2016 Jeep Rubicon Hard Rock made to tackle Utah terrain

by Craig and Deanne Conover :: posted in Reviews on February 1st, 2016
Jeeps forever seem to bring out the inner child in whomever is currently driving, especially one with as much off road mojo as the Rubicon Hard Rock! We of course are no exception to that unwritten rule; being in a Jeep is just plain cool in a back woods kind of way. Just driving a vehicle that we know can take us almost anywhere in the world, just brings about a feeling that is hard to describe until one has the chance to take one for a ride.

With roots going back to World War II and a look that quite frankly hasn’t really changed much since that time, what is it about a Jeep that keeps everyone coming back for more? Is it the fact that the top easily comes off, or the doors can be taken off and discarded for the summer, or that the front windshield still folds forward?                  

Jeep is one of the most versatile vehicles on the market today and with a recipe for success they continue to lead the way with what the ultimate SUV should look like, and more important is how it should act and perform. The Rubicon that landed in our driveway was one of the best to be had right off a dealers lot, with abilities that go way beyond what most of us consider a normal SUV.

Yes, it will do well in the Utah snow or any of the elements that Mother Nature has in store, but it also looks cool and can be configured in so many different ways. It’s like having a new car every day. The only problem we have encountered is that each time we get a week with a rugged Jeep it has been in the dead of winter, hence we know it excels in the snow and mud, but with all the back country closed- that is close to our home in the dead of winter, we haven’t had the chance to get some real climbing in.

Craig did spend half of the day Saturday with his sister Marci and her husband Todd running around some of the back roads west of Springville and Spanish Fork, managing to find enough mud to last a few weeks on the Jeep and having a great time doing it.
The Rubicon handled really well in the mud and snow, never even thinking about getting truly stuck, there were some folks out there that gave strange looks on the way home with a Jeep caked with mud, but it was all part of the experience. The Jeep is easy to switch from two wheel to four wheel drive, but requires a stop and shifting to neutral to get into low range four wheel drive. The Hard Rock edition comes with some pretty impressive equipment to help get it and its occupants to those really hard places that Mother Nature has provided for all to enjoy. Things like a Rock-Trac transfer case, a low gear ratio of 4:1, and an electronic front sway bar disconnect that gives wheel articulation a new name. Couple that with solid front and rear axles, and a true five speed automatic transmission, we now, more than ever had the right recipe for getting anywhere we could imagine, or at least that was open and within close vicinity. The great feature is that opportunities that didn’t exist before having a Jeep, were now possibilities with very little planning.

Driving the very short wheel base of the two door version the Rubicon presented to us a very athletic feel, especially while we were navigating rocks and mud and uneven ground on our drive. However, this also made for getting around in everyday driving very easy, parking was never a problem, in fact we at times found ourselves over steering for the conditions, as we are more accustomed to longer vehicles, not the quick response that comes with a Jeep.

There really isn’t anything like a Jeep when it comes to going off road, no matter if it’s just heading out for a few hours on a Saturday, or getting involved in some real hard core, drop the pressure in the tires and most important, make sure a tool box is onboard, rock crawling. The Hard Rock couldn’t have cared less what the adventure would entail, and at the end of the day it will have performed exactly as we would have expected from a Jeep!

It never ceases to amaze us, the designers at Jeep continue to keep the vehicle as close to its roots as possible, yet continue to upgrade it to keep buyers coming back for more. Jeep has continued to mature and come of age, enticing us more this time around during the dead of winter, where all of the great interior details that would make the Hard Rock not be only a rock crawler, but a great addition as the everyday family driver.

Stepping up to the Hardrock edition will cost an additional $4,800, but in our opinion if the Jeep is to be used for more than just a weekend adventure vehicle, it would be necessary.  The addition brought along heated front seats which we found to be fantastic as morning temperatures dipped to near zero, and being a Jeep, it is not as airtight as most vehicles, so they really helped to keep us warm.

Of course there were a few other features included such as power heated mirrors, one touch down windows, black steel bumpers with red tow hooks, 17 inch premium black wheels, power door locks and a nice black fuel filler door. There was also a remote keyless entry, although the key was still needed to start the Jeep, no push buttons on this old school edition. Bluetooth phone connectivity was included and easy for us to quickly set up and use, along with a nice message display in the center of the gauge cluster made for easy access to other vehicle functions.

There were a few other additions on the Hard Rock, one was a hard top that replaced the soft top that comes with the standard Jeep package and has to be a necessity with the cold Utah winter days, it was easy to take off and did give the interior a warmer feel in the cool mornings we had during the week. It was also nice to have with the snow we received, if the snowfall had been substantial, a soft top could be damaged from the weight.

One option was navigation and hard disk audio system with Sirius radio, something that would come in very handy when out on the open road, and with the included elevation number would let all know exactly how high the climb really was. Satellite radio would be the perfect compliment to regular radio, especially when traveling beyond civilization that might certainly become a habit in a vehicle like the Jeep Hard Rock.

The Jeep is now powered by a V6 3.6 liter motor that produces 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, more than enough to get the Jeep anywhere and also enough to get to 60 in just 7.7 seconds. The only downside is that average fuel economy is just 18 miles per gallon, which was just where we came in during the week at 18.4 mpg, but who would buy a Jeep for the mileage… its really all about the adventure. Our Jeep had also been upgraded to include a 5- speed automatic transmission from the standard 4-speed manual. We had to admit it was easier to maneuver and use that our previous experience with manual transmission.

Having a new Jeep is similar to joining a new religion- as a whole new world opens up to the owners. See them today at any of the greater Salt Lake City Jeep dealers

Base Price $32,695

Price as Driven $43,325

Craig and Deanne Conover have been test-driving vehicles for over six years and have had the opportunity to drive many makes and models. They receive a new car each week for a weeklong test drive. Craig has worked in the newspaper industry for over 22 years and been with The Daily Herald for 12 years. Deanne has been a veterinarian’s assistant at Mountain West Animal Hospital for 10 years. They both love having the unique opportunity of trying out new cars. They reside in Springville, Utah. Check out other reviews at heraldextra.com/sundaydrive.    
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