminum cover on the back of my old Land Rover’s rear differential just because I liked the bling. I’m not proud of it. I mean certainly was when I stuck it on there, with hose clamp fittings and a rubber mallet. (Don’t worry, I had a safety wire.) Anyway, people driving behind your Wrangler Rubicon Recon may get to enjoy a similarly subtle bit of bling.
The Rubicon’s rock rails, which are armor tubes running the length of the truck between the wheel wells, have been shortened to accommodate 35-inch tires. The Rubicon Recon comes riding (very aggressive) 32-inch BF Goodrich KMs.
The rest of the Rubicon Recon’s unique features are aesthetic: black exterior trim pieces, red accents all over the place inside and a unique gauge cluster.
The engine is the same 285 horsepower Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 that powers every other new Wrangler, running through a part-time 4WD system that has a 4.10 rear axle ratio, a low range with a 4:1 ratio, and a 73.1:1 crawl ratio in the manual transmission.
So, does that mean the Jeep multiplies its power by 73.1-times in first gear? No, but, kind of. As Jalopnik’s resident Jeep nerd David Tracy explains:
Your engine produces a certain amount of power, which is engine RPM times the torque its making divided by a constant. To move your Jeep, that power going to a spinning shaft is defined as “whatever speed it’s rotating times its torque divided by that constant.”
So what happens is that as power goes through the transmission, the RPM drops, but torque at the output shaft goes up proportionally. It’s still the same power, minus friction losses in the driveline.
That transmission output shaft goes into the transfer case, which steps the speed down again, but cranks up the torque. The same happens again at the rear differential. What you end up with is an output shaft from the rear diff (well, an axle shaft), which spins slowly, but makes tons of torque.
It’s hard to stop and gets the Jeep up steep hills. So while the engine’s making the same torque at a given RPM, each section of gearing (the transmission, transfer case, and rear differential) has its own output shaft that steps down its input speed but steps up its torque.
For a complete breakdown of everything you could ever want to know about crawl ratios and off-road gearing, check out Tracy’s entire artcle on the matter.
The Rubicon Recon will start at $39,145 for the two-door and $42,945 for the four-door Wrangler Unlimited. That’s just a mite more expensive than the former “King Wrangler,” the Rubicon Hard Rock, which costs $38,445 and $42,245 respectively. The regular Rubicon, which used to be the best Wrangler you could buy a couple presidents ago, is still a solidly capable 4x4 and costs $33,645.
So the Rubicon Recon gets you a little extra capability, but a lot of your $6,000 premium over the Rubicon will go to decorations. Pretty sweet looking ones, though. Will red accents ever go out of style?
I have a feeling Jeep will drop another special edition or two before the JK is 86’ed for good, but I can’t knock the trend of adding options and capability.