Jeep Wrangler 2020 rubicon (4x4) recon special ed
review

2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Recon two-door review

Rating: 7.5
$57,070 $67,870 Dealer
  • Fuel Economy
    N/A
  • Engine Power
    209kW
  • CO2 Emissions
    N/A
  • ANCAP Rating
    3Stars
This short Wrangler is a big deal. Jeep fans have been crying out for the two-door Rubicon to return, but you’d better be quick.
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The name is almost longer than the car itself: 2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Recon.

In this case, the limited-run Recon two-door is capped at just 40 units, but if the four-door Wrangler Unlimited is more your style, there are 60 examples of the longer Recon available.

The package is, mostly, the same as the standard Wrangler Rubicon, but the Recon pack adds a few extra bits and bobs, largely leaving capability untouched.

When it was first announced, Jeep said the Recon would ship with black bonnet and front guard decals, but as you can see from the images, those missed fitment to our car but will be present on customer vehicles. Jeep’s website also shows the Recon fitted with a Mopar bonnet, but that’s not a part of the Aussie package.

You do still get a gloss-black grille, Recon badges on the front guards, and a different set of two-tone 17-inch wheels. Jeep has also dipped into the accessory catalogue with a steel front bumper, Jeep Performance tailgate reinforcement system, and Jeep Performance front bumper hoop.

Inside, the Recon specs up with heated seats and a heated steering wheel, seats trimmed in black leather, torch-red seatbelts, and a premium wrapped instrument mid-panel with red stitching.

The Rubicon Recon starts from $66,950 plus on-road costs in shorty form, as seen here, or $71,450 for the four-door, a $6000 step up from the regular Rubicon.

2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Recon two-door
Engine3.6-litre naturally aspirated petrol V6
Power and torque209kW at 6400rpm, 347Nm at 4100rpm
TransmissionEight-speed automatic
Drive typePart-time 4x4 with automatic mode
Tare weight1917kg
Fuel claim, combined (ADR)9.6L/100km
Fuel use on test11.8L/100km
Turning circle10.5m
ANCAP safety rating (year tested)3 stars (2019)
Warranty (years / km)Five years / 100,000km
Main competitorsFord Ranger Raptor, Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series, Suzuki Jimny
Price as tested (excl. on-road costs)$66,690

Under the bonnet you’ll only find the 3.6-litre petrol V6, no diesel option. It’s a sign of what’s to come, as while the 2020 Wrangler offers a diesel option for the Rubicon, 2021 model-year stock will be petrol V6 only.

The engine is backed up by an eight-speed automatic transmission. From there, the Rubicon package, as the most dedicated of the Wrangler family, provides Rock-Trac 4x4 including Tru-Lok front and rear locking differentials with a 4.1:1 ratio and 4:1 transfer case ratio for an effective 77:1 low-range crawl ratio.

Everything from the heavy-duty Dana rigid axles to the 32-inch BFGoodrich KM2 Mud Terrain tyres on the Recon are the same as you’ll find on the regular top-spec Wrangler. Given it’s already one of the most capable 4x4s available in Australia, there’s probably no need to tinker with the base package.

So, to address the elephant in the room: the absolute dedication to rock crawling and mudslinging means the Wrangler probably shouldn’t be your first choice if you just want to commute to the office, and occasionally throw your dogs in the back for weekends at the in-laws' farm.

The short wheelbase makes it a bit 'seesawy' over, well, everything. The suspension is soft and squishy enough to swallow most surface changes, but there’s roll, squat and pitch aplenty.

Is that a problem? No, not at all. Away from the confines of town and onto some chopped gravel that gave way to packed clay with a rain-slicked top layer, the Recon never faltered.

It’s surprisingly quite nimble off-road. The tight turning means there’s no pinched track bend you can’t make it around, and the sturdy and determined off-road nous means I could have ventured far further off the beaten path than I did.

For a full off-road workout, our off-road editor, Sam Purcell, is going to take the Recon for a full workout soon.

My time with the Wrangler fell right over the Christmas and New Year break. That meant plenty of rural cruising to get to far-flung friends and family. I’ll admit, I didn’t particularly relish hours behind the wheel in something that threatened to ride rough and handle sketchily.

The thing is, I needn’t have worried. The Wrangler fits the bill as a big, fat, relaxed cruiser pretty well. There’s no shortage of roar from the nuggety tyre tread, and you do tend to chase the steering on straight roads as it wanders about.

None of it is alarming, though, and certainly not as abrupt or uncultured as the old Wrangler two-door used to be. Better still, when it came to flying over gravel track corrugations past long-deserted gold mines in Bendigo, surfing claypan waves somewhere between Sunbury and Gisborne, or just pulling up to the sand in Rye, the short Wrangler felt right at home.

2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Recon two-door
Length / width / height4334mm / 1894mm / 1839mm
Ground clearance260mm
Tow rating, braked / unbraked1497kg / 750kg
Approach / departure / rampover angles (degrees)34.8 / 29.2 / 26.2
Wading depth760mm

Many an SUV with off-road pretensions requires a near-stopped gentle nudge over some of the surface changes the Wrangler took in its stride. Wheels rising and falling like a Baja racer as the body stayed fairly level, although with its share of bobbing and a few yaw corrections required.

The naturally aspirated V6 doesn’t pack the same punch down low as you might get from a diesel engine, but with 209kW at 6400rpm and 347Nm at 4100rpm outputs are still decent. Jeep suggests it’ll hit 100km/h in 7.5 seconds, but to be honest that feels ambitious.

Hit the accelerator hard and the nose rises, but beyond a particular point the engine segues from making things faster to making things noisier. Better to find that happy mid-range and work with what it has in general duties.

After a fortnight of everything from busy shopping centre traffic crawls to open-road cruising and some light-duty high-range off-road work, the wee Jeep showed 11.8L/100km on its trip computer against a claimed 9.6L/100km. Not bad when you consider its hefty 1917kg tare weight.

On the inside, the Recon is surprisingly plush – except where it isn’t. There’s an intriguing mix of exposed painted metal and fasteners – and, of course, the removable bits like the roof and doors.

There are also big, broad front seats to sink into trimmed in leather and heated for cold days. The rear seats are easy to climb into, and even tall adults can find enough room to run short-to-medium trips without complaint, although some passengers reported more noise and a bouncier ride from the back.

The boot is there, but really only serves in any functional way with the one-piece rear seat flipped forward. Oddly, the boot floor houses the subwoofer for the audio system, like a drain point for gravel, sand and water. Probably not where I’d put it.

If summer steals your heart, you can flip the levers on the two front sections of the roof and remove them in seconds. If you want to go fully open, getting the rear roof cover off is time and space intensive. The front sections can stow in the boot, while the rear stays at home in the garage.

I’ve got nothing but praise for the 8.4-inch Uconnect infotainment system. It comes loaded with factory navigation, AM/FM/DAB+ radio, Bluetooth and smartphone mirroring for Apple and Android devices. Beyond that it houses additional features and functions to drive the dual-zone climate control, plus a full view of the 4x4 system, steering angle, pitch and roll, and swaybar disconnect status.

Anything contained within is quick to load, the graphics are easy on the eye, and you can customise the colour themes if you like (but for me the red theme to match the red seatbelts was a must). A 7.0-inch display in front of the driver blends with traditional gauges, but acts as more of a supplement rather than a primary point of info, with fewer configurations and display settings than some instrument displays.

Not to be too mad at it, but the sound system is a little weak. Given the ambient noise in the cabin is often high (despite active noise control), the stereo has its work cut out for it, and the nine-speaker set-up really only makes itself heard when cranked past halfway, and tops out at a still too soft level.

The real cabin low point, though, is the driver’s footwell. It seems Jeep didn’t invest too much time or effort into right-hand-drive Wranglers. The mechanical layout under the car dictates a wide transmission tunnel with a right-side skew.

For the front seat passenger that means a flat, wide footwell. For the driver there’s no footrest, just a lump in the floor. The only place left for your left foot ends up being under the brake pedal, and often you’ll twist your lower body to try and get settled on longer drives.

Other spec and equipment highlights to note include keyless entry and start, remote start, full LED head, fog and tail-lights, privacy tint, leather-wrapped gearknob and handbrake lever, plus privacy tint.

There’s enough tinsel inside to make the Wrangler Rubicon Recon feel less utilitarian, without completely turning its back on the Wrangler's intended purpose as a rough and ready adventurer. Value is a tough game, and while few SUVs can do what the Rubicon can off-road, they usually pack in a decent amount more standard equipment.

Because safety spec hasn’t changed, the Recon carries the same three-star ANCAP rating as the rest of the range. It comes with four airbags, full-speed forward collision warning plus (Jeep’s term for autonomous emergency braking), blind spot and rear cross-path detection, tyre pressure monitoring, adaptive cruise control, a rear camera, and front and rear park sensors.

For its relative crash performance weakness, it is worth venturing that nothing else on the market can approach the Wrangler's ability to convert to such a stripped-down minimum with roof and doors removed and windscreen folded, not to mention the outstanding off-road credentials. Purpose-built equipment built to fit a niche, sure, though the structural issues noted by ANCAP are a concern.

Jeep’s capped-price service program means the first five services (at 12-month or 12,000km intervals) are capped at $399 each. Jeep covers its vehicles with a five-year/100,000km warranty, and in an effort to atone for poor performance in the past, it has a range of ownership guarantees relating to parts price and availability, and access to specialist technicians. Plus, for as long as your Jeep stays serviced by the Jeep dealer network, roadside assistance is included.

At the end of the day, you’re either going to want the Jeep Wrangler or you’re not.

The return of the short wheelbase, two-door Wrangler Rubicon is good to see. It would be nice to see something similar join the range permanently, but at least the less aggressive Wrangler Sport S and Overland models exist to keep shorty-shoppers happy.

In Rubicon trim, the Wrangler is a ridiculously large amount of fun over any terrain. Massively capable and nimble off-road, but without taking itself too seriously.

The Wrangler knows what it’s good at, and despite some criticism, it’s never strayed too far from its core tenet. For 40 lucky Aussies, the Recon will certainly hit the spot in a way no other 4x4 can.