The war between Jeep and Land Rover dates way back. It’s an off-road battle that pits superhuman power against pristine virtuosity. We thought we’d settle the matter for once and for all, so we organized a showdown between the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon and the Land Rover LR4. Between mud and champagne, who’s your money on?
I’ve been in the automobile industry for a decade and a half already (earning my Jeep cred during an expedition on the Rubicon Trail in Sierra Nevada). And despite all the driving I’ve done over the years, I’m still betting on the Jeep Wrangler.
That’s right, folks, I’m calling the Jeep.
Out in left field…
The vehicle we chose to challenge the very British Land Rover LR4 is the Unlimited Rubicon 10th Anniversary Edition – “the most capable Wrangler ever produced by Jeep” according to the manufacturer.
Thus, out in left field, there’s the four-door Jeep Wrangler Rubicon featuring a 285-hp 3.6L Pentastar V6, a six-speed manual transmission, part-time four-wheel drive system, sway bars (that can be disconnected), and front and rear locking differentials.
Best of all, the Rubicon 10th Anniversary Edition comes with monster kicks: 32-inch BF Goodrich LT265/70R17 tires that increase ground clearance by half an inch, even though it was already one of the market’s highest to begin with.
How much? A cool $48,700 before taxes.
The base price is $36,000, but that’s for the bare-bones version. But you’ll want to add the $6,000 optional 10th Anniversary Package (which includes grey-blue body paint and a red leather interior), the dual top option, the navigation system, and . . . you get the picture!
Out in right field…
The other competitor is the Land Rover LR4, which boasts better numbers across the board:
• 375-hp 5.0L V8 that runs on high octane fuel
• It measures nearly half a meter longer
• Features a third bench to accommodate two more passengers
• Weighs 610 kg more
What’s the price tag attached to this sophisticated adventurer complete with Terrain-Response AWD? It starts at $61,400, but a quick look at the Canadian website reveals that you’ll have to shell out $75,000 (before tax) if you want a similarly equipped LR4 (including the panoramic roof and exclusive wheels). And yet, this self-assured snob didn’t bother upgrading its footwear.
Yep, it’s shod in the same old P255/55R19 all-season tires. Not only do these lack the aggressive advantage of the rubber monsters found on the Jeep, they also do little to improve ground clearance (24 cm versus 27 cm).
Believe me, an extra inch can make all the difference.
It only took three minutes
Just three minutes later, on a medium-difficulty trail, the Land Rover LR4’s handicap became apparent.
Its driver was a seasoned colleague of mine who also happens to be a big-time Land Rover fan – he admits he prefers luxury and champagne over “1940s handling.” And yet, despite his efforts, the Land Rover’s ground clearance became an issue.
Check out our video to see how we had to move rocks, make a couple of attempts to get through muddy trenches and generally proceed with caution to avoid damaging its wheels and body. It goes without saying that the tires did not come away unscathed, nor did the vehicle’s underbody. At one point, the competition was so lopsided that someone even flipped the proverbial bird in annoyance.
Off-roading for dummies
Despite this flagrant disadvantage, the Land Rover LR4 did better than I expected – handling oh-so very smoothly all the while.
First off, the Jeep Wrangler comes with a six-speed manual transmission that requires constant attention and dexterity, while the Land Rover LR4 comes factory-standard with a six-speed automatic. Despite what some might say, in challenging terrain, automatic transmissions do a great job of going unnoticed and maintaining forward momentum .
Plus, the electronic air suspension balances the vehicle like a plate on a waiter’s hand – even if some of the wheels (read: more than one wheel!) are off the ground. As a result, passengers in the Land Rover LR4 are neither shaken nor stirred, regardless of the terrain. The Jeep Wrangler, on the other hand, bounced along with exuberance.
Then there’s the fact that the British cocoon-on-wheels spoils its occupants with multi-adjustable power seats that are supremely comfortable. Not to mention the dual-zone climate control, the Harman/Kardon sound system, the heated steering wheel and seats (even the back seats!), keyless entry and an ultra-high-tech dashboard.
What is more, its Terrain Response system (which is arguably the most sophisticated full-time all-wheel drive system to date) is incredibly easy to activate. You just set it to the appropriate mode – Grass, Snow, Gravel, Ruts, Sand or Rock Crawl – and the work is done for you with utmost discretion. It’s so autonomous, the driver really can’t take any credit. (Sorry, David!)
Essentially, it’s off-roading for dummies.
The lethal weapon
While the Land Rover LR4 struggled down the trail (I’m just telling it like it is), we took a couple of pounds of air out of the Wrangler Rubicon’s tires, disconnected the sway bars, engaged the low range, and locked the differentials – and bam! We were off!
Immediately, the American utility vehicle laughed at the mud and rocks with disconcerting ease – but what else would you expect from this legend? Obviously, the Wrangler gave its passengers a mighty jostle while chasing down its British adversary. Were it not for its competitor’s limitations, the Jeep would have sought out some even more challenging conditions.
The video proves that nothing can stop the king of the jungle – not even concern for its exterior, vital organs or wheels. It’s really amazing how it just blazes along nonchalantly while its rival hits bumps and gets stuck along the way.
Sure, the 10th Anniversary Jeep Wrangler Rubicon has better ground clearance and tires for the conditions, but war is war, and this vehicle is the hands-down off-road champ. And it didn’t even break a sweat.
As an added bonus, the roof comes right off. Not even the LR4’s massive panoramic roof can beat that. (Ironically, my Santoni shoes fared better in the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon.)
You know what? You don’t need a $50,000 10th Anniversary Edition to get these results. Even though I have a soft spot for the Jeep, I still have a hard time with its price. I mean, do you really need red leather seats, a navigation system that’s sure to get soaked if you don’t get the roof fast enough in a storm, air intakes on the hood or any of the other details that are more about form than function?
The answer: no. A good ol’ Jeep Wrangler Rubicon will do just fine. And cost you two-to-three times less than a Land Rover LR4.