- The Washington Times - Friday, September 19, 2008

Want to have serious off-road fun? Imagine you and four others hopping into a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon and escaping to wherever you want.

The Wrangler is taut with the body having mostly flat surfaces. It’s the seven-slot grille that provides the Jeep recognition. The Rubicon has a three-piece top and all four doors are removable, plus the windshield folds down, giving this Jeep a true outdoor “open air” adventure design. The 2008 Jeep stands high and sits on humongous 32-inch BF Goodrich tires, and surprisingly, this 4x4 is very easy to steer and maneuver.

The interior provides plenty of room for five occupants with ample storage room behind the rear seat. There’s plenty of legroom for all, and the 60/40-rear seat easily folds flat. Under the floor there is some storage space allowing personal items to be kept out of sight.

The Wrangler Rubicon is deceiving. A first impression is that this is a rough-and-tough Jeep, but when the doors are shut and the air-conditioning is running, the interior has many comforts of a fine sedan.

For example, this SUV has one-touch down power windows for both the driver and front passenger. The windshield has a fold-down sunscreen and the windshield wipers have two speeds with intermittent mode. The 2008 Jeep has remote keyless entry, power door locks, reclining front seats, plus halogen headlamps. In other words, upscale comforts throughout. With a base price of $29,535 and with a load of options the bottom line on my 4x4 tester came to $34,905.

The test vehicle also had an optional navigational system, plus Sirius Satellite radio. I tuned to a commercial-free station and enjoyed the great sound system. But I did find a few occasions when I lost the Sirius reception. This happened typically when I was deep into heavily wooded areas that prevented the satellite signal from reaching the Jeep.

A 3.8-liter V-6 engine that produces 205 horsepower and is linked to a four-speed automatic transmission powers this Jeep. The EPA mileage rating is only 15 city and 19 highway, so I didn’t go too far from a filling station, even though this Jeep could climb the country’s toughest roads.

I’m told the Jeep Unlimited Rubicon is equipped with an Off-Road RockTrac NV241 two-speed transfer case with a 4.0:1 low-range gear ratio, as well as electric front-and rear-axel-lockers. I did do a little off-roading, but my small trails didn’t do justice to the Rubicon’s capabilities. I waded through a stream, and climbed up the creek’s embankment with ease. I simply shifted into four-wheel drive and proceeded to effortlessly wherever I wanted to go.

When using the Rubicon on streets and highways, I was concerned about its safety features. It seemed to have all the bells and whistles in this department, too.

For example, it has been given five-star ratings in NHTSA crash testing. The 2008 Jeep Wrangler comes with advanced multi-stage airbags, anti-lock brakes and Brake Assist. It has child protection rear door locks, constant force retractors, crumple zones, a stability control program, and an energy-absorbing steering column.

In other words, the 2008 Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon is a well thought out SUV in off-road capability, passenger comfort and safety.

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