Million Dollar Point is a famous scuba diving destination off Vanuatu archipelago formerly known as the New Hebrides, so named due to the millions of dollars’ worth of war surplus being present in this underwater dump. It is said that after the end of World War 2, the American base named Buttons had a surplus of Jeeps and other heavy war time equipment that they wanted to dispose of.
The soldiers named Seabees decided to make this disposal a fun exercise and built a long ramp out to sea and every evening probably after a few beers used to drive these vehicles at speed and jump out at the last moment leaving the vehicle to plunge into the sea with the sound of engine blocks cracking and hissing and some Seabees weeping. It is not known whether any soldiers went down with the vehicles’ in their inebriated state but suffice to say there is a veritable treasure trove of WW2 jeeps in this seabed grave yard. I will certainly add this to my bucket list as I have and am an avid leisure time swimmer and have always wanted to indulge in a bit of scuba diving so this will certainly lend me some encouragement, as well as to all those Jeep diehards.
Speaking of Jeeps, fast forward seven decades from world war two and I have the privilege to test out the latest 6th generation of the venerable Jeep in its Wrangler Rubicon guise which is the off-road version of the current Jeep in its four door configuration. This vehicle is proudly owned by Rohan Amirthiah who is a veritable off-road buff, and a cycling aficionado.
Though a diehard petrol head I have not had a great affinity for strict off road vehicles, probably because my extreme off-road expeditions have been confined to a few occasions of Zip lining and venturing into the Australian bush late at night in an older version Jeep totally blind barring the field of vision illuminated by the battery of roof lights, in search of the affable kangaroo. Jeeps are extreme all purpose vehicles and comfort and aesthetics have been a low priority as opposed to functionality, durability and the go anywhere ability so maybe my early expectations were not met by the early iterations.
However enter the Rubicon and my perception of Jeep has taken a 180 degree leap to the other extreme of the love hate scale. The first impressions are great as I lay my eyes on not one but two vehicles available for test in White and a bright clear coat Orange called ‘Punk N Metallic’. The exterior looks handsome and macho and has retained all the characteristics of Jeep like the exposed bolts of the doors, bonnet hinges etc, to permit easy removal on the go. Lighting is primarily LED. The winch is within the bumper and the roof is the very cool 3-panel modular design that really allows you to be one with the sky above.
The bumper is equipped with two sturdy recovery hooks which are now red accented and the, sides of the bonnet are emblazoned with two smart Rubicon decals. The wheels are 17inch alloys called black pocket style and the ribs are polished and shod with beefy 255/75 x 17 BF Goodrich heavy duty off road rubber. Moving to the rear the door is a split version but the lower section does not drop down as in Rangies or Beemers, but is side hinged, as the spare wheel is mounted on it.
I love the way it looks. Another nice retro touch that will swell the hearts of Jeep aficionados’ is the black etching of a little version one Jeep climbing a hill on the right hand side bottom corner of the windscreen. The same etching is made in one pocket of each alloy wheel in Red including in the spare, how cool and bespoke is that?
Mech & Tech
On mere sight of a 2.0L engine, in case you shriveled your nostrils and raised your eyebrows, don’t, as this turbocharged unit is the same you will find in the Alfa Romeo Guilia and the Stelvio and believe it or not pumps out 270bhp at 5250rpm and develops a phenomenal 400NM of torque at 3000rpm The engine also carries the tag E-Torque and is considered a mild hybrid, in that it has a belt driven generator which acts as a starter motor during the stop/start tech, which it is equipped with and also provides a low RPM torque boost till the turbo spools up. This setup works independent of the engine and cold starts are facilitated by the conventional starter motor. The hybrid system is powered by a separate 48 volt lithium ion battery pack which also has an independent cooling system. The generator also harvests energy during braking and on the over run and helps charge the 12 volt battery as well.
So in all it is a very effective and modern solution to extract maximum power from an engine to propel such a huge vehicle weighing 5,800lb, although lighter by 200lb over the previous versions and to also aid in the consumption stakes. The suspension is heavy duty and the body is mounted on a ladder frame as befits an extreme off roader. The engine is coupled to an eight speed auto with steptronic and has 2H/4H/4L switchability.
The active sway bars can be uncoupled by a switch on the fly, so as to facilitate those weird wheel articulation angles when climbing rocks and mountains that have to be seen to believe. The interior too is a revelation as it is, I dare say almost plush with black leather and red contrast stitching with some stitch accents on the dash board as well. The 7 inch TFT screen is touch sensitive and has Apple car play/ Android auto, integrated voice command and rear camera. Do I hear you asking me, is this really a Jeep I am testing or some luxury on roader SUV? You wouldn’t be wrong to question as it’s even got keyless entry and keyless GO, with voice command and Bluetooth. Mirrors are powered and folding and the windows are electric too.
The push start button brings the Jeep to life but without too much noise and drama. On normal auto the engine immediately felt smooth and very adequate despite my initial pre-drive reservations, on the contrary during my first pedal to the metal burst I was truly surprised at the absence of any lag and how spritely the vehicle felt. A 7 second sprint to 100kmh for such a heavy vehicle with off-road tyres is incredible especially without any engine roar or groans. The engine is smooth and the changes almost imperceptible. Of course tracking on asphalt is not as precise as an on-roader but certainly adequately comfortable, not to complain. I then steered towards our favorite off-road patch to do a bit of fording but unfortunately the lack of rain had made the puddles shallow so we could not test its 30 inch fording capability but certainly gave it a good workout in the mud. Friendly owner Rohan Amirthiah of Wurth fame would not have been overly impressed with the harsh treatment meted out to his brand new acquisition, but happy to say we are still friends. One thing that really impressed me was the absolutely marvelous turning circle for such a huge vehicle, where one can easily do a U turn on a 40 ft. road with room to spare, even mom would be happy behind this wheel.
Maneuverability is great and one can throw the vehicle on loose sand and get the back sliding and yet correct it with a slight twitch of the steering. We also tested the approach and departure angles of 44 and 37 degrees by climbing some abandoned concrete steps and hillocks which really was a breeze for this Goliath. At the end of this session the immaculate virgin white Rubicon was ready for a good high pressure hosing off. My admiration for the capabilities of the Jeep increased by leaps and bounds and its go anywhere abilities with its 10.8 inch clearance and the myriad diff locks and Dana axles front and rear, leaves me yearning for more time behind the wheel of this gargantuan behemoth.
Living with the Rubicon
Despite the Rubicons luxury interior, it does have a wash out interior with easily removable carpets and drain plugs. It is a life style vehicle and your lifestyle should demand one. If you are the outdoorsman type, and wander away into the wilds for every weekend and holiday, and dare to go where others only wonder, then this is it. Nothing ever made by man is comparable to this and there is none to challenge its abilities. Of course it has its share of foibles that will emerge during ownership, one of which is the absence of a dead pedal to rest your idle left foot in this auto, which can be an irritant as the brake pedal too is quite close to the large tunnel. The split opening tailgate is another very useful function that most premium SUVs persist with but unfortunately in the Rubicon it is rendered a bit irrelevant as the top hinged glass cannot be opened without the side hinged solid bit being opened first, which kind of defeats the purpose as you need the split facility to access light loads in the boot without actually opening the full tailgate. You also need to reverse the sequence when closing the tailgate as you cannot close the glass if the bottom solid half is closed first, due to the presence of the spare wheel.
The boot is quite spacious at 890litres and you can extend same by folding the split fold rear seats. If you have a trailer to lug, need to tow your car or pull it out of a ditch fret not as it has a titanic towing capacity of 3500 lbs that will put Spartacus to shame. Head and leg room is at a premium as is the Alpine Premium sound system with the integrated sound bar speakers and sub-woofer, so you will not miss anything in terms of concert hall level music and other creature comforts. There is even a 230 volt socket to use any of your home appliances during camping etc. As the ride height has now been increased to permit greater off road ability getting in and out is tough, even at 6ft I struggled to get in without a bit of recourse to the grab handle. However shorter people are advised to use the rock rails as a side step though it only permits a very narrow stepping area. Another minor irritant is the placement of the radio control buttons at the underside of the steering spokes, where one would customarily have paddle shifters. Is it un-American to follow mainstream practices and place them at a sensible location on top or should Americans always have to be different?
The Rubicon was sent by Chysler to the US NHTSA crash tests, which are quite different to the more stringent EuroNCAP tests and hence it did not do as well in those. The lack of autonomous braking and lane departure warnings didn’t help either. In its defense Chrysler says a test regime using methods for on-road testing in urban scenarios are not very relevant to its offering as it is an extreme off-road vehicle and hence they have addressed all safety aspects as demanded by its end use and the regulations in the markets they sell.
In its defense it must be stated that the Rubicon is not designed and intended to be used by Mrs Perera for her school run and to carry her toddler on an elephant safari to Uda Walawe”, though exceptionally this might be the case. For the average Sri Lankan, the lack of autonomous braking and lane departure control may not be as relevant, and while a child seat is a tad difficult to attach it can be done. Hence why I give it a three star rating as it’s still much safer than most metal we see on our roads. Of course it has a reverse camera, front and side airbags, tyre pressure monitor and the aforementioned safety cage with roll bar protection.
Fuel Economy & Price
The fuel consumption for this model is 24 mpg on highway and 22 mpg in the city (not tested). The tank capacity is quite large at 21.5 gallons and should yield a range of 480 miles which is pretty good for a vehicle of this size and weight. All the weight reduction tactics and the stop/go technology and the Hybrid technology have made this possible. Of course be warned that manufacturer claims come with certain caveats and preconditions that cannot be conveniently met in day to day running and furthermore would depend very much on your driving style and what you put the Jeep through especially the use of the transfer ratios from high to low etc. The Hurricane engine will be very happy to guzzle our 92 octane, hence the burden on the purse will be further lightened. Despite the duty savings on the smaller capacity engine the price is substantial at 20.1 million, but there is no competitor in the market to compare it with as the new Defender is nowhere in sight till 2020, hence the Rubicon has the market sewn up all to itself. DIMO the local agents must be popping the corks of bubbly in delight. I am told that the stock numbers are already spoken for, so if your appetite is whetted, fish out your cheque book fast.
What is it that drives people to purchase a Jeep, especially since SUV prices are going down? All mainstream and luxury makers are now making SUVs and there is clearly a shift in consumer preference to move from cars to SUVs, but the one that stands out is the Jeep. It was the premier SUV long before the term existed and has been the WW2 victor, where Generals and Politicians alike have been seen in them. It is an American icon, and is as American as anything can be, including apple pie and Donald Trump and offers Freedom, passion, authenticity and adventure as nothing else and hence is it any wonder that numbers have been on the ascent since 1977 to date. 2018 has been a record year for sales under the Fiat/Chrysler umbrella. It is a lifestyle vehicle and is as individual as can be with almost 130 off-road options on offer to make your Jeep your own. So go boldly where no one dares to go
270bhp @ 5,250rpm
400Nm @ 3,000rpm
8 speed automatic
Front Dana axle
Rear Dana axle
Heavy duty suspension
Front Ventilated Disc
Wheels & Tyres
255/75R17 all round
Kerb Weight 2,000kg
Fuel Tank 80L
Boot Space 890L