Browse over 9,000 car reviews

    Jeep Wrangler 2021 review: Rubicon Recon off-road test

    The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is one of the best adventure-ready stock-standard 4WDs in Australia.

    In recent months, much to the delight of Jeep fans here, the brand’s short wheelbase two-door in Rubicon guise, dubbed the Recon, has been made available in Australia, but in limited numbers only (40*) and, by all accounts, they have all already been snapped up. (*60 four-door versions were also available.)

    The Recon treatment doesn’t add any mechanical changes, but it introduces a raft of style changes that should add to the Rubicon’s appeal for those already keen on a variation of the top-spec Wrangler.

    So, what’s a two-door Rubicon, with a street-cred makeover, like for daily life and a hard-core off-road run, or four? Read on.

    Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

    Price as tested on our two-door, four-seater, short-wheelbase Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Recon is $66,950 (excluding on-road costs) – that’s $7500 more than a standard two-door Overland (no JL series SWB Rubicons have been offered here). As mentioned, there were only 40 of the two-door variants made available and, at time of writing, only one of them was left – so, just a bit popular to say the least. The four-door versions are $71,450 (excluding on-road costs) a pop – that’s $6000 more than a standard Rubicon.

    Price as tested on our two-door, four-seater, short-wheelbase Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Recon is $66,950 (excluding on-road costs). Price as tested on our two-door, four-seater, short-wheelbase Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Recon is $66,950 (excluding on-road costs).

    All Recons are only available with the 3.6-litre petrol V6 and automatic transmission.

    Before we launch into the Recon-specific additions, standard Rubicon features include 8.4-inch touch-screen multimedia system with sat nav and off-road mapping, AM/FM/DAB+ radio, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, a nine-speaker sound system, LED lights, 230V inverter, and 17-inch alloys.

    Off-road-suited equipment includes 32-inch BF Goodrich Mud Terrain tyres, 77:1 low-range crawl ratio, Dana heavy-duty live axles front and rear, front and rear locking differentials, a front swaybar disconnect system, steel skid plates and rock sliders.

    Off-road-suited equipment includes 32-inch BF Goodrich Mud Terrain tyres. Off-road-suited equipment includes 32-inch BF Goodrich Mud Terrain tyres.

    The Rubicon has a three-star ANCAP safety rating but driver-assist tech includes AEB, blind-spot monitoring, forward collision warning, active cruise control, tyre-pressure-monitoring system, hill-start assist, hill descent control and more.

    On top of all that, the Recon spec exterior additions include, from front to back, gloss-black grille, Recon badges, steel front bumper with a Jeep Performance front bumper hoop (nudge bar), 17-inch wheels, and the Jeep Performance tailgate reinforcement system (so your rear door can carry a larger tyre).

    The Recon’s flashy interior changes include leather seat trim, heated front seats and steering wheel, a ‘premium wrapped’ instrument panel with red stitching, and red seat belts.

    Standard Rubicon features include 8.4-inch touch-screen multimedia system with sat nav and off-road mapping. Standard Rubicon features include 8.4-inch touch-screen multimedia system with sat nav and off-road mapping.

    Interior leather trim can be black leather (as in our tester, pictured) or dark saddle.

    Recon options include the $3000 Premium Package (with three-piece hard-top roof and body-coloured fender flares), as well as six choices of premium paint – Firecracker Red, Ocean Blue, Granite Crystal, Sting Gray, Sarge Green, and Hella Yella – all $745 each. Black or Bright White exterior paint is free.

    Is there anything interesting about its design?

    The Rubicon is a good looking unit as is, and in two-door form with Recon styling it looks even more striking. 

    Few new standard 4WDs tend to grab the attention of everyone, but the Wrangler Rubicon is definitely one of the few.

    The Rubicon is a good looking unit. The Rubicon is a good looking unit.

    If you’re a Jeep fan, chances are you already love the look of this.

     

    What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

    The Recon is only available with the 3.6-litre naturally aspirated petrol V6 – producing 209kW at 6400rpm and 347Nm at 4100rpm – and is matched to an eight-speed torque-converter auto.

    It has a part-time 4WD system and you use a stubby stick-shift, to the left of the auto shifter, to select 2H (two-wheel-drive), 4H Auto (4WD high range auto, which works as an all-wheel drive so automatically engages if the front wheels are slipping), 4H part-time (4WD high range), and 4L (4WD low range).

    The Recon is only available with the 3.6-litre naturally aspirated petrol V6 engine. The Recon is only available with the 3.6-litre naturally aspirated petrol V6 engine.

    How practical is the space inside?

    Jeep makes a big song and dance about their vehicle designers being outdoors people and – you know what? – they should, because whoever’s sorting out the Rubicon’s interior is right on the money. 

    The interior is comfortable and durable. The interior is comfortable and durable.

    It’s a snug space inside, that is at once comfortable and durable. Everything that should feel solid does (like grab handles), and all operational mechanisms (dials, knobs and switches) are easy to quickly locate with your eyes and, more importantly, swiftly operate while traversing all types of terrain.

    Upfront there are USB ports, directional air vents, and cup holders in the centre console.

Upfront there are USB ports, directional air vents, and cup holders in the centre console.

    Clever ideas, such as tensioned net pockets on the doors and in the seat-backs, and deep small-storage spaces with textured, grippy bases, abound.

    Upfront there are, of course, USB ports, a 230V power outlet, directional air vents, and cup holders in the centre console.

    Rear cargo space is rather shallow. Rear cargo space is rather shallow.

    With all seats in use, rear cargo space is rather shallow and really limited to only copping a few bags.

    What's it like as a daily driver?

    It’s actually pretty good; a lot better than many people would expect. Many of its past on-road ride and handling sins have been, well, not sorted out, but at least considerably toned down. 

    The Wrangler line-up has been renowned for plenty of play in the steering, lots of on-road floatiness and body roll, and the two-door Rubicon Recon – tipping the scales at 1917kg kerb weight and measuring 4334mm long (with a 2459mm wheelbase), 1894mm wide and 1839mm high – is not a behemoth so during normal driving it can be a skippy, unpredictable unit. 

    At times, it feels like you’re driving a go-kart, but that means it’s a lot of fun.

    If you’re steering it, this short-wheelbase Recon commands, nay demands, your constant attention. But I really enjoy that and it shares that characteristic with a few select vehicles that are fun to drive, like the Suzuki Jimny and Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series

    At times, it feels like you’re driving a go-kart, but that means it’s a lot of fun. At times, it feels like you’re driving a go-kart, but that means it’s a lot of fun.

    However, as fun as it is, this kind of fully engaged driving experience – requiring laser-focus concentration to keep a vehicle on target, on track and safe – can become tiring.

    Beyond that though, the Recon, with a turning circle of 10.5m, is a nicely manoeuvrable vehicle around town (for smooth parking and swift turnarounds) in the suburbs and even along tight bush tracks.

    The petrol engine is capable of delivering a solid punch of acceleration when required, but it does become noisy when a lot is asked of it. Otherwise it is nicely matched to the eight-speed auto.

    The suspension – including coil springs at every corner – soaks up many bumps in the road, making for rather decent levels of driver and passenger comfort.

    It should come as no surprise that there is a bit of noise from this little beast with a boxy body, big wing mirrors and chunky mud-terrain tyres, but it’s nothing terrible, especially if you’ve driven a Rubicon before.

    But, as always, a Rubicon only really comes into its own when it’s taken off the bitumen and into hard-core off-road territory.

    What's it like for touring?

    I’ve driven Rubicons on pretty much every kind of terrain – sand, steep rain-soaked rocky hills, deep mud holes, swollen water crossings – and they’ve never disappointed.

    This time was no different.

    We did plenty of driving on coastal sand and we saw clear evidence of its running clearance. We did plenty of driving on coastal sand and we saw clear evidence of its running clearance.

    The two-door Recon has a listed 260mm of ground clearance and 760mm wading depth – while we didn’t experience any decent water crossings on this occasion, we did do plenty of driving on coastal sand, just inland from a beach, and there were some deep rutted sections, so we did see clear evidence of its running clearance.

    It has decent approach, departure and ramp-over angles of 34.8, 29.2, 26.2 degrees respectively, and this small 4WD climbs up and over even sharply-angled rocky outcrops without ever being in danger of scraping the front, end, belly or back end. It’s very agile over tough terrain, especially when compared to a bigger unit like its stretched stablemate, the Gladiator Rubicon ute, which is no slouch in the off-road-ability department either, but is more prone to underbody touch-downs.

    The petrol engine has plenty of low-end torque and while it may not be as smooth an operator as the line-up’s diesel, it still easily finds the sweet spot when you switch to 4L, drop the revs and squeeze the most out of the low, low-range gearing.

    It rides on 17-inch alloys. It rides on 17-inch alloys.

    Steering retains a nice weight and feel to it, staying precise as needed.

    If that’s not enough, the Rubicon has front and rear diff locks, and the front sway-bar disconnect system, which helps to get more even more articulation out of the Rubicon Recon, and get your tyres to the ground for traction.

    What’s also nice about the Rubicon is the fact that, via the off-road pages on the multimedia screen, you can monitor your 4x4 system, as well as vehicle steering angle, pitch and roll, and swaybar disconnect status.

    Towing capacity is 750kg (unbraked) and 1497kg (braked). 

    You can monitor your 4x4 system, as well as vehicle steering angle, pitch and roll, and swaybar disconnect status. You can monitor your 4x4 system, as well as vehicle steering angle, pitch and roll, and swaybar disconnect status.

    How much fuel does it consume?

    Fuel consumption is a claimed 9.6L/100km (combined).

    The trip computer was showing an average of 13L/100km after more than 300km of driving, and our actual fuel consumption on this test, from pump to pump, was pretty close to that: 13.6L/100km, and that included plenty of low-range 4WDing.

    The short-wheelbase Recon has a 66-litre fuel tank.

     

    What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

    The Rubicon has a three-star ANCAP safety rating.

    It has four airbags and driver-assist tech includes AEB, blind-spot monitoring, active cruise control, and front and rear park sensors, tyre-pressure-monitoring system, hill-start assist, hill descent control and more.

    What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

    Pricing & SpecsInsurance Quote

    If you’re after pure real-world 4WD capability – and absolute truckloads of fun, then you can’t ignore the Rubicon … it’s simply one of the best showroom-standard off-roaders on the market.

    And, in two-door Recon spec, the appeal of this hard-core 4WD is undeniable. 

    Front and rear diff locks, mud terrain tyres, short-short low-range gearing, and that swaybar-disconnect, all combine to make the Rubicon a ready-to-go 4WD weapon.

    There are some concessions in terms of drivability, comfort and safety, but those certainly are nowhere near being deal-breakers for anyone who loves a Jeep.

    The Recon treatment is mostly surface-level, sure, but if you like your Rubicon with an extra touch of style – and you love the return of the two-door – then this vehicle might be spot-on for you.

    $66,950

    Based on new car retail price

    VIEW PRICING & SPECS

    Daily driver score

    3.5/5

    Adventure score

    4.3/5

    adventureguide rank

    • Light

      Dry weather gravel roads and formed trails with no obstacles, very shallow water crossings.

    • Medium

      Hard-packed sand, slight to medium hills with minor obstacles in all weather.

    • Heavy

      Larger obstacles, steeper climbs and deeper water crossings; plus tracks marked as '4WD only'

    Jeep Wrangler

    Browse all 203

    Jeep Wranglers

    listed for sale on Autotrader

    Autotrader A smarter way to trade auto
    Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.