2013 JK Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited

The First 5,000 miles

Twenty-three years is a long time to live with one vehicle, and that is how long I drove a 1991 YJ Wrangler Renegade. Deciding to replace a vehicle that you've driven that long is a big decision, as in twenty-three years a vehicle becomes more than just a car but part of the extended family. Like most family it has quirks that you know about but don't discuss in polite company but you love it anyway. Over the time I owned the Renegade, it only broke hard twice and both were fairly easy repairs. My Renegade was modified, parts were replaced as they wore out and it gave us lots of adventures. Yet a lot happens in twenty-three years, and getting a family off-road and camping in a two-door YJ Wrangler just doesn't happen without a trailer. Like in the movie Jaws, we needed a bigger boat and with two small children a decision to replace the Renegade with a new four-door Rubicon had to be made.

Shopping for a new Jeep was fairly painless, once we found a salesman who didn't want to talk about the navigation system (I can read a map) and stereo options (pointless with the top off). I wanted gearing, lockers and sway bar disconnect, not heated leather seats (OK, I did get heated seats but I had heated seats in the Renegade). The best part was that Chrysler still lets customers order a vehicle with a small deposit, so we went with custom ordering the new Rubicon.

Rubicon window sticker

Ordering the vehicle was supposed to take a few months, but it was built almost immediately and within a few weeks the Rubicon arrived and was ready to pick up. Everything was as specified including Dana 44 axles with 4:10 ratio and Tru-Lock, the 4:1 Rock-Trac transfer case (a big change over the 2.72:1 in the Renegade). Some of the creature comforts include the connectivity group, max tow package, 5-speed automatic transmission, heated front seats and the remote start. Picking it up was a snap, as we didn't have to negotiate for long or go through the dealer for financing.

Rubicon on day one

Almost instantly, the kids claimed this Jeep as theirs. With real seatbelts in the back seats, the only addition was two booster seats and away we went.

The only problem driving away with the new Rubicon was now there were two Jeeps at the house. This situation lasted for a while, but by the end of April 2013 the Renegade had a new home. It was sad to see the Renegade be trailered away, and I rode with the new owner to help direct him back to the main streets and send him on his way. Once the new owner was back to the major streets, I got out and took a long last look at the Renegade. Via con dios, old friend.

Rubicon and Renegade

The spring kicked off with a few trips with the Rubicon to the mountains. More than once Max and I drove to a public shooting range up I-285 and after shooting explored the trails in the area. One trip included shooting and running Slaughterhouse Gulch. I can remember that Slaughterhouse Gulch gave me some trouble in the YJ Renegade prior to modifications, but the new JK Rubicon was unstoppable only hitting a rock once and would have emerged unscathed if I hadn't taken a wrong turn on the trail. We added a few scratches, but now it's a real Jeep with some extra pin-stripping.

Rubicon in the forrest

Not every adventure in the Rubicon risked damage, and it shone brightly where the Renegade would not have been able. With the ability to carry gear (lunch, tents, etc.) and retain a comfortable back seat, it was possible to take the Rubicon, with children, on trips that would have left the Renegade at home. Runs up to Red Rocks, or down into the Rampart Range to Willow Bend picnic ground to play in the Platte River (prior to the fires in the area in 2013) were easy to enjoy with kids.

Tori at Red Rocks

Tori with the Rubicon at Red Rocks

Willow Bend picnic ground

Max & Tori at Willow Bend picnic area

Rubicon on Slaughterhouse Gulch trail

On the final leg of Slaughterhouse Gulch, between the whoopdeedoo hill and the exit

Rubicon on Slaughterhouse Gulch trail

Leaving Slaughterhouse Gulch

On more highway oriented trips, the Rubicon was much more comfortable than the Renegade. In 2013, the Rubicon made treks to the Grand Lake area and to Durango. Several more range trips were made with the Rubicon and by fall Max had improved skills shooting both zombie targets and the ultra-fun long distance (about 50 yards) balloon-popping with his little .22 rifle.

Max shooting

Fall brought a family vacation to Florida and lots of travel for work so the Rubicon got a little break, but Thanksgiving gave some time to begin modifications of the Rubicon and its first modification was a new front bumper and a Warn 9500ti winch.

Bumper installation in progress

Nine months and 5K miles in 2013 with a new Jeep; the Rubicon has a legacy from the Renegade to live up to but at this point shows no signs of running away from that challenge and grabbing more in the form of Max and Tori. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.