The 2008 Jeep Wrangler 4X4 Rubicon is a 2-door, 4-passenger sport-utility vehicle. Although the Wrangler is in its third generation, this is part of a much larger evolution that dates back over sixty years to the first civilian Jeeps built after World War II. The Rubicon version was first introduced in 2003 in conjunction with promotion for the movie “Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life.” In 2007, Jeep debuted the latest Wrangler. This version is incorporates a slightly larger redesigned body, and introduced a four-door Unlimited model to join the traditional two-door. The Rubicon is the most rugged of the four available trims, and with the starting price around $28,000, it is also the most expensive.
The looks of the Rubicon are undeniably Jeep, and it has not really changed much from its previous generation. The front has the same square hood, which has latches to hold down the hood. Jeep’s signature vertical grille, and round headlights accent the hood. What makes the Jeep really stand out is its large basic bumper, which is accented with two integrated fog lights. It resembles a large rail. On this generation, Jeep moved the turn signals from the front fenders to the front grille, giving it an even more vintage look.
The car carries the same silhouette that has evolved little from its military days. It is overall square in shape, giving it a tall stance. Part of its height is due to its large 17 inch machined cast aluminum alloy wheels, with off-road tires. You have the option of choosing anywhere between 16 to 18 inch wheels. Our test vehicle has the Dual Package, which offers a hard top, in addition to a soft top, which conveniently opens in 3 separate pieces: 2 small T-top like pieces in the front and one large piece for the back. So that it is easier for one person to remove. All of the Wrangler models come standard with a soft top, in either black or dark khaki. The doors are also removable, giving you a completely open and free experience while you’re driving.
A detail that is hard to miss on the side of the Rubicon is its large black fenders. The fenders are one of the few details that have been changed from the previous generation. They are now larger, and one color. The previous generation had the fenders the same color as the rest of the vehicle, with black extensions. This made the fenders look smaller than they actually were. By making the fenders simpler, they are now cheaper to produce. This not only improves the look, but it should also make the fenders cheaper and easier to replace after a tough day on the trail.
Towards the rear of the Rubicon looks like it’s ready to go off-roading. The largest thing on this rear is of course the spare tire that is center mounted. Just below the spare tire is a basic rear bumper. The taillights keep retain the traditionally small and square look, pretty much like everything else on this SUV. Overall, the Rubicon has not changed much from its previous model, but like we always say, why change an already good thing?
On the interior the Rubicon is rugged. This is where most improvement has been made from the second generation. The first generation of the Wrangler had a horizontal dash. Since then, Jeep has focused everything in a vertical stack. So its no surprise that the 2008’s dash is very basic and absolutely vertical - no curves are in here. The center console is completely redesigned compared to its previous generation. It comes out a bit further than the dash. On the top of the center console, is the audio and optional navigation system. Our test vehicle has the multimedia package so it has a large touch screen navigation system, instead. The price for this package is about $1,000.
Below the Audio system is two large circular air vents; compared to the square vents on the previous model they add a more modern style. In between, is the buttons to control the windows. The windows are both one-touch down, but not up. The 2008 model is the first model to actually have these buttons located in this area. The air temperature can be controlled with the three knobs, located below the air vents.
The steering wheel was kept to the basics without any control buttons. The previous generation had a thicker steering wheel, and it had the buttons to control the audio system, and cruise control but this new steering wheel looks a lot better, again praising the vintage style. Behind the steering wheel is a 4 dial instrument cluster. With two digital read outs in the two center dials. The dials are surrounded by a grey plastic. This is nicer and more upgraded instrument cluster, than the previous square and dial-less instrument cluster of the first generation.
The seats are cloth and square. As part of the outdoor lifestyle Jeep is promoting the seat material is designed to be durable and stain resistant. They do not have much contour, but they still are comfortable. Even on our expensive Rubicon the seats are not leather wrapped, but you probably wouldn’t have wanted it any way if you choose to leave your vehicle exposed to the sun for long hours.
A cool and useful thing about this interior is the drains on the floor of the interior. This Wrangler keeps with the long-standing tradition of the open-top Jeep that after a long day of off-roading, you can still just wash out the inside with a hose.
Overall, the interior of the Rubicon is traditional to the Jeep design and style. This means it has a lot of touches and details you do not typically see on most vehicles today. This is an interior that was built for practicality and sturdiness, so it feels really far from the luxury segment but that is what Jeeps are all about: back to the basics.
The 2008 Rubicon is powered by a powerful 3.8 liter V6 engine, producing 202 horsepower. It is matted to a 6-speed manual, or 4-speed automatic transmission. For everyday driving, this little off-roader could use better fuel economy. It is rated at 19 miles per gallon highway, and 15 miles per gallon city.
When driving the Rubicon, you really do feel like you are driving in a SUV. This was not built on a car platform and Jeep lets you know it. If you’re not already used to driving a Jeep, the handling can almost feel a bit scary. The high ground clearance makes it feel like it rolls on turns, but in fact, it is pretty well under control. The engine is powerful, but with its big 3.8 Liter engine and considerable weight of 4,900 lbs, the Wrangler isn’t your economical SUV. But the overall ride is comfortable and most importantly very entertaining, because of its in temporal charm. The only negative is the wind noise. The almost vertical windshield creates noise when you are on the highway, but you will certainly enjoy the loud sound system anyways. Overall, the Rubicon has really good braking, acceleration, and visibility. It is fun and comfortable to drive. The best part about this SUV is that you can drive with your top down, making it the only SUV that is convertible on the market.
In conclusion, the Rubicon is really a fun vehicle that doesn’t take life too seriously. It has the traditional features that SUVs started off with. It is true to its Jeep name, and is the perfect SUV for off-roading or driving around town. Surprisingly, the ride quality is really not that bad on highway, but the poor gas mileage and wind noise will certainly make you consider other alternatives. The 2008 Rubicon has the starting price of around $28,000. Our test vehicle totaled $31,365, after we added a Dual Top Group, Power Convenience group, and a multimedia package with GPS.
For over 60 years, whether its been called a CJ or a Wrangler, this little Jeep has defined a class of its own. This top of the line model is more expensive and has better off-road capabilities than a RAV 4 or CRV, but it’s also cheaper and less luxurious than a go-anywhere Land Rover LR2 – and none of them are currently available in a two-door convertible. It has no clear rival, which is why the Wrangler is the car that defines Jeep.