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A blue 2019 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is shown driving off-road in a valley after visiting a Jeep dealer.

20 Years Later: Celebrating the Legacy of the Rubicon Trim

The Jeep Rubicon trim has now been with us for two decades. It’s almost old enough to order a drink. Nearly every Jeep dealer across the country is celebrating 20 years of the rugged Rubicon. It’s seen thousands of the most adventurous drivers through the most rugged terrain and unlocked a new level of freedom for people who crave life off the grid.

Sometimes, it’s hard to imagine the Wrangler without the Rubicon trim. Yes, the Wrangler thrived for 17 years (it’s been out since 1986) before it got its Rubicon trim. Still, some enthusiasts feel that the Rubicon is what the Wrangler always aspired to be. The Rubicon practically symbolized the Wrangler growing into its skin (or steel, in this case). It’s the most off-roadery (we’ll call that a word) trim of this off-road vehicle and opens up more exploratory possibilities. Today, we celebrate two decades of the Rubicon with a look at how far it’s come.

A Brief History of the Rubicon

To give you a sense of the spirit of the original Rubicon, it was named for the Rubicon Trail in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This trail is considered by many to be one of the toughest off-road trails in the US, and the Rubicon was designed for drivers who wanted to tackle a trail like it.

The first Rubicon came to us in 2003 and, at the time, was the most capable Jeep vehicle ever made. It set a new standard for what drivers could expect from this rugged brand. The first one had standard front and rear locking differentials that could lock the front and rear axles together to deliver maximum torque to all wheels on slippery surfaces. This remains a staple feature of the Rubicon today. It also had massive tires for its time and a super low-range gear ratio, great for crawling and slow-speed off-roading. Serious off-roaders immediately loved the Rubicon, and a legacy was in the making. In fact, to this day, many Wrangler fans still consider the 2003 to 2007 models some of the best Rubicon years. There was a beautiful simplicity to them, but they already delivered plenty of oomph in the off-roading department.

The Rubicon has appeared in films known for fantastic vehicles, including Dukes of Hazard, Indiana Jones, and Tomb Raider. Available in two- and four-door variants, always with the open-air Wrangler feel, the Rubicon has always epitomized adventure and exploration.

The Rubicon Multiplies

People have loved the Rubicon so much that Jeep eventually made even more Rubicons, each with a slightly different personality but always rooted in serious off-road capabilities.

In 2021, we got the Rubicon 392, the quickest Wrangler ever made. It boasts incredible zero to 60 figures and power thanks to its 6.4L V8 engine. It performs beautifully at high and low speeds, with 75 percent of its peak torque available just above idle speed. So whether you’re racing through sand dunes or crawling up steep hills, the Rubicon 392 is ready for it. Plus, Jeep built it with increased cooling capabilities to keep up with spirited driving. With increased ground clearance, it can also handle some decent water fording, and thanks to improved approach and departure angles, it can tackle unexpected inclines with ease.

In 2024, we got the Rubicon X. This shares the same powertrain as the original Rubicon (a 3.6L V6), but comes with huge standard 35-inch tires, steel bumpers and a rock-trac full-time transfer case, made for the most heavy-duty situations. It’s essentially a more souped-up version of the original Rubicon.

If we had to rank the Rubicons in order from least to most capable (we say “least” lightly, as they’re all very powerful), it would be 3) Rubicon 2) Rubicon X and 1) Rubicon 392.

All in all, 2024 was an exciting year for the standard Rubicon. It got the addition of adaptive cruise control, side airbags, and blind spot monitoring, each giving drivers more confidence and peace of mind in paved and off-road situations. Some other highlights of the 2024 Rubicon include a sway bar disconnect for softer suspension in off-road environments, along with massive skid plates.

A white 2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is shown driving over a river.

The Rubicon Is Highly Customizable

Jeep has created several packages available on a limited number of trims, one of which is the Rubicon. Any of these packages will really wow the most advanced off-roaders.

The AEV Level II Package. This package ups the ante for serious off-roaders with BFGoodrich 37-inch all-terrain tires, ready to provide traction and control on a variety of unpredictable surfaces. It also gets you Bilstein shocks, which provide almost immediate damping in variable conditions for a smoother ride. Plus, the 7000 series lights are ready to provide vibrant illumination in harsh conditions and stand the test of time. Add to that the beefed-up front and rear bumpers, an improved gear ratio, and other off-road-ready goodies, and this package is ready to tackle extreme environments.

You can also add a WARN winch. Limited to the Rubicon trim is the option to add a factory-installed WARN winch, one of the most durable and waterproof winches available. When you need to leverage cable tension to pull another vehicle out of a tough spot—or be pulled out of one—you can count on this best-in-class winch.

The Rubicon Goes Electric

What we also got in the 2024 year was the Rubicon 4xe, the plug-in hybrid Rubicon. Traditionally, off-road vehicles have had huge engines, and huge engines usually mean tons of fumes. But Jeep figured something out: Jeep lovers are nature lovers. When you go out into the wild, you hope to leave it better than you found it, and polluting it isn’t part of that plan. So, the introduction of the Jeep Rubicon just made sense.

Drivers can emit zero emissions in their off-road destinations by switching into all-electric mode once they leave the highway, so they can create and inhale fewer fumes. However, with a manufacturer’s estimated mileage of 49 MPGe, the Wrangler Rubicon 4xe gets you excellent fuel economy for road trips. Then, the 21 MPGe all-electric range capability means you can spend most of your time off paved roads emitting zero tailpipe emissions.

A yellow 2019 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is shown driving off-road in the forest.

The Rubicon Was Made for Rebels, and Now There Are Rubicons for Every Personality

The Rubicon made a splash when it arrived in 2003, amplifying off-roaders’ preexisting love of a terrific 4X4 SUV. Jeep took to the drawing boards back in the early 2000s and asked, “What if we made the Wrangler even more rugged?” The Rubicon was born, and a dynasty was started. Since then, the Rubicon has been an opportunity for innovation and creativity on Jeep’s part. It seems every few years, they ask themselves what more they can add that would inspire off-roaders to explore further. The resulting improvements and additions are always fun to check out.

Now that the Rubicon has multiplied into the Rubicon X, Rubicon 392, and Rubicon 4xe, there are multiple options to explore within the Rubicon family. If you hit more than just the occasional off-road trail and are looking to pave new paths in untamed environments, the Rubicon is definitely worth a look. If it was good enough for Indiana Jones, it should be good enough for real-life off-roaders.

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